Mind the Gap

The title of a piece on “mindfulness” by Virginia Heffernan in the New York Times Magazine on the 19th. Well, that was the title in the print version, using a conventionalized expression for warning about a (specific) danger; in the on-line version, the title is the more straightforward (but alliterative) “The Muddied Meaning of ‘Mindfulness’”.

On “Mind the Gap”, from Wikipedia:

“Mind the gap” is an audible or visual warning phrase issued to rail passengers in the UK (and elsewhere) to take caution while crossing the spatial gap between the train door and the station platform.

The phrase was first introduced in 1969 on the London Underground in the United Kingdom. The phrase is also associated with souvenir T-shirts that Transport for London sells, featuring the warning printed over the network’s roundel logo.

The sense of mind here is this one, from NOAD2:

[in imperative] used to warn someone to avoid injury or damage from a hazard: mind your head on that cupboard!

(My impression is that this use of mind is more frequent in British English — Americans are inclined to use the verb watch here — but it’s not unknown in American English.)

NOAD2’s entry for the verb mind is long, complex, and (when you try to figure out how many senses of the verb there are) baffling. Here’s a sample of the example sentences in the entry, which cover a lot of syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic territory:

I don’t mind the rain.
Do you mind if I have a cigarette?
I don’t mind admitting I was worried.
I wouldn’t mind some coaching from him!
Never mind the opinion polls.
Mind you look after the children.
We’ve got some decorations up—not a lot, mind you.
Be early to bed tonight, mind.
You think about how much Cal does for you, and you mind her, you hear?
We left our husbands to mind the children while we went out.
Mind your head on that cupboard!
Mind your manners!
He was minded to reject the application.
Never mind—it’s all right now.
He was so tired that he found it hard to think, never mind talk.

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