Like Lemmings to the Sea
The expression “like lemmings to the sea” originated in the 1950s and remained popular for decades afterward. The phrase was used as a way of symbolizing people who unthinkingly follow what the crowd is doing, often with dangerous, if not downright fatal, consequences. That lemmings (small, hamster-like creatures) deliberately self-destruct en masse is actually a complete myth, a myth that has a powerful hold on the popular imagination. It is one of those many tidbits that we all mistakenly “know,” in the same way that we “know” that Eskimos have dozens of words for snow. They don’t.
So where did this myth originate? Many believe that a compelling sequence from a 1958 Disney film entitled White Wilderness has a lot to do with it. The scene purported to show wave after wave of lemmings plummeting over precipitous cliffs into the Arctic Ocean. Accompanied by solemn commentary and melodramatic music, that film helped imprint the idea of rodents with a death wish into the public’s consciousness. It was, however, a cruel fake. Clever camera angles and good editing made it look real. Yet, the idiom (and misconception) had already taken hold and was used for many years before its popularity ebbed. Interestingly enough, lemmings lead solitary, hermit-like lives and rarely collect in large groups!
While we find all this fun to examine, we pride ourselves on NOT following the crowd. Moreover, we carve our own effective path in supporting our Great Clients with Great Candidates!