Kilroy was here

From Academic Kids

Kilroy Was Here is also the title of a 1983 rock opera/concept album by Styx.

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Typical KILROY WAS HERE graffito

Kilroy was here is an American popular culture expression, often seen in graffiti. Its origins are indistinct, but recognition of it and the distinctive doodle of "Kilroy" peeking over a wall is almost ubiquitous in the US.

The same doodle also appears in other cultures, but the character peeping over the wall is not named Kilroy but Foo. Australian children write "Foo was here" under the illustration, a habit possibly inherited from the United Kingdom, where such graffiti are known as "chads".

Explanations of origin

The phrase appears to have originated through World War II United States servicemen, who would draw the doodle where they were stationed, encamped, etc. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable notes that it was particularly associated with the Air Transport Command, at least when observed in the UK.

Whilst the origins of the slogan are obscure, those of the cartoon are less so. It almost certainly originated as "Chad", in the UK before the war; a creation of the cartoonist George Edward Chatterton. Presumably, the two merged together during the 1940s, during the vast influx of Americans into Britain during the early 1940s; the "Chad" cartoon was very popular, being found across the UK with the slogan "What, no [...]?" underneath, as a satirical comment on shortages or rationing. (One sighting, on the side of a British 1st Airborne Division glider in Operation Market Garden, had the plaintive complaint "Wot, no engines?")

One theory identifies James J. Kilroy, an American shipyard inspector, as the man behind the signature. He lived in Boston, Massachusetts and served in the Legislature; during World War II he worked in a shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts, where he used the phrase to note equipment he had checked. Millions of service men saw the slogan on the outgoing ships and all they knew was that "Kilroy" had been there first. Service men began placing the graffiti wherever the US Forces landed, claiming it was already there when they arrived.

The New York Times reported this as the origin in 1946, with the addition that Kilroy had marked the ships themselves as they were being built - so, at a later date, the phrase would be found chalked in places that no graffiti-artist could have got to (inside sealed hull spaces, for example), which then fed the mythical significance of the phrase - after all, if Kilroy could leave his mark there, who knew what else he could do?

Isaac Asimov in 1955 published a fictional short story entitled The Message which is the story of a thirtieth Century historian named George Kilroy who traveled back in time to witness historic events. It was while witnessing the first allied beach assault landings of World War II in Africa that Kilroy first left his mark scratched into a shack on the beach. This short story may be found in Asimov's short story collections Earth Is Room Enough or The Complete Stories Volume 1.

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Killroy schematic

The novel V. by Thomas Pynchon claims that Kilroy was originally part of a schematic for a band-pass filter.

External links

de:Kilroy fi:Kilroy was here sv:Kilroy was here


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