Why the ‘Keep calm’?

The phrase ‘Keep calm and carry on’, seemed to be taking over the world for a little while, what with novelty t-shirts, cups and all manner of collectibles being covered with variations of the phrase, some highlights include ‘Keep calm, it’ll be grand’ and ‘Keep calm and call Batman’. This brief conquest of the world by a simple phrase is arguably quite impressive, a simple combination of words inspired vast amounts of creativity. The purpose of the topic in this article is to explore the origin of this phrase and see why we use it so comfortably in our day to day lives.

The phrase, surprisingly enough, originated way back in 1939. The phrase was penned in Britain and was intended by the British government to be used primarily as a poster giving hope to the areas most affected by German bomber attacks. Despite roughly 2.5 million copies having been printed at the time, not one was posted, most them were in fact destroyed. The exact reason for their abandonment is not known, many believe that the phrase was deemed too patronising. In the year 2000 a bookseller bought a box of books in which one of these posters was hidden, starting the ‘Keep calm’ craze that we all know and either love or hate today.

This seemingly simple and comedic phrase has quite an intriguing past, it appears that people like this phrase for its simplicity and adaptability so I was surprised to find it has such a unique and complex history. Perhaps people use this phrase so willingly because of its history, it was designed to be a quick and effective message for those who needed it. The very fact that its original form was simple may mean that any variation on it is as well, leading to a long-lasting and instantly recognisable joke.