There is a sign on the light switch at a bilingual school to encourage students to switch off the lights when not in use and help save energy:

Save me!

enter image description here

Translating "Save me!" to Slovak, would be:

save me => zachráň ma

Which sounds correct, meaning "save me from [something]".

Google Translate gives the below for the correct Slovak term as in "save electricity", I guess that is how school decided to use "Save me!" on the switches:

šetrí ma => save me

This doesn't sound right to me, but I cannot think of any other better alternative that is short and concise enough that would fit on a switch button.


Update: I will contact the school, and see what option they prefer. Then accept the answer accordingly. Thank you for all the answers/comments.

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    Do you want single-word alternatives for 'save me!'? And do you want English alternatives or Slovak ones? – Ahmed Sep 10 at 8:26
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    I think the sign maker was being a bit playful here, and meant to evoke both meanings in the mind of the reader... – colmde Sep 10 at 9:15
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    @zx8754 - even if it was unintentional 'Save me!' is very good: the idea that energy should not be wasted and is also a finite resource. – Dan Sep 10 at 9:45
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    @Dan It is quite possible that it is the only good option. But if I hear someone scream "Save me!" I would assume someone is in trouble and needs help. In this case, switch is not in trouble and doesn't need saving from anything, it is just doing its job: switch lights on/off. Somehow being "off" is more preferable to the switch. – zx8754 Sep 10 at 9:51
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Sorry, a bit lost, what are you referring to as "This"? – zx8754 Sep 10 at 17:13

I suppose conserve would be a more correct (or at least less ambiguous) term for what's meant.

But as I said in the comment, "Save me!" is a bit funnier and draws your attention as it personifies the electricity (or the light switch) a little, like it's asking for your help as well as asking you to save electricity.

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    Yeah, [conserve] would be a bit dull and more confusing than helpful. But "Save me" still doesn't makes sense, even if we imagine switch is talking to us: "save me (from what?)". – zx8754 Sep 10 at 9:26
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    Save doesn't have to mean saving/rescuing from something. It also means, in this instance, preserve/don't use. So 'Don't use me' would mean the same thing. – user2397282 Sep 10 at 10:55
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    Just conserve on its own would be a bit strange. Conserve energy would be better—and is often seen. – Jason Bassford Sep 10 at 17:50
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    @user2397282 Except that “Don't use me” sounds like a mandate. I would put that label on a switch which should not be operated — though I would be more likely to disconnect whatever piece of equipment I didn't want operated, or to hang one of my red Danger tags on it. – can-ned_food Sep 10 at 21:44
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    @NigelTouch So, shouldn't it be a little Earth with a face, or maybe an image of the overworked generator or turbine oh so far away? Even so, maybe “protect me” or “don't waste me” would be better. – can-ned_food Sep 10 at 21:46

Save me is fine because it does not necessarily only mean to save something or someone from something.

If you look at the Oxford Dictionaries Online definitions for save, you'll see five definitions including the following:

Keep safe or rescue (someone or something) from harm or danger.

  • ‘they brought him in to help save the club from bankruptcy’

The definition above fits the save from context

The definition relevant to the save electricity context is actually:

Preserve (something) by not expending or using it.

  • ‘save your strength till later’
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    Probably the most common example of the last use would be save money. For example, "I'm saving [my money] for a new computer". – TripeHound Sep 10 at 10:52
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    Correct. And they slapped it on that switch because it's an electric switch. – RonJohn Sep 12 at 12:57

I would say "save me" is fine in English. It ends up as somewhat of a pun, which doesn't translate well and might have been unintentional, but I don't think that detracts from the message.

It's common in English to talk about "saving electricity" or saving some other resource like money. This is listed as definition 4 of Save on dictionary.com:

to avoid the spending, consumption, or waste of

This works fairly well, and is extremely common in English. The only point for potential confusion is that the label is on a switch, so it could come across more as "save the light switch" rather than "save electricity". This is also where the double-meaning comes in; this interpretation invokes definition 1 or 2 instead:

  1. to rescue from danger or possible harm, injury, or loss
  2. to keep safe, intact, or unhurt; safeguard; preserve

In this context, the object is being personified and asking for help in some way. "Save me!" without any indication as to what they might need saving from is perfectly acceptable in English, though it does imply that there is some kind of danger that exists.

For a fluent English speaker, I think "Save me!" is fine and the dual interpretations are likely to be clear enough to understand, while the slight pun and personification will make the message more memorable and eye-catching. However, since the message is intended for a "bilingual school" it's possible that the double-meaning will be more confusing than it is worth. An alternative would be the more unambiguous "Save electricity!" which dodges the second meaning arising from "me". A shorter version could be "Save power"; it seems awkward to me, but it's comprehensible enough.

You could better come up with the most precis option: Save Energy! or you can say "Save Power!."

Example poster image from previews.123rf.com:

save energy poster

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    I agree that this is the best option, but I think it could do with some more explanation as to why. The reason being that in "save me" stuck to a light switch, the "me" is the light switch. We don't want to save the light switch, we want to save energy/electricity. The intention of the current note is relatively clear from the context, but it's not colloquial, and schools generally aim to teach idiomatic phrases when teaching languages. – AndyT Sep 12 at 10:19

What about "Switch off!" or "Turn off!" ?

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    I like this option, but it sounds more like a command, than a kind request. – zx8754 Sep 10 at 19:44
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    @zx8754 "Please turn off"?! ;) – MrWhite Sep 12 at 9:37

How about phrasing it as a request or mandate in the negative?

Do not waste me!
Don't waste me!

Waste’ here being the transitive form of the verb rather than the uncountable noun — the noun which is synonymic with ‘rubbish’, ‘trash’, ‘refuse’, ‘garbage’, or what–have–you.
You could also say

Don't squander me!

And, perhaps you should, because that word — from my experience — isn't often heard or read except in certain contexts: some people may not be readily familiar with the word, or may think it quaint, but either one will attract attention and shouldn't obfuscate the sentence unless the person is almost illiterate in English or has a very small English vocabulary. I think most English–speaking people are aware of the word ‘squander’ and what it conveys.

The added benefit with my recommendation is that it accommodates use — you can use it, but don't waste it. Of course, so too does the conserve one.

  • Yes, but the abbreviated form. – Lambie Sep 11 at 21:37

There was an energy conservation campaign a while back that used the slogan

Save a watt!

another slogan used the phrase

Kill a watt!

The literal meaning is clear and this is also a pun of the word "kilowatt" which is part of the most common unit in which energy usage is billed by utilities, the kilowatt hour.

I think the intent is to say 'Don't forget to switch off after use'. A version of 'Don't waste energy/me' or a lengthier command "Switch off after use' are viable alternatives. I think you have to work with the space constraint of the switch size but depending on how important clear instruction needs to be, you can use 'save power', 'save earth', 'save life', 'use judiciously'.

  • Thanks, already got many good alternatives, yes the space is the issue here. – zx8754 Sep 12 at 19:04

The word "save" frames the problem as if there is a fixed amount of energy that must be allocated efficiently over time -- "save it now, and you can use it later". Efficiently "saving" energy that is already on the power grid is not really an option with current technology, from what I understand. Instead, I guess the environmental goal is to reduce the amount of energy that is produced in the first place.

You could use "waste not", short for "waste not, want not", defined in Wiktionary as...

(idiomatic) If one is not wasteful then one will not be in need.

This idiom is usually for individuals and households, but it can also apply to us all collectively in the context of energy usage, like...

If we don't produce more energy than we need, there will be plenty.

Here, "plenty" can refer to not only energy, but also other resources (through externalities).

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    You seem to be assuming that save connotes gradual accumulation (or at least, reduced expenditure) of a limited resource now for the specific purpose of having a larger quantity of that resource available for use at a later time. But that's not necessarily so; the verb save can also mean simply to minimize waste. For example, this is the difference between saving money for an intended future purchase, and saving money by taking advantage of discounts when shopping. – jdmc Sep 11 at 20:08
  • @jdmc I think that the "saving by" example still implies the "saving for" interpretation. Whether I'm saving money, time, space, CPU cycles or my own mental or physical energy, the implication is that I have this resource and am saving it instead of wasting it, and that I am saving it because it can be put to other uses. – Frank Sep 11 at 20:32
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    Not sure if this is what you meant, but in your example, if I cannot afford a purchase without taking advantage of the discount (eg, I have $20, the price is $30 without the discount and $10 with), then I think "saving money" is not correct there either -- I cannot save what I do not have. – Frank Sep 11 at 20:33
  • @Frank saving money is absolutely correct there, independant of whether you can afford it without the discount. You are SPENDING LESS, which is one of the definitions of save on the oxford dictionary. – Aethenosity Sep 12 at 15:06
  • @Aethenosity After "spending less" implicitly comes "than you would have spent otherwise", which is not meaningful if the counterfactual where you spend more is infeasible (since you could not have afforded it). That's my reading of the word, anyways -- that you can only save things that exist. (I may lay off replying soon. The OP suggested I post this answer; and I fear that I'm not saying anything new in the comments here now.) – Frank Sep 12 at 16:00

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