This morning, while I was sitting at my gingerbread desk, I looked out the window and saw Dasher, Dancer, and Prancer playing some reindeer games a little bit too close to Santa’s sleigh. A couple of the elves arrived at the gilded vehicle within seconds, and I could see that the elves were excoriating the hooved hooligans. I opened my window to hear what they were saying. Jingles, the sleigh specialist, was yelling:
“We’ve told you a hundred times, you reindeer—it’s dangerous to play too close to Santa’s sleigh! You’re running back and forth, slipping and sliding on the ice. You’re going to hurt yourselves, and you might also damage the sleigh when you hit it with your antlers. Please play your reindeer games elsewhere! We’re afraid of your safety, and of Santa’s safety, too!”
The trio of tricksters began to snicker. At this, the elves became incensed. I figured it was time for me to step in, so I hastened to the scene.
Jingles told me that he did not understand why the reindeer were guffawing at him. After all, they knew the rules about avoiding reindeer games near the sleigh! I reminded Jingles that flying reindeer are linguistically astute, and they likely were giggling because of what he had said to them.
“How was it funny?” he asked.
I responded, “Well, you told the reindeer that you’re afraid of their safety and Santa’s safety.”
He insisted, “I am!”
I explained to him that if he were afraid of their safety, he would be apprehensive of the prospect of their safety. “I think you mean that you’re afraid for their safety,” I proposed. “If you’re afraid for their safety, you’re concerned about their welfare and you want to make sure that they’re safe.”
“Yes, that’s it!” exclaimed the newly enlightened elf. “I’m afraid for their safety. How’s that, Dasher, Dancer, and Prancer?”
The three reindeer nodded to signal their approval.
I asked them, “You won’t play your reindeer games close to the sled any more, right?”
Again, they nodded.
Jingles no longer has to be afraid of their antics, nor does he need to fear for their safety. Success!