By the way, stamps go up Monday

Bill Peschel traces the history of the phrase “going postal,” which seems to have been first cited in the St. Petersburg Times, circa 1993. Wikipedia has the citation:

“The symposium was sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service, which has seen so many outbursts that in some circles excessive stress is known as ‘going postal.’ Thirty-five people have been killed in 11 post office shootings since 1983.” Some USPS workers do not approve of the term “going postal” and have made attempts to stop people from using the saying. Others feel it has earned its place appropriately.

There were two such outbursts on the same day (Seis de Mayo) in ’93, which prompted the Postal Service to take action:

As a result of these two shootings, in 1993 the Postal Service created 85 Workplace Environment Analysts for domicile at its 85 postal districts. These new positions were created to help with violence prevention and workplace improvement. In February 2009, the Postal Service unilaterally eliminated these positions as part of its downsizing efforts.

Nice to know we don’t have to worry about that anymore.

As a resident of central Oklahoma, I am required here to mention our own, um, contribution to the cause, one Patrick Sherrill, who shot up the Edmond post office in 1986. As is our wont, we eventually got to the point where we could make fun of it: the 2003 film Making Arrangements (reviewed here) describes a period of upheaval at a flower shop as “going floral.”

Addendum: Live from Muskogee, Oklahoma, courtesy of regular reader Mel:

Goin Postal


  1. Tatyana »

    7 May 2009 · 11:12 am

    Ha, now I know what film to look for; maybe I could supply enough material for the sequel, based on my memories of 13 years ago.

  2. CT »

    7 May 2009 · 11:50 am

    Hm, I should have picked up on the SP Times connection, considering I was just finished working for that paper (parent company, actually) when I cogitated on whether or not the phrase still resonates today. Note your own OKC-centric contribution to that discussion.

  3. fillyjonk »

    7 May 2009 · 12:09 pm

    Sadly, these days, “going campus” or “going disgruntled student” might resonate more. (I THINK there have been more school/college shootings in the past 10 or so years than there ever were postal shootings?)

    I admit, it’s one of the things that lives as a tiny worry in the back of my head (I am a college professor)

  4. Lisa paul »

    7 May 2009 · 1:10 pm

    Here at Two Terrier Vineyards, we call that behavior “going Terrier”. If you’ve ever met one of these dogs, you’ll know why. And believe me, they don’t need no steenkin’ guns.

  5. CGHill »

    7 May 2009 · 2:02 pm

    “Terrier” and “terror” aren’t related, etymologically, but there are times when I think they ought to be.

  6. mcarp »

    7 May 2009 · 5:29 pm

    I’m pretty sure I heard the expression “going postal” long before 1993 – probably in ’87 or ’88. I lived in Edmond at the time of the massacre; Sherrill had been my ‘alternate’ letter carrier.

  7. McGehee »

    8 May 2009 · 9:57 am

    OT, but in my neck of the woods there’s a store whose full formal name is “The Pack-Mail-Ship Center.”

    “PMS Center” for short.

  8. Bill Peschel »

    8 May 2009 · 10:13 pm

    Thanks for picking up the item. That store sign’s a hoot.

    BTW, Terry Pratchett used GP for the title of one of his Discworld novels. As usual, tragedy plus time eventually equals comedy. Or a commodity.

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