Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rating State Mottos

I was thinking of state mottoes, because Maryland's is so strange, and I got to wondering what other state's mottoes are? And are they any good? In the spirit of the Book of Ratings, I decided to evaluate them myself. Here's the first batch, all taken from this Wikipedia page.

Part II: Georgia - Maine

Part III: Maryland - New Jersey

Part IV: New Mexico - South Carolina

Part V: South Dakota - Wyoming

Alabama: Audemus jura nostra defendere/We dare defend our rights

This is a classic example of a great motto. It's pithy without being terse, and strong without being crazy. The alliteration works for it very well, and overall it comes off with a very nice cadence. Sure, I'd prefer if "rights" here wasn't a synonym for "segregation", but I have to leave politics out of it. A.

Alaska: North to the future

Eh. I understand you're working with some serious limitations when you're talking about Alaska. The motto does kind of crib off of Minnesota's though. Yes, Alaska's further north, but there's not really any future there. Though I suppose "Alaska: Northern wasteland" would be too depressing for a license plate. B-.

American Samoa: Samoa, Muamua Le Atua/Samoa, let God be first

And now we have the first of a long line of Godly shout-outs. Samoa's has the added advantage of making no sense. Let God be first in what? Going through doorways? Picking baseball teams? I think they just ran out of ways to praise God and had to get desperate. Though it still could teach a lesson to Florida. C.

Arizona: Ditat Deus/God enriches

I'm going to keep docking points for these utterly unoriginal religious mottoes. Whereas Samoa's motto is just incoherent, "God enriches" actually calls to mind the repellent theological selfishness of the Gospel of Wealth. God enriches, Satan impoverishes. I think I know the latest GOP welfare reform proposal. C.

Arkansas: Regnat populus/The people rule

This a motto that really benefits from being in Latin. "The people rule", in modern speech, would invariably be translated as "The people rule!" and would have to be spoken by some MTV surfer dude, and who wants that in a motto? Well, me, maybe, but not coming out of Arkansas. In Latin, though, it brings to mind a firm but sober commitment to the principles of democracy. A-.

California: Eureka/I have found it

"Eureka" actually is Greek, but has crossed-over into an English word that manages to be cute and out-moded at the same time. That's kind of the opposite of California, which is too trendy to be out-moded and too self-righteous to be cute. And given how dysfunctional its referendum system is, Arkansas' motto would take on a decidedly more sinister (if accurate) tone. Still, so much of California's psyche is based off the idea that it is America's promised land that it is difficult to imagine it adopting any other motto. And self awareness isn't really their strong suit anyway. B+

Colorado: Nil sine numine/Nothing without God's will

Yes, I'm reflexively annoyed at this as well. But a few things mitigate in Colorado's favor here. First, "Nothing without God's will" is both coherent and doesn't actively call to mind religious evil. And second, since I only pay attention to Colorado when it is snowing there, it is fair to say that the state would be worthless without God's will, as expressed through weather patterns. B.

Connecticut: Qui transtulit sustinet/He who transplanted sustains

Maybe this makes sense in Latin; in English, it is gibberish. The usage of the past tense is a good effort at not encouraging people to flee Connecticut for their lives, but I'm not convinced it's successful. C-.

Delaware: Liberty and Independence

Kind of blah, if you ask me, but then again, so is Delaware. It's a state that only exists between the high and low tide marks anyway, so what else will they advertise beside abstract virtues? Lack of sales tax? I'm a strong proponent of Maryland annexing Delaware and taking their beaches, so if I get my way this motto will soon become moot anyway. B-.

District of Columbia: Justitia Omnibus/Justice for All

The District of Columbia always likes to subtly remind the rest of the country that they are an oppressed and colonized member of the American polity. Which they should; it's disgraceful. This motto really suffers from the Latin though -- "omnibus" is the name attached to the legislative equivalent of a burrito, and really doesn't have the majestic gravitas that "Justice for All" commands. B.

Florida: In God We Trust

Oh please. D-.


Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed to learn that Oklahoma's motto is not actually "Oklahoma is OK" (which is what they used to have on their license plates), but rather Labor omnia vincit/Labor conquers all things.

Paraguay has a motto. Tory raity - Cradle of happiness. Good motto for a country that is in perpetual battle with Bolivia for the title of "poorest country in South America."

PG said...

I like India's motto -- "Satyameva Jayate," or "Truth Alone Triumphs." It reminds me of my favorite line from the Bible (John 8:32): "And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

Too weird -- the first word verification failed, and the current one is "motto."