If you’ve seen the most recent episode of South Park then you understand how easily you can be sidetracked while trying to look for something online. Well today went something like that for me, or maybe I just have Texas on my mind from looping “Ohio” by Bowling for Soup recently…anyway, today I learned where the phrase, “don’t mess with Texas,” comes from and I thought I would share because it’s actually kind of funny.
I have always thought most of the phrases about Texas, like, “everything’s bigger in Texas,” were annoying and displayed an exaggerated sense of self-importance. (Sorry, not sorry Texas!) Like I’m sure many people, I thought the phrase, “don’t mess with Texas,” was a celebration of the gun-wielding, truck-driving, boot-wearing stereotype of Texans. Turns out, it was actually a slogan developed for an anti-littering campaign in the 80’s. Yes, a slogan to save the environment is now widely embraced by Texans. It’s still in use today, the domain Don’t Mess With Texas is currently in use for the state’s anti-littering campaign.
In the 80’s, the campaign was all over TV, radio, and most importantly posted on highways. Can you imagine driving into the state only to pass a sign saying, “Don’t Mess With Texas?” It’s no wonder that the phrase has become a national slogan representing Texan swagger.
So you must be wondering, is the campaign really effective? Well, the source of data might be slightly biased, but according to dontmesswithtexas.org, the campaign has been a huge success. In the span of 5 years, the campaign reduced visible litter on the roadway by 39%! Keep in mind, they are counting items like cigarette butts as litter for these studies. Cigarette butts actually make up most of the litter found, not cans and bottles.
Anyway, I mostly found it entertaining that Texas, one of the most openly conservative states self-identifies with a slogan that is used for an environmental cause. Go figure!