Monday, 9 January 2012

Lessons From Kilroy

Kilroy was here. You’ve probably heard or seen that catchphrase scrawled on something (bathroom walls were a favorite) or mentioned somewhere growing up. So where’d the phrase come from? I knew it was fairly old, but not sure how old. So I did some checking and found out that the author of this catchphrase became the most widely ‘published’ man since Shakespeare.

How? Read on, my reader. ‘Kilroy was here’ first appeared on walls and every other available surface during World War II. A man named James J. Kilroy, a politician and an inspector in a Quincy, Massachusetts shipyard, coined the slogan. Kilroy chalked the words on ships and crates of equipment to indicate that he had inspected them. From Quincy those words traveled on ships and crates all over the world, copied by GIs wherever it went.

Now, if Facebook or Twitter was around then, could you imagine the possibilities James J. Kilroy would have now? Perhaps writers could learn a little something-something from Mr. Kilroy on how to spread the word about their books and products. Coming up with a little catchphrase to bring awareness may be the answer we’ve all been looking for to make it in the publishing industry. Branding is the new ‘Kilroy was here’, so writers must choose their tag words wisely or be swept away in the babble of internet clutter.

BTW – James J. Kilroy died in Boston in 1962 at the age of 60. And I’m sure he never got a penny in royalties.
Image: 123rf Stock Photo 5191745


  1. Thanks for the lesson! I used to draw that way back when I used to send letters. Learned something today. Guess I can go home now :)

  2. Ison was here!

    I love learning about the origin of things. Great stuff, Sharon. Thank you.

  3. Remember the song 'Mr. Roboto' by the Styx? They even mention 'Kilroy' at the end of the song.