‘Keep Calm and Carry On’: A Good Slogan Gone Bad

“Keep Calm and Carry On” reads an iconic motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939. The intention was to steady the nerves of an anxious public being thrust into war with Germany.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Credit: British Government.

Now, despite my mistrust of Instagram as a valid form of communication, I wasn’t around for World War II. But I am fascinated by the propaganda coming out of the U.S. and Europe at the time.

Oddly enough, the “Keep Calm” poster never saw the light of day during WWII. According to the official Keep Calm and Carry On store, “It is believed that most of the Keep Calm posters were destroyed and reduced to a pulp at the end of the war in 1945. However, nearly 60 years later, a bookseller from Barter Books stumbled across a copy hidden amongst a pile of dusty old books bought from an auction.”

Since that discovery, something odd and disturbing has happened. Countless T-shirt manufacturers, meme creators and other miscreants have co-opted the “Keep Calm” phrase to make a quick buck or perhaps entertain their lame-witted friends.

To cite just a few of the less inspired examples …

I could go on, but you get the idea. Please join me in rejecting this cynical co-opting of a quintessentially British slogan and refusing to buy any “Keep Calm” knockoffs. Unless, of course, you want to pick up a “Keep Calm and Curry On” coffee mug. I could live with that.

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