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May 19, 2014

I’ve been noticing the profusion of car-stickers, bags, posters, postcards, mugs etc, proclaiming humorous variants of the government wartime slogan, “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON”, all in the same large bold white sans-serif font on a coloured background. Yesterday I saw a woman with a bag that said KEEP CALM AND SHOP, and just this morning, while I was taking the dog out for a walk, I saw a car with the sticker KEEP CALM AND ADOPT A GREYHOUND. Just a few years ago this slogan was virtually forgotten, and now it’s everywhere. I wonder why these things happen? Obviously we are imitative creatures, especially in language, but what was it about this particular slogan, which seems neither especially clever nor funny, that made it spread so successfully? I am reminded of the vogue a couple of decades ago for car-stickers that said things like ‘Windsurfers do it standing up’ – similarly ubiquitous and unfunny. 

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