Sunday, August 8, 2010

Etymology of Slogan

During the latter half of the 20th century, a brand's slogan was considered to be the hallmark of a successful advertising campaign. The modern sense of the word appeared in the early 20th century when commercial industries began manufacturing desire in consumers for products that they initially neither wanted nor needed. Prior to the dawn of modern advertising, a slogan was used to denote any type of catchphrase that an organization, political party or powerful family might adopt during the 18th and 19th century. Despite the mild modern sense of the word, however, slogan first entered our language as a war cry with roots that are deeply rooted in Gaelic military history.

The word slogan is derived from the Gaelic term sluaghghairm, which can be parsed as sluagh for 'army' and ghairm for 'shout.' In the moments before Gaelic warriors faced off with a sworn enemy, a unit of soldiers would shout their particular sluaghghairm at the top of their lungs as they rushed toward the field of battle with their weapons at the ready. The two-fold purpose of a sluaghghairm was to inspire terror in the enemy while creating a bolstering, fearless sense of camaraderie in the final moments leading up to inevitable bloodshed.

Sluaghghairm entered the English language as slogan during the 15th century where it was used for the next 300 years to delineate certain military war cries. The British Empire in particular became very fond of assigning military slogans to various units or battles, such as "Don't give up the ship!" or "God save the Queen!" In North America, the Apache war cry "Geronimo!" or the American refrain of "Remember the Alamo!" during the Mexican American war are two excellent examples of more recent military slogans.

For information on military slogans and battle cries, check out 100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present

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