Keep Calm and Don’t Do Anything I Wouldn’t Do :)

We drink a lot of tea in this house. My mother was a tea-drinker, so for me it was once a comfort item, wonderful on cold rainy afternoons, say. (Until health issues forced me to give up coffee, at which time tea became my morning drink of choice.) But when one lives with an Irishman (or entertains his family), cups and cups and cups of tea are consumed. All day long. Even in summer, when this Southern gal would much rather have a tall, tinkly glass of iced tea. So it amused me last year when I stumbled on a little poster that read Keep Calm and Drink Tea. I bought it, framed it, and it hangs in the house now.

I didn’t realize then that this was a takeoff on a famous British slogan, used on a government poster in 1939. Intended to raise the morale of a British population under the threat of impending invasion by Hitler, the poster was never used because, well, ol’ Adolf never managed to cross the Channel. The poster was “rediscovered” in 2000 and now this simple phrase—always in all caps, Gill Sans typeface with the “and” set smaller than the rest, white letters on a simple, solid-color background—has taken on a life of its own. My niece recently posted on Facebook a photo of her coffee mug that reads Eat Cake and Move On. It’s in the same all-caps Gill Sans of my Drink Tea and clearly springs from the same provenance.

When I mentioned this to my niece, she informed me she’d seen Keep Calm and Be the Walrus (which amuses me to no end) and Where There Is Tea There Is Hope. (The Irishman definitely believes this one.) As it turns out, there’s a whole cottage industry sprung up around this oh-so British catchphrase. Many are self-consciously contrarian:

  • Panic Wildly and Run Away
  • Lose Control and Flap About
  • Bloody Hell we’re Buggered Now (I know, this is impolite)
  • Procrastinate Now and Panic Later
  • Keep Calm and Fake a British Accent
  • Keep Calm and Pipe Down
  • Get Excited and Make Things

… while others arose as a way to poke fun at the royal wedding festivities:

  • Keep Calm Harry is Still Single
  • Keep Calm it’s Only a Wedding
  • Calm Down you can Still Marry Harry

Some have to do with drinking culture:

  • Drink Hard and Pass Out
  • Keep Calm it’s Martini Time
  • Keep Calm and Party On

… some with food culture:

  • Keep Calm and Eat Chocolate
  • Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake
  • Keep Calm and Have Lunch (on a brown paper lunch bag)

… and some with pop culture:

  • Keep Calm and Carry a Wand
  • Keep Calm and Carry (showing marijuana leaf)
  • Keep Calm and Om Nom Nom

For shoppers there’s:

  • Keep Calm I’ve Kept the Receipt
  • Buy Shoes and Look Great
  • Keep Calm It’s Only Christmas
  • Keep Calm and Carry on Shopping

… for the laid-back, there’s:

  • Keep Calm and Do Yoga
  • Keep Calm and Carry On and Stuff (actually a much ruder word is used)
  • Have Fun and Do Good
  • Breathe Deep and Let Go of Things

But my favorites, of course, are the letter- or wordplays:

  • Keep Carp and Curry One
  • Keep Calm and Curry On
  • Keep Calm and Cary Grant
  • Keep Psalm and Carry On
  • Keep Glam and Rock On
  • Change the Words and Be Hilarious
  • Keep Calm and Carry Yarn
  • Doe Fret and Keep Gooin (presumably for the Jamaicans among us)

There were dozens more, and I eliminated many that made me laugh out loud from this list. Then my niece and I discussed a project based on collecting these phrases but someone’s beat us to it. So I guess we’ll have to Keep Calm and Blog About It.

UPDATE: This week (January 2013) has seen the unveiling of the first official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge (you know her, probably, as Kate). People magazine gives it neutral coverage but not everyone agrees about its quality and I’ve already seen Keep Calm and Try Again pasted over images of the painting. Kate should have her own category, I believe; I’ve also seen Keep Calm and Carry to Term (regarding the royal pregnancy) and Keep Calm and Act Like Kate. Considering her lovely demeanor and grace under pressure, those may be words to live by.

Tweet: Keep calm and engage in wordplay!
Tweet: Keep calm and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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  1. jenny says:

    LOVE it! Keep Calm Harry is still Single is my fave!!! Thanks for sharing, Jamie.

  2. Jenny Baum says:

    You’ve added an intellectual layer to this fad, for which I thank you immensely! I began noticing different iterations of this phrase about a year ago or more — when someone wore it on a t-shirt on television. (I don’t know who or what show; likely, Eric was channel surfing, as he’s prone to do, and I was passing by, as I’m prone to do, so I caught a glimpse of it and found it intriguing). But then it appeared in other places – mugs and on wall art sold in TJ Maxx, Bed Bath & Beyond ( And then . . . I wanted to poke myself in the eye whenever I saw it. Our society is highly skilled at ruining a clever thing, isn’t it? BUT, and I speak sincerely (because I know that you could handle my opinion if it wasn’t a favorable one), it makes me happy to know that there’s one that says Keep Calm and Drink Tea. Now THAT one is classic. And will never go out of style. And suits you and “my friend Gerry” so well. Please carry on. :)

  3. Sarah Thomas says:

    What fun! I’m an avid tea drinker so I may have to get a poster with one of the original sayings. It would be just the thing at work where even the kids know about my tea drinking.

  4. Amy Parker says:

    The fourth one is my personal favorite (and motto ;). Very interesting. :)

  5. nancy Masters says:

    Keep Glam and Rock On!!!!