Keep Calm and Carry On

"Keep Calm and Carry On" was a slogan deviced by the British government in 1939 at the dawn of World War II, in order to entice people to remain optimistic in case of enemy invasion. However, it was never used.
Keep Calm and Carry On
In the year 2000 Stuart and Mary Manley owners of Barter books rediscovered the poster, framed it and hung it up by the cash register; surprisingly, it attracted so much interest that Manley began to produce and sell copies. Other companies followed suit, and the design rapidly began to be used as the theme for a wide range of products. Mary Manley later commented, "I didn't want it trivialised. But of course now it's been trivialised beyond belief".

The typeface was created expressly for the poster, though it is similar to Gill Sans, Johnston and Gotham. More recently, K-Type developed a typeface that they called 'Keep Calm', to exactly mimic the features of the original 1939 poster. In the last few years on the Internet parodies and imitations have become popular, so much so that the 'KEEP CALM AND..." idiom has become a true "meme".
    Language Notes and Explanations
  • typeface= a set of letters, numbers, etc., that are all in the same style and that are used in printing; it represents one aspect of a font, along with size, weight, italics, and so on.
  • build-up= a gradual increase, typically of something negative that leads to a problem.
  • lay= simple past of lie (=trovarsi, to lie - lay - lain) not to be confused with to lie (=mentire) which is a regular verb
  • counterfeit= made in imitation so as to be passed off fraudulently or deceptively as genuine. The etymology is from Anglo-Norman French "countrefeter", from Latin "contra + facere".
  • to turn up= to be found, especially by chance, after being lost.
  • to trivialize= to make something seem less important or complex than it really is. From Latin trivialis "common, vulgar" literally "of or belonging to the crossroads," from trivium "place where three roads meet", "public," therefore "common".
  • phrase= a small group of words used together as a conceptual unit
  • bygone= belonging to an earlier time
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[0:17] In the spring of 1939, during the build-up to war with Germany, the British government commissioned a series a propaganda posters.

[0:20] These posters were intended to offer the public reassurance in the dark days that lay ahead, and they were required to be uniform in style and would feature a special and handsome typeface making it difficult for the enemy to counterfeit.

[0:34] They used the crown of King George VI as the only graphic device and had just two colours.

[0:39] Of the three final designs that went into production the first poster carried the slogan "YOUR COURAGE YOUR CHEERFULNESS YOUR RESOLUTION WILL BRING US VICTORY",

[0:46] the second poster had the words "FREEDOM IS IN PERIL DEFEND IT WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT",

[0:50] but the third design, of which over two and a half million posters were printed, simply read "KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON".

[1:00] The first two designs were distributed in September of 1939 and appeared up and down the country in shop windows and railway platforms but the Keep Calm posters were held in reserve intended for use only in times of crisis or invasion.

[1:12] In the end the poster was never officially issued and it remained unseen by the public until a copy turned up more than 50 years later. It was found in a second hand bookshop called Barter books in the northeast corner of England.

[1:40] Barter books was begun in 1991 by a couple, Stuart and Mary Manley. The building used to be an old Victorian railway station. Huge rows of stacked shelves now stand in the place where the tracks would have been but the station's old tea rooms and waiting rooms are still there.

[1:50] It was in 2000 that Stuart found the poster in a box of dusty old books that had been bought at auction. Mary liked it so much she had it framed and put up near the shop till and it proved so popular with the customers that a year later they began to sell copies.

[2:06] Since that time the poster has been reproduced, parodied, trivialized and has become a truly iconic image of the 21st century. It is hard to say exactly why such a phrase from a by-gone decade would have so much appeal and resonance now.

[2:17] Its design is considered simple and timeless and now commonly recognizable, however it is perhaps the words on the poster that people find most enchanting.

[2:26] Like a voice out of history it offers a very simple warm-hearted message to inspire confidence in others during difficult times and it's something that should never fade from fashion, to Keep Calm and Carry On.