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Stay vs Remain

There was a good article by James Meek in the London Review of Books in October about Brexit, which I linked to, part of which compared the myths of St George and Robin Hood. Brexit was sold as a St George event — simple, quick and victorious — rather than a Robin Hood process that’s slow, complex and about justice rather than victory.

I then also liked this letter about the article:

I found James Meek’s essay on Brexit and myths of Englishness very illuminating, but as ever I am struck by the lack of attention given to the subliminal effects of the two key words ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ on the minds of voters in the referendum. In the absence of well-informed and reasoned debate many may well have been swayed, as Meek plausibly argues, by the power of suggestion. How significant then was it that the Old English word ‘leave’, with its positive connotations of permission, provision and respite, stood against the Old French ‘remain’, with its connotations of death, leftovers and failure? How might the vote have gone if the Old English ‘stay’ (vital support, self-control, stability, thoughtfulness) had been chosen for the campaign instead of ‘remain’? Who would not prefer to stay firm rather than remain obdurate? How many dogs ever won a pat on the head and a biscuit by complying with the command ‘Remain!’?

Alan Goater
Chinley, Derbyshire

I’ve seen people discuss the exciting and active nature of “Leave” versus the boring business-as-usual nature of “Remain” being a possible factor in voting intentions, but I like this idea too, however minimal it’s effect might have been. “Stay” does sound much more enticing, more easily sold as an active and worthwhile thing to do.

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