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Keep calm

Conor Kelly | Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In 1939, with the nation facing imminent invasion from German forces in the second world war, the British Ministry of Information printed 2.5 million copies of a red poster with white lettering designed to bolster the resilience of a people and inspire Britons to go about their daily lives in the face of near and present danger. The message?

Keep Calm and Carry On.

What was originally intended as an exhortation to wartime patriotism has since became arguably the most popular motto among college students across America, plastered across the front of posters, t-shirts and tank tops from sea to shining sea. I’m not ashamed to admit that such a poster graced the walls of my own dorm room last year.
No, it is not the original message at which I take umbrage, but rather its countless derivatives and iterations that have been so sloppily created in the last year or so. Notre Dame is no exception.

It started innocently enough with the logical move to “Keep Calm and Party On” which, while certainly not true to the phrase’s original meaning, was witty enough and a natural fit for a college dorm room. Winston Churchill could not be reached to comment on how he felt about the use of the message to implicitly urge college students to further levels of debauchery, but that can be forgiven.

The true crime against history and creativity has come more recently as people have felt that they can merely insert a word in the place of “carry” and instantly create a cool and witty phrase. Just in the last few days, I have seen six ND-specific twists on the iconic phrase; last Friday an esteemed publication felt that “Keep Calm and Style On” was an interesting twist for a headline that no one had thought of before.

Fisher’s “Keep Calm and Regatta On” tanks from last spring? Regatta is not a verb. You can’t just put it there and have it make sense. Pasquerilla West’s “Keep Calm and PW On” shirts? What exactly does it mean to PW?

The St. Patrick’s Day “Keep Calm and Drink On” tanks from last year make us sound like degenerate alcoholics rather than students proud of their real or adopted Irish heritage? Kudos for making a grammatically correct sentence though.

So my challenge to you, future T-shirt designers of Notre Dame, is to be creative. You can’t merely stick a word at the end of the phrase and have it automatically be a coherent English sentence. So when it comes time to create next year’s Frosh-O t-shirt and you’re tempted to make it “Keep Calm and Irish On” or something of that ilk, take a second and read it back before rushing to the printer’s.

You sound ridiculous.

Contact Conor Kelly at [email protected]

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.