Listen to English - Keep calm and carry on!
This week's phrasal verb is “to carry on”. I shall explain it in a minute, but first here is a story about a typical Monday morning for Kevin, in his new job as Assistant Sales Manager (South East England).
It is 6.30. Time to get up. The alarm clock rings. Kevin ignores it. He carries on sleeping. The alarm clock carries on ringing. Eventually, Kevin wakes up. He turns the alarm clock off, and falls out of bed.
Kevin has a shower and gets dressed. He turns on the radio. The radio presenter chatters cheerfully, and plays cheerful music. But Kevin carries on eating toast and drinking coffee. The radio presenter carries on being cheerful. Kevin thinks, “It is Monday morning. It is not a time for being cheerful.”
Kevin travels to work by train. Today, there are problems on the railway. and the train is late. It is crowded with people. On the way into the city, it stops at a red signal and waits. The passengers on the train do what English people always do in a crisis – they ignore it. They carry on reading their newspapers. They carry on typing on their computers. There is silence, except for one man who is talking loudly on his mobile phone. He carries on talking loudly. He has forgotten that the train has stopped and that everyone on the train can now hear him.
Eventually, the train moves a little bit, then it stops again. It carries on like this – stopping and starting and stopping again – until it reaches the main station. Because the train is late, Kevin arrives late at work. But everyone else has had problems getting to work as well, so perhaps it doesn't matter. Monday has begun!
I have used “carry on” several times in this story, and I hope you can now understand what it means. It means “to continue”. Kevin continues sleeping. The people on the train continue reading. Another common expression which means almost the same as “carry on” is “go on”. The alarm clock goes on ringing. The man with the mobile phone goes on talking.
When I was thinking about what to say in this podcast, I did a Google search for “carry on” and found an interesting story. In 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War, the British government printed millions of posters to send simple propaganda messages to the people. The posters appeared on billboards, and in shop windows and railway stations and places like that. They tried to encourage and cheer people in the face of bombing raids, food rationing and other hardships. However, one of the posters was never used. It was the poster which would tell people what to do if the Germany army actually invaded Britain. At the end of the war, the government destroyed all the copies. Well, not quite all, because in the year 2000 a second-hand book seller found a copy of poster in a box of old books which he had bought. The poster said simply, “Keep calm and carry on”. In other words, do not panic, carry on as normal – go to work, look after your families, and so on. This was the very British message that our government wanted to send to the people if our country was invaded.
Since it was rediscovered, the poster has become very popular. You can buy copies on line, and mugs and t-shirts with the slogan “Keep calm and carry on”. Perhaps people feel that this simple slogan means as much today as it did 70 years ago. We have so many problems today – economic crisis, environmental problems and wars in many parts of the world. What can we do? Keep calm and carry on!