12 September 2012

About 'Keep Calm And Carry On'

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

countless variations of this popular slogan
can be seen throughout the UK and US

Available on Etsy

Although it is well known to have been a WWII morale-booster poster in the UK,
it actually was not well distributed at the time

It wasn't until the year 2000
that it was rediscovered in a used bookstore in Northumberland
which started to make reprints for customers
And the rest is history

My favorite version :)
via Decal Happy

But what I find most interesting is that it encapsulates 
both the English and American cultures

For the Americans it means
be 'zen'
while persevering

While in England it means
keep a stiff upper lip
while trudging on, 'get on with it'

Described by The Economist,
it 'taps directly into the [England's] country's mystic image of itself:
unshowily brave and just a little stiff,
brewing tea as the bombs fall'

How does the expression speak to you?
Source: Wikipedia


Sandra said...

Hello Laura! Do you think that the British stiff upper-lip still exists in the younger generation? What do you notice in this regard living in England now?
I translate this phrase as:"Keep calm and carry on!"
As a British person, educated and brought up in my home country, I have been living abroad since my early twenties, I would translate the above slogan as: "Keep cool and don't give up!"

Here is another well-known phrase for you:
"Never complain. Never explain!" Apparently, the Queen has lived by her mother's famous mantra!

Expressions change with the generations! Over here saying: "Sois zen" (be zen)has become popular here too!

Have a fun day and be careful not to catch that famous stiff upper-lip! Who knows what could happen!


I had read this story and was so surprised that it had never been used during the war. I love it.


Happy Homemaker UK said...

You bring up a really interesting point that I hadn't really thought of before. Yes, I would say 'the stiff upper lip' is definitely with the older generation. In the US, I rarely see elderly people but in England they are a vibrant part of society and I have regular casual interactions with them daily. The English of my generation are definitely more relaxed for sure.

Barbara said...

I never thought about the differences between how the Americans and the British people would interpret this saying. very interesting.

Jeanne Henriques said...

Laura, I have this phrase on my iPhone cover, in red. It reminds me of our life in England and I have to say it is fun to see people's reactions when I point it at them when I take photos. The message is clear!
Best wishes... Jeanne xx
PS..thanks so much for your lovely comments...much appreciated! xx

Gesci said...

I bought tin signs of all three original slogans ("Your courage...", "Freedom is in peril...", and "Keep calm...") when we attended Haworth's 1940s weekend- they seemed a fitting souvenir, and the story behind the slogans was quite interesting. I've not bought into the whole fad, but having those signs on my wall sure make me smile!
(Of course, so does the matching "Don't Panic" one I purchased... !!)

Sunray Gardens said...

Cute slogans for the 2 countries.

Cher Sunray Gardens

Life in Transition said...

I'm definitely the Stoic British type! I love the bookshop in Alnwick where they found the original posters :-)

High Heeled Life said...

Calm and zen for this gal! xo

TexWisGirl said...

interesting to read your take on the two perspectives. it is the 'zen' feel here for me.

Katherines Corner said...

what a fun post. I think It means all of the above. I enjoyed my visit to your sweet blog. I am happily following along.Hugs!

Minerva Black the shoppe keeping cat said...

We like reading what you have said and all the comments are illuminating also. We love this story, especially the way the poster was a 'found' item. But we are sad that the original people who rescued it did not get the financial recognition and without them it would never have come to any of our attentions. We blogged about their story here in march 2012: http://mrsblacksthisnthat.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/keep-calm-and-carry-on.html

Pet said...

It sounds British most of all. Calmness is not a Mediterranean thing. Laziness is the closest :-)

Expat mum said...

We have a t-shirt in our house that says "Keep Calm and Call Batman".

I must say though, having been born and brought up in England till my late 20's, the stiff upper lip thing is something that I wouldn't miss were it to disappear. There was far too much brushed under the carpet in the way of emotions and conflicts that should have been discussed and resolved. Parents never told their kids they loved them, family grudges were kept for years (some still are) etc. I think a little relaxing of that lip wouldn't be a bad thing. (Or maybe I've been in the States too long?)

driftwood said...

the keep calm sign means home to me, as the bookshop where the poster was rediscovered is just down the hill from where I live.

Sissym said...

I enjoy reading your explanations, because I had no idea of the difference of interpretation for each country. Very good also been reading the comments above, especially about the view of Sandra.


Older Mum said...

Ha ha - the subtle differences in culture, but I think as a Brit myself, the meaning has changed and I agree with the first comment - keep cool, collected and carry on ... :o).

Denise said...

Hi Laura,

Really interesting post, as usual. I happen to love the slogan, and as you can see, I have the badge on my sidebar (have for some time now). I just discovered, a few months ago, the story behind the slogan. Thanks for your take on the different interpretations. :)

Have a wonderful week!

Denise at Forest Manor

Gillian said...

I think I am going to really like your blog. :-)

To me, it says just grin and bear it - everything is crumbling around you, but put the kettle on and it will all be ok. Not so much shrugging things off, but taking a deep breath and getting through it. Not sure how "English" that makes me.

Paula said...

The way Sir WInston Churchill expressed it was "KBO"! For the rather salty meaning, and to avoid offending Laura's readers, contact my email and I'll tell you what the letters stand for!


Happy Homemaker UK said...

Ooh, that must be interesting since you live in Vietnam!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I LOVE bookstores - I hope to make it there one day :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Welcome! And thank you for popping over - I hope you come back often ;)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Wow, I just read your post - really fantastic information. Thank you for sharing!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I think you and Sandra highlight that the motto has different meaning to the different generations in England. Such an excellent point I hadn't thought of before. Thank you for sharing!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Goodness, you have piqued my curiosity! I'm off to email you now ;)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I love that you say that - just grin and bear it - that is exactly what it means in England. And that is not at all what it means in the US. Thank you for giving the words :)

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

As a Brit I have always known the Quote Keep Calm and Carry On was a poster produced by the Government of the United Kingdom in 1939 at the beginning of the Second World War to raise the morale of the British public. You are right about Brits and their stiff upper lips!

Iota said...

That's so interesting and insightful. I'd never thought about how Americans would interpret the phrase, but yes, you're right. Different to how Brits interpret it. Really astute of you.

I don't think the poster was ever distributed. I think it was prepared in case the Germans invaded, but then they never did. I hope you've followed the links in other comments and read the whole story about the slogan and the posters.

I have a doormat which says "Keep Calm and Come In", and a couple of mugs which read "Keep Calm and Drink Tea".

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Astute - I had to look up that word (just kidding!), and something I've never been accused of before ;) Yes, I did thoroughly enjoy the links shared by my readers - interesting story.

HippieGirl21 said...

I kinda figured that 'keep calm and carry on' was something of the WWII era. Now I get it, :D