(Originally posted 19 July 2008.)
The safeword. The signale. The fullstop.
There comes a certain point in a young submissive's life, usually very early on, that they realise that they are not going to be able to take everything that their top, or dom, or Master, or whatever you choose to call it, is going to be able to dish out. The most common word that they then adopt is "red", like a stoplight. Some adopt "yellow" as well, as an indication that their limit is approaching and they need a breather. But usually it's not long after this point that the creative sub gets tired of using standardized words, and looks or something a bit more personalized. They want their own special safeword.
The choice of a personal safeword is somewhat of a turning point, a benchmark. It delineates the casual submissive from the submissive who has chosen to embrace the lifestyle, and pretty much identify as such. In my experience, 'weekend' submissives are the ones who are fine with using 'red' and 'yellow' as the standard, but those who want to take it more in-depth spend some time and come up with one of their own.
The choice of safeword is not actually an easy one. Most subs I know, including myself, don't want to change their safeword around. They want one that will stick with them, because changing it can be dangerous. If you're to the point where you're strung out on pain and pleasure, to the point where your wits have largely left the building, you don't want to mistakenly say an old safeword that your dom will not know. You could get hurt, and your dom will definitely experience some guilt once they clue in to the situation. If they're any kind of decent dom, anyway. So you want a word that you can keep with you for a while, which means it probably won't be your favourite high school bandmember <3 4eva amen. At least, not if you're smart.
Another question is length. Most people go for a short, one-syllable word that can be barked or panted easily in the height of even the most mind-blowing passion. For myself, I chose a longer word - mine is three syllables, actually, because I am a glutton for limit-pushing. I don't actually share my safeword widely; for my own reasons, I keep it to myself, and tell only those people in a position to use it. But a good example of my safeword would be horseradish. Three syllables, easy to pronounce, intelligible even through a slur or a moan. These are all considerations.
While some might say that I'm overthinking the safeword in regards to length, I honestly cannot tell you, my darling reader, how many times I've been brought to the point where I feel like I'll explode, and even as I'm taking a breath, I'm evaluating how much further I can go. It has been more than once that I've found myself gasping "horserad... nngh..." and have chosen not to finish it. It generally causes the dom at the time to back off, and check me over, and make sure I'm okay and didn't just pass out in the middle of my safeword. But that's all right, too, as it gives a much-needed break. And those doms that know me well know that this, then, is the point at which to really push. Even better for me if they know in what ways to push.
The only odd thing about a safeword is that, by the very nature of being a word in my native tongue, it comes up in conversation occasionally. This happenstance always sends a little bit of a thrill through me, especially if I am the one saying it. The secret pleasure of trying to keep an even tone as I utter a word that has heavy significance for me never fails to put me in a pleasant mood, especially if the other person hasn't the faintest clue. That word, that collection of sounds that holds such memories, always rolls off of my tongue with a sense of wicked delight. It usually sets me to daydreaming after I've finished the conversation, and if I have someone available who is so inclined, there is almost guaranteed to be delicious torment that evening.