If you’re like me, you’ve seen these dopey things and wondered WTF? I guess I need to be more specific. After all, there are any number of dopey things out there in this big old world. I’m not referring to a politician, a reality TV personality or even a narcissistic lunatic. I’ll let everyone else in the world do that. Instead, I’m interested in discussing the “Keep calm and (whatever) on” message found all over T-shirts, bumper stickers and occasional tramp stamps.
As usual, I’m probably late to the party to be wondering what the deal is with these things, but you’re reading this on a blog and not a Tweet or looking at it on a picture on Instagram, so I’m guessing you may be behind the times a little yourself.
If my 45 seconds of internet sleuthing is accurate, the original slogan was “Keep calm and carry on”. It was on a poster the British government came up with way back in 1939. This would explain the presence of what always struck me as a mysterious crown in the middle of the message. It seems the British government was pretty sure that they were going to be bombed by evil forces once WWII picked up more momentum. They put the posters up in buildings in areas which they anticipated were likely targets for attack. There is no evidence to support that the original poster idea was “I say old chap, if you can read this, you bloody well may want to get out of here.”
Most things which have been adopted by modern society have subsequently been butchered or diluted beyond all recognition. There is little if any connection to between the “stiff upper lip – bollocks to Jerry!” tone of the original message and the latest incarnations which run the gamut between “Stay calm and keep carpooling the kids to soccer practice” to “Stay calm and keep doing crossfit”.
One I’ve seen but was too embarrassed to look into read, “Keep calm and chive on”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t a chive an herb best suited for topping the sour cream on a baked potato? How the hell does someone who’s chiving have any stress at all? Even the busiest of line cooks would agree that putting the finishing garnishes on spuds isn’t exactly a high pressure aspect to their work. (turns out Chive refers to a website which purveys humor and does some sort of good charitable work – so I’ll leave them alone).
Anyway, now that my Keep calm mystery is solved, I’ll move onto the next annoying cultural sesame seed in my metaphorical dentures…See you kids next time.