Is The Ubiquitous "Keep Calm" A Meme Or A Moan?

Ever wonder why the World War II British slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On" has surfaced some 70 years later to become today's most ubiquitous meme? Not only has the Internet been cyberventillating variations on the theme online for over a year now, one can find t-shirts and other memorabilia easily accessible for purchase in the real world.

The original artwork was initially produced by Britain's Ministry of Information in 1939 at the onset of the War in an attempt to boost morale in the event of a German invasion. While over 2.5 million copies of the poster were originally distributed, the graphic designer remains anonymous to this day.

Flash-forward to the year 2000 and some of the original copies surfaced in bookstores, while others were readily printed and distributed freely since the copyright had long since expired. Now in the public domain, knock-offs abound with every conceivable variation one can think of. . . and then some.

Today, one has to ask why the sudden resurgence in popularity and why have the global zeitgeist become so infatuated with this popular phrase?  According to Heidi Stevens reporter for the Chicago Tribune, she quotes University of Illinois communications professor Zizi Papacharissi who says, "it reminds us of courage shown back then, and how courage shown helped people pluck through a crisis." Similar to war-time, today with the world at large undergoing a severe economic crisis, it's comforting to attach oneself to a meme known by the masses.

Just as noteworthy, Papacharissi thinks lampooning the original quote is shaping a global dialogue that people from all walks of life can relate to as a common denominator: "The variations of this saying, or meme, either further play on this theme or express more blunt disagreement with the practice of staying calm and carrying on instead of taking more drastic action," she says. "So you see these variations begin to shape a global conversation that is developing around the common theme of the crisis."

This goes for the present as well as the past. Referencing Marie Antoinette's infamous line "let them eat cake," one can quickly understand this whimsical reference to the beheaded Queen.

In today's heated political arena, where America's two political parties are in a contentious slugfest of "below the belt" TV ads, swift-boating and Super Pacs, keeping calm isn't always the easiest row to hoe.

In the field of business, the travel industry has also embraced the trend. But differing from the idea of panic avoidance, one can understand how the term could easily relate to the connotations that travel conjures up in our minds. Often associated with vacations and the relinquishment of stress by enjoying one's down time, "traveling on" is a welcome departure from one's daily hassles at work and home.

For others, it's a means of reinforcing one's product or service where a company can attach itself to a well-recognized meme., a social media marketing platform for the travel industry uses it here for to reinforce it's branding message with hoteliers.

Yet with ubiquity, oftentimes, over-exposure is it's inevitable downside. The savviest of us know when we've stayed too long at the dance. Others learn over time. So it isn't a great surprise for the likes of the following quips to start making their viral rounds via email blasts and status update postings on Facebook walls.

For me , it still brings a smile to my face, and I enjoy the creativity that goes into's permutations. Your thoughts readers? Is "Keep Calm. . . " a meme or a moan?

Aug 21, 2012
by Anonymous

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