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Permanently Moved

Have a Nice Day | 2116

S04E16

The phrase ‘Have a Nice Day’ is not generally used in the United Kingdom due to its perceived insincerity. Besides it’s bad for your health.

Full show notes: https://www.thejaymo.net/2021/04/24/301-2116-have-a-nice-day/

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Permanently moved is a personal podcast 301 seconds in length, written and recorded by @thejaymo

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Have a Nice Day

I recently set my up browser to show me a random Wikipedia article every time I opened a new tab. I thought that it might be a fun Serendipity engine

After the first day or two I ended up just looking past the page. Ignoring it the same way I ignore the random Unsplash photo I’ve gone back to.

Once you train yourself to see or hear past something it’s very difficult to bring it back into focus.

Anyways, the extension did its job as it provided me with a subject for today’s show. 

The Wikipedia page about the expression โ€œHave a Nice Dayโ€ is surprisingly โ€ฆ robust.

If you were to ask me out of the blue about how I feel about the phrase โ€˜have a nice dayโ€™. The reply I would give is completely covered by the article. 

In the English language, the first use of the phrase can be found in the Layamon’s Brut. A Middle English poem that covers the history of Britain. Composed around 1205.

The phrase is also routinely found in the works of Chaucer.

โ€œAnd home every man went right a way, there was no more to say but fair well, have a good day.”

Is from the Canterbury tales for example.

Presumably people didnโ€™t just stop saying the phrase for 600 years, but it doesnโ€™t appear again in public consciousness until the 1950โ€™s.  After the release of the 1948 film โ€˜A letter to three wivesโ€™ in America. The phrase was popularised by truck drivers conversing on their CB radios.

Interestingly, well interesting to me anyway. Carol Reed, a weather reporter on WCBS-TV spread the phrase in the New York metropolitan area in the early 60โ€™s by closing her weather reports with “have a happy day”. By the late 60โ€™s east coast hippies had taken up โ€œhave a nice dayโ€ as a parting phase.

It didn’t become the cultural force that we know it as today until the 1970โ€™s. A result of a potent combination of cynical corporate HR practices, consumerism and supermarkets. 

The phrase “Have A nice Day” has two separate associations. The first with the art of Harvey Ball.

Whoโ€™s yellow smiley face graphic came to dominate and define 1970โ€™s pop culture.

In the mid 1960โ€™s The State Mutual Life Assurance Company of Worcester, Massachusetts had purchased Guarantee Mutual Company of Ohio. The outcome of the corporate merger, in a surprise to no one resulted in low employee morale.

So as a young Freelance artist Ball was employed to create an image for an internal HR morale campaign. In less than 10mins and 45 dollars for his trouble, Ball created one of the most iconic images of the 20th century.

Ball never trademarked the Image,. nor did the assurance company he made it for. After a biwidering set of circumstances two brothers Bernard and Murray Spain trademarked the combination of image and phrase. The rest they say is history. The anti-nuclear movement, nein danke, watchman, bumper stickers, pin badges, t-shirts.

In 2013 the Smithsonian had a “Have A nice day” exhibition and published the following piece of art criticism: 

The Distinguishing features of Ball’s smiley face

A Harvey Ball smiley face can be identified by three distinguishing features: Narrow oval eyes (with the one on the right slightly larger than the one on the left), a bright sunny yellow color, and a mouth that is not a perfect arc. โ€ฆ The face must have creases at the sides of the mouth, and be slightly off-centre.

Who Really Invented the Smiley Face?

With that iconic piece of pop art behind us, the other place you find โ€œHave a nice dayโ€ is employees performing emotional labour.

The first recorded use of the phrase in a supermarket training manual in when the American supermarket chain Kmart opened in Brisbane, Australia in 1969.

โ€œHave a nice dayโ€ has become so ingrained as an American ritual of customer service that according to Haru Yamada – author of Different Games, Different Rules: Why Americans and Japanese Misunderstand Each Other – when Americans visit stores where the salespeople donโ€™t say the phrase, they will think the store lacking in customer service. Regardless of the experiences they had elsewhere in store.

For me, I have always considered the term Have a nice day an insufferable Americanism. A phrase heard exclusively in Hollywood movies and TV shows. An empty phrase, the product of consumer testing and corporate control of workers. 

Wikipedia states that the phrase is not generally used in the United Kingdom due to its perceived insincerity. Writing in the Guardian in 2007 satirist Guy Browning wrote:

It’s impossible for the British to say “Have a nice day” without the long shadow of sarcasm passing over the conversation. In this country we presume that the day will be bad if not disastrous, whereas in America, nice days and the having thereof are written into the constitution.

How toโ€ฆ have a nice day – Guy Browning

And that the British think

You get really good days only about once a year.ย 

How toโ€ฆ have a nice day – Guy Browning

J. Broad wrote in 2004 that the phrase “have a nice day” is an apt middle ground for the “drop dead” the cashier is thinking and the “come back soon” the owner wants.

Speaking of the cashier. In a 2006 study, researchers at Frankfurt University discovered that people who must smile and say “have a nice day” in their jobs are more prone to illness. When forced to act cheerfully, people are more likely to become depressed.

Which suggest to me that shallow friendless is bad for your health. 

So if you liked this epsiode please consider sharing the show with a friend or on social media. And please do โ€ฆ have a nice day.


The script above is the original script. It may differ from what ended up in the audio due to time constraints and editing.

About Author

Jay Springett is a Solarpunk, and Strategist for hybrid environments. His concerns are with culture, humans and technology and the environment. He is currently writing his first public book: Land as Platform.

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