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The culture I have created needs some unifying phrases but I'm having trouble thinking of some that spur emotion but do not sound silly or too technical.

Are there there any techniques for generating catchy rallying cries, slogans, or chants?

Surely with propaganda and social control in today's world there is some good information out there. I can't seem to find anything not related to advertising... They mostly tend to say the slogan should differentiate the product by highlighting it's strengths.

I'm thinking about differentiating by referencing the religion but that leads me to something like: "For Tyr's blessing!" While I'm looking for something not so generic like: "Odin owns you all!" My ideas are lacking in the inspirational factor.

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  • Advertising methods might work, because really, that's what slogans and rallying cries are. What about what you found doesn't work, specifically? That might help focus the responses to your question. – Terri Simon Sep 1 '16 at 16:04
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    Well, actually the rallying cries of our cultures do sound silly. Maybe not to those within a culture, but certainly to those without. "We can do it"? How silly is that! No sane person believes that greed, egoism, and shortsightedness can be ever overcome, given human nature. So just look at the slogans of our world and transfer the same level of naive optimism or xenophobia or whatever to the world you created. – user5645 Sep 1 '16 at 16:14
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    So along that line of thought... the slogans will seem silly unless I build a large amount of backstory to bring the reader into the culture – Acumen Simulator Sep 1 '16 at 16:40
  • Also, make your characters react to the slogans; believe in then, die for them, fight for them, hate for them, love for them. If they think the slogan is good, then we are more than half way through to also believing they are good. – Rolazaro Azeveires Sep 9 '16 at 22:56
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Most slogans and rallying cries are banal in themselves. Terri's example of "Remember the Alamo" is a case in point. Unless you do remember the Alamo, and unless you care about what happened there, it might as well be "Remember Schenectady".

Slogans and rallying cries work by invoking stories that the hearer cares about. If you don't know the story, or care about it, then the slogan will sound silly, no matter what it is.

So, you need to tell the story, make the reader care, and then create the rallying cry.

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Have an historical event that your characters discuss, that is clearly something everyone in their culture would know. Have a phrase that relates to the event and let that be a rallying cry. Something along the lines of "Remember the Alamo."

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I can think of two sources I would mine for inspiration.

The first is political slogans. They have been used for centuries to unify people around key figures and ideas, but without the same sort of silliness of advertising slogans. Google can supply you with endless lists that could spark an idea.

If that doesn't do it, I'd start brainstorming lines from choruses of popular songs, looking for something with a slogan-like quality that I could modify for the purpose.

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A lot of slogans (and this goes for advertising as well as politics, since slogans are a sort of political advertisement after all) follow one of the following patterns:

Three words are optimal in many languages. This was quite explicitly stated by Nazi propagandists (Goebbels made it an explicit rule), but has also been found whether consciously or unconsciously by propagandists of all ideologies:

Bomben auf Engeland!

Dieu le veut!

Вся власть – Советам!

Black is Beautiful!

Drill, baby, drill!

Éirinn go Brách!

Alba gu bràth!

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité!

Tiocfaidh ár lá!

It's interesting in a way that those of the above which aren't English but which remain in three words in translation ("Bombs on England", "God wills it", and "Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood") retain the most force while those that don't ("All power to the Soviets", "Ireland forever", "Scotland forever", "Our day will come") lose some of their impact. Indeed, Dieu le veut was first found as the Latin Deus vult, but the French packs more of a punch.

They are easily chanted, work well typographically, and are a microscopic example of the Rule of Three, and just long enough to convey an idea without being long enough to encourage people to think about it too much.

Longer slogans tend to turn on a conjunction or a copula between two roughly equal-length parts:

Come and take it!

Give me liberty or give me death!

Each for all and all for each!

The personal is political!

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer!

Vivre Libre ou Mourir!

Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve! (comma rather than conjunction, but similar pattern)

In visual use, instead of a copula there could even be an equal sign, as in the ACT UP slogan:

Silence = Death

Anything longer, if spoken, than that will generally rhyme and have a balanced rhythm:

Keep your rosaries / Of our ovaries.

We are gay, we are straight / It's the bigots that we hate.

Hey, hey, LBJ! / How many kids did you kill today?

One, two, three, four / We don't want your bloody war!

One, two, three, four / Fuck the rich, feed the poor!

Six, seven, nine, four, seven, double-oh / A woman has the right to know.

Vårat svar på monarkin / gör som Frankrike, giljotin!

These last though are more appropriate for several rounds of repetition.

Anything longer than that or without a rhyme, tends to work better on a placard than spoken, and then things are a lot looser. Snappiness and two-part balance still often feature.

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  • The rule of three here does add alot of power. This goes along with Terri's example of "Remember the Alamo" as well. – Acumen Simulator Sep 9 '16 at 15:57
  • @user38826 though my response to that is likely to be what it was growing up where graffiti from opposing sides would ask me to "Remember 1690" or "Remember 1916" which always made me think "I can't even remember whether I packed my lunch this morning". – Jon Hanna Sep 9 '16 at 17:22

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