Twice a week, on my way to and from university, I hear the advice stated above: “Please remember to check out with your public transport chip card”. (The British equivalent of such a card would be the London Oyster card.) And each time I think: “remembering is of no use, one shouldn’t forget.” The Dutch counterpart of this sentence is: “Vergeet niet uit te checken met uw OV chip kaart”. Literally translated this would indeed be: “Don’t forget to check out with your public transport chip card”. Could one indeed use “Remember to check out with your ov chip card” and “Don’t forget to check out with your ov chip card” and not change the meaning? In other words, are remember and forget interchangeable?
Surprisingly, the Dutch public transport organisation chose the first option: “Remember to check out with your OV chip card”. Little was there to be found on the difference in usage between these different words. Otto-wolf (2005) provided me with a possible explanation. Remember is the positive way of referring to not forgetting something and this positive approach seems to work, according to her. The word remember stresses WHAT you want done. On the other hand, don’t forget clearly involves action. So why could it be the case that the transport chose remember? What we have seen so far is that Dutch public transport wants to approach English people with positive terms since we are sensitive creatures, whereas the Dutch are generally known to be direct. It may sound better to ask customers to remember something instead of to not forget it and the Dutch public transport people don’t want to give the impression that they are ordering persons around. This idea is strengthened by the use of please. But in terms of clarity: is this truly the message they want to convey? Until I have a clear answer besides these speculations, I will be forced to keep on thinking: “Why remember…?”
Or am I one of the few that consider this to be a problematic usage item?
Otto-wolf, A. 2005. How Many Patches Has Your Tolerance Quilt? : Living with Tolerance for one Another”. Victoria: Traffic Publishing.