Don't Mess With Texas


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The Mess With Texas Book Tour
I wanted a catchy slogan for my upcoming book tour through Texas. It didn't take long for "ClanDonnell Mess With Texas Tour" to pop into my head.

We've all heard the "Don't Mess with Texas" expression and it is indeed an iconic expression of Texan pride and swagger.

But what I didn't know is that the expression was created by an Austin advertising agency, hired by the Texas Department of Transportation for an anti-littering ad campaign. And I didn't know that these words are a registered trademark of TxDOT.

Texas, like the rest of the nation, has its share of litter and the clean-up costs big money. TxDOT (actually its predecessor agency) hired the ad agency in the 1980s to devise a new anti-litter ad campaign.

TxDOT and the ad men knew that the prior campaigns didn't work. And they knew that the biggest offenders were young men - who the ad man called "bubbas in pickup trucks" throwing beer cans out the window. These bubbas weren't responding to "Keep America Beautiful" or "Please Don't Litter" campaigns.

It also dawned on the ad creators that people in Texas don't call the stuff on the highway "litter". The word "litter" brings a bunch of new puppies to mind. What Texans would call this stuff is a "mess". And this led to the simple slogan "Don't Mess With Texas".

There is a nice article on the creation of the slogan, and interview with the creators, in a 2011 edition of Texas Monthly, entitled "Litter Did We Know", and a 2011 news article and video from CNN, entitled "There's no messing with Texas".

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