State Mottos

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British motto contest, sponsored by The Times

 
Friday, February 8, 2008, 11:09 - Popular Latin Phrases, Mottos, Slogans, State mottos
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I can't believe this one almost escaped my attention!

The article is appropriately entitled Britain Seeks Its Essence, and Finds Punch Lines.

It was a lofty idea: formulate a British “statement of values” defining what it means to be British, much the way a document like the Declaration of Independence sets out the ideals that help explain what it means to be American.
...
The proposal, part of a package of British-pride-bolstering measures announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s new government over the summer, raised a host of tricky questions. What does it mean to be British? How do you express it in a country that believes self-promotion to be embarrassing? And how do you deal with a defining trait of the people you are trying to define: their habit of making fun of worthy government proposals?

Detractors spread the rumor that the government was looking not for a considered statement, but for a snappy, pithy “liberté, égalité, fraternité”-style slogan that it could plaster across government buildings in a kind of branding exercise.

Nor did it help when The Times of London cynically sponsored a British motto-writing contest for its readers.

The readers’ suggestions included “Dipso, Fatso, Bingo, Asbo, Tesco” (Asbo stands for “anti-social behavior order,” a law-enforcement tool, while Tesco is a ubiquitous supermarket chain); “Once Mighty Empire, Slightly Used”; “At Least We’re Not French”; and “We Apologize for the Inconvenience.” The winner, favored by 20.9 percent of the readers, was “No Motto Please, We’re British.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/26/world ... motto.html
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Esse Quam Videri: To be, rather than to seem (North Carolina State Motto)

 
Esse quam videri - To be, rather than to seem

This state motto might as well get the prize for Classical authenticity. Without trying to come up with something unique and of questionable value, North Carolinians went straight to the source of nearly everything that is good in Latin prose: Cicero. Right? Actually, the phrase is a little bit out of context: Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt ("De amicitia", 98). Cicero does not speak of being per se, he speaks about being endowed with virtue. If you are have left is "esse quam videri" it becomes rather unclear: to be what? to seem to be what?

Still, a good motto. North Carolina spent a long time coming up with it, being the only one of the original 13 states without an official motto all the way until 1893!

She flies with her own wings

 
Thursday, November 29, 2007, 20:53 - Latin Language, Latin Translation, Popular Latin Phrases, Mottos, Slogans, State mottos
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Alis volat propriis
She flies with her own wings


I am becoming more convinced that if one wants to adopt a good motto it is best to start with a classical quotation. Reasons? See above - the Oregon state motto. I was not able to find any related quotation in the body of Latin literature, both classical and medieval.

Honestly, would it make much sense if someone attempted to fly not by her or his own wings? What does this even mean? Is it a sign of some great achievement, to fly with your own wings? It's like speaking with your own voice and so on. I suppose this reveals some degree of self-sufficiency, but not exactly enough to be perceived as a personal trait that would get you noticed...

Thus always to tyrants

 
Sic Semper Tyrannis.
Thus always to tyrants.


This is of course, state motto of Virginia. But here is a curious, although sincere, example of using Latin in English poetry:

Sic Semper Tyrannis"
By E. H. O. Clark."

Sic semper tyrannis," vile southron?
You murdered your own truest friend!
And may God now have pity for traitors —
Man's patience has come to an end!"

Sic semper tyrannis," 0 madman?
He marshalled to freedom a race!
He led us to battle with tyrants;
To dare look the right in the face!"

Sic semper tyrannis" assassin?
Behold a whole nation in black!
And hark to the curse of its millions
That rumbles along your track !"

Sic semper tyrannis,"— O Heaven !
That motto for slavery's knife;
While died the great servant of freedom,
As martyrdom sainted his life !

Sic semper tyrannis,"— God help us
To bear it — the deed and the loss;
The crime that has scarcely been mated
Since Jesus was nailed to the cross!"

Sic semper tyrannis"— Our Father
In Heaven, we swear unto Thee,
Once more over him thou hast taken,
All men shall be equally free!


Troy Daily Times, Sat., April 22d, 1865


I was very surprised that this phrase is also the motto of Allentown, PA. Some serious investigation into the history of this quiet town is required...

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