Going postal, going postal worker

Posted by ESC on August 22, 2002

In Reply to: Go Postal posted by Michael Bauer on August 21, 2002

: : : : I thought that the meaning behind this was the fact that in the States, a psychological study revealed that postal workers were more likely to go on a killing spree than people in any other profession.

: : : ... and I thought that it was a darkly-humoured oblique reference to an actual specific occurrence of a killing spree as described above - though I have no clue as to details. Which, I wonder?

: : We did have a series of shootings by U.S. postal workers. I don't know about a study.

: I started to post an answer to this question when I decided to do an internet study in advance. I knew there had been a number of incidents, but I found a site that has 25 incidents of postal workers doing their thing - "going postal". Here is the link URL massmurder.dyns.net/going_postal.htm
: Hope this is of help.

: Michael Bauer

GOING POSTAL - "'Going postal' entered the lexicon as shorthand for employee violence after a spate of homicides by U.S. Postal Service workers in the '80s and '90s. But a Postal Service-mandated commission yesterday attempted to debunk the phrase.'There aren't many safer places to work at than the post office,' said Joseph A. Califano, chairman of the Postal Services' Commission on a Safe and Secure Workplace, which directed the research. 'Postal employees are only a third as likely as those in the national workplace to be victims of homicide at work.' Taxi drivers and chauffeurs are 150 times more likely to be killed on the job.Police rank a distant second in homicides.The survey also found Postal Service workers to be 'less angry, aggressive, hostile, depressed and stressed than the average American worker.(But they) are also twice as likely as other U.S. workers to have negative attitudes about co-workers, bosses and their jobs." From a Sept. 1, 2000, news article by Lennie Savino, Knight Ridder Washington Bureau.

"1994 go postal. An unforeseen phenomenon of the 1990s was rage in the post office. It was expressed not by impatient customers but by occasional postal employees frustrated with their jobs or their lives. In a few shocking instances, employees fired weapons in post offices and sorting facilities, causing dozens of casualties. By 1994, 'going postal' or 'going postal worker' was being applied to violent outbursts at any workplace.

Perhaps the term reached full strength in the aftermath of a well-publicized Washington conference on workplace violence sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service in January 1994. There it was reported that over the past decade, thirty-four postal workers had been killed and another twenty six wounded by fellow employees. These statistics were monstrous or minuscule, depending on how you looked at them. But though they seemed to indicate that the Postal Service was a fairly safe place to work, to the public they affirmed its association with workplace violence.

The association of 'go' with 'postal' to indicate violence comes from similar crazy phrases: 'go berserk' , 'go crazy' , and 'go ballistic' . The latter developed both because ballistic missiles reached great heights and because they were prone to loss of control early in flight.

An example of 'go postal' in full flight is in a 1995 article by 'the Grammar Doctor' in 'Tampa Tribune': 'The next time Jerry Rice goes four quarters without a touchdown, some NFL cornerback is sure to explain that he 'defensed him pretty good.' It's enough to make a grammar purist go postal.'" From "America in So Many Words: Words That Have Shaped America" by Allen Metcalf and David K. Barnhart (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston & New York, 1997).