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Can you come up with any sensible sentence, into which the following combination of words would fit in well: "take your life safety lightly". Please, don't change the words order. Also, if possible, describe the context, in which that sentence would naturally appear.

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Out of interest, what is the background to this question? –  Steve Melnikoff Dec 1 '10 at 10:26
    
I want to know if this phrase would work as a conditional clause in a compound sentence. –  brilliant Dec 1 '10 at 10:28
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Sorry, I mean: what meaning is being conveyed here? If you're trying to say, "don't worry about your safety", then that sentence - without the word "life", which is superfluous - would be OK. –  Steve Melnikoff Dec 1 '10 at 11:02
    
(1) @Steve Melnikoff: Well, in fact I wasn't after any particular meaning here, I mean, I just wanted to see if this phrase would work as a naturally-sounding part of any kind of sensible sentence (by "sensible" I mean a sentence that would convey some meaning - i.e. it must not be nonsensical, some kind of logical meaning must be present there). For example, "If you take your life safety lightly, you are likely to die". –  brilliant Dec 1 '10 at 11:57
    
(2) Well, now, having read Glenatron's answer below, I realize that this example doesn't sound natural (even though a certain logical meaning probably can be seen here), and the reason is because this word-combination "life safety" is not usual word-combination in English (or how should I call it?) –  brilliant Dec 1 '10 at 11:59
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I have to disagree with glenatron (EDIT: This disagreement appears to be between British and American idiom). While it is relatively non-idiomatic in American English to use "life safety" in the context suggested by the question, it is certainly a valid construction, both grammatically and semantically, and I wouldn't be surprised if I encountered it some text.

The issue (as noted in some comments) is that in the common case, "safety" by itself generally implies "life safety". However, there are other types of safety that we can reasonably talk about. Explicitly saying "life safety" can make sense either to ensure that the type of safety in question is unambiguous, or to emphasize the potential life-threatening nature of a situation.

For example, a manufacturing company might say "We take both fire and life safety seriously." In this sentence, the adjectives highlight that the company is serious about addressing multiple sources of danger, only some of which are potentially life-threatening. (Semi-related, the National Fire Prevention Association publishes a "Life Safety Code".)

English is flexible enough that it is the rare construction indeed that can be declared to be always wrong.


An aside on "your life safety" vs. "safety of your life": In English, it is extremely common for a genitive of specification to be replaced with a plain adjective--to the point that the genitive construction typically sounds awkward.

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I would say that "we take fire and life safety seriously" example is very much a difference between US and British English. As an englishman I would never use the term and I have never seen it used. Even in the most ridiculously over the top corporate health and safety documentation here you would not be likely to see "life safety" referred to. People might use it for comic effect, perhaps to establish a pompous american character in a sitcom, but although it's technically legitimate I cannot imagine meeting it in serious use here- people would just laugh. –  glenatron Dec 1 '10 at 20:02
    
@glenatron: Fair enough, edited to specify American English. Two countries separated by a common language, indeed. –  res Dec 1 '10 at 21:45
    
This is interesting. (1) To back up the claims, searching “life safety” on the web shows several organizations such as Department of Fire, Building and Life Safety of the State of Arizona. (2) I find the construction fire and life safety funny because fire and life have very different relations to safety. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Dec 2 '10 at 4:27
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Failing to attend to dangers can cause accidents that take your life; safety, lightly considered, is hardly safety at all.

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This was my fault - forgot to mention that there should be no punctuation added between those words. Anyway, thanks for your attempt. –  brilliant Dec 3 '10 at 21:13
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In answer to your question: No, I can't.

And I don't think there is a way that it could be formed into a sentence. The problem is "life safety" just isn't a term that works in English. If you were talking about the safety of your life, you would say "the safety of your life" so an equivalent phrase would be "take the safety of your life lightly."

Unless someone was to invent a piece of equipment called a Life Safety ( which given its somewhat awkward construction would not be something a native English speaker would do ) I can't see a way you could put those words in that order into use unless you were perhaps writing blank verse, in which case most rules of language construction are out the window, but to do that well is beyond most of us.

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Thank You, Glenatron, You've answered my question. –  brilliant Dec 1 '10 at 11:45
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