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"Safe Drive Save Life" is the name of a program initiated by the Government of West Bengal, a state in East India. You could look it up here and here.

Safe drive save life

Every time I go to the capital of West Bengal, Kolkata, I can't help but notice this expression on bumper stickers and billboards. What bothers me is that it does not sound right.

Is the expression "Safe Drive Save Life" correct? Is it missing any punctuation? Why does it sound so incorrect? Or is it just me?

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    Slogans don't need to meet grammar standards, they need to be punchy and memorable. Apr 12, 2019 at 5:27
  • @KillingTime I'm with you on this. Not everything has to be grammatical. Especially in creative works like music and ads, it's okay to sacrifice grammar if doing so makes the writing better. Apr 12, 2019 at 14:10
  • It is just that 'by Safe Drive; you Save Life. While there could be many, it is not that bad too.
    – Ram Pillai
    Apr 27, 2020 at 16:44
  • @Ram Pillai Should this be tagged 'Indian English'? It sounds less than wonderful to my UK ears. Apr 27, 2020 at 18:35
  • @EdwinAshworth, I think you can. This is an ad matter used by West Bengal, an Indian state. You can find hundreds of examples like this from India where, of late, untrained trainers train the youth saying "language means just convey the message". Most new-gen teachers I have met have poor knowledge of grammar, syntax or the aesthetics of language.
    – Ram Pillai
    Apr 28, 2020 at 0:49

2 Answers 2

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In the advertising industry

(including the so-called social advertising)

they sometimes invent slogans which are grammatically incorrect because the slogan is a specific text ("a brief attention-getting phrase used in advertising or promotion"). (Sometimes the grammatical incorrectness can be explained by poor English.)

The slogan in question is a typical example of "headlinese or journalese style".

There are some common characteristics:

  1. Using the infinitive instead of the finite form (save instead of saves).

  2. Pseudo rhyming (driVE - liFE).

  3. Alliteration (SAve - SAfe).

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What bothers me is that it does not sound right.

You are correct–it doesn't–and it is not "just you".

The idea is that the change in places of the 'F' and the 'V' in the top and bottom lines creates the slogan's memorability... or should do.

saFe driVe

saVe liFe

It's a clever trick but it only half-works. Nobody notices the trick as they are stumbling over what exactly is it supposed to say.

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  • 'Nobody notices the trick as they are stumbling over what exactly is it supposed to say.' You have experience of Indian English? Apr 27, 2020 at 18:36
  • @Edwin Ashworth Yes, 40 years worth. (Actually, it is Bengali/Bangla.)
    – Greybeard
    Apr 28, 2020 at 18:34
  • @Edwin Ashworth The Bangla script says "Drive carefully, save lives", which is far better...
    – Greybeard
    Apr 28, 2020 at 19:01
  • No; we don't deal with the source language here. 'Indian English' is the poor (as if there was no variation) umbrella term for the English used by many. / The one that is better is the one that saves more lives, not the one that prescriptivists prefer. Apr 28, 2020 at 19:06

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