An Abundance of Caution

How much caution is an abundance of caution?

Likely less than enough.

Is an abundance of caution more caution than simply caution?

Let’s see.

I was tested for COVID out of an abundance of caution.

I was tested for COVID out of caution.

Same thing.

Then why the phrase?

To imply, “I am being extraordinarily responsible,” not merely responsible. Keep in mind, of course, that if one needs to signal virtue, others clearly are not seeing it.

It appears to be important to some people to seem to be responsible in hopes that others will believe they are being responsible.

Not exactly esse quam videri, is it?

Quite the opposite. (Esse quam videri = to be rather than to seem.)

Honestly, not only is “abundance of caution” as useless as “very unique,” the usage that it demands is quite awkward.

How so?

It requires passivity. “I was tested out of (an abundance of) caution.” How much cleaner to say, “I decided to be cautious, so I took a COVID test.”

I wonder, why do we use the word cautious at all here?

Hmm. “I took a COVID test.” Or even, “I got myself tested.”

Why?

Because at the supermarket yesterday some fool decided to walk the wrong way down aisles and keep no distance while coughing and sneezing into his hands before picking up items from a shelf, examining them, and returning them.

Oh my.

Actually, I’m certain any listener would know why I got tested, even in the absence of such a compelling and disgusting narrative. We get tested to see if we have the virus and then determine the best course of action.

Perhaps we should stop signaling caution and start signaling action. “I ran five miles to the clinic in freezing rain, wild dogs snapping at my heels, to get tested. I wore a mask the entire way, even though it is uncomfortable to wear a mask while running. You can too!” I rather like the sound of that.

You’re imagining this on a bumper sticker?

A very long one. They’re the best.

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