Doug ranks the 50 states' mottoes from worst to best (in his opinion, of course)

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Summary: Why not? I take the 50 state mottoes and I rank them from my least favorite to my most favorite.

Wednesday, 04 November 2009

(16:57:17 CST)

Doug ranks the 50 states' mottoes from worst to best (in his opinion, of course)

While reading Stephen Fry's new book—Stephen Fry in America, I found myself fascinated with the mottoes of the states. When it came to such, I mostly remembered a joke e-mail about "The New State Mottoes" I received days after making a Hotmail account back in the 90s (when it was HoTMaiL). The e-mail included such gems as "Georgia: We put the fun in fundamentalist extremism" and "Alabama: at least we're not Mississippi". Delaware was either a thinking man's Connecticut or vice versa, I forget.

The actual ones can be just as delightful. Some are grandiose, some are short. Many involve either the words (or synonyms of) "freedom", "forever", or "life". Several are in Latin. And, well, some struck me as kind of lame and stupid and some struck as me heroic and noble. I figured it would be fun, and informative for you, my dear reader, to list all the states and their mottoes from order of my least favorite to my most favorite. If you have a favorite, let me know, and I will post it below.

By the way, some of the Latin translations are my own and a few are not precise. I changed them mostly for the benefit of clarity [and/or comedy, I cannot lie].

  1. MONTANA - Oro y plata (Spanish: "Gold and silver"). Ack. God, no. What's worse, that song is now stuck in my head (and yes, the song is "Silver and gold", but still)!
  2. ALASKA - North to the future. No soul. Can be construed as a road-map to find the state, or best pictured on an industrial art poster with with three men in hardhats staring up to the left.

  3. INDIANA - The Crossroads of America. Another road map disguised as a motto. Still no soul.
  4. WISCONSIIN - Forward. Finally, a road map not to a state, but how to leave it.
  5. TENNESSEE - Agriculture and commerce. Leave it to old Tenn-man to skip a state motto and go straight to "Two things you'll see near Nashville".
  6. WYOMING - Equal rights. Equilateral state borders, maybe.
  7. RHODE ISLAND - Hope. I guess anything longer wouldn't have fit inside the state.
  8. ARIZONA - Ditat Deus (Latin: "God enriches"). Not really sure how this connects to Arizona, sounds like it should have been Nevada's state motto. Yes, that was a bad pun. I apologize.
  9. SOUTH DAKOTA - Under God the people rule. Someone is apparently correcting Arkansas.
  10. ILLINOIS - State sovereignty, national union. Sounds like a political catch-phrase from a senator justifying massive federal spending while appealing to small-goverment folk. Also, not to nitpick, but "national unity" would have rolled off the tongue better.
  11. MARYLAND - Fatti maschii, parole femine (Italian: literally, "Manly deeds, womanly words"; meant to be "Strong actions, gentle words"). Either this is an Italian-to-English game of Engrish, or we are looking at the only transgendered state motto.
  12. VIRGINIA - Sic semper tyrannis (Latin: "Take that, Lincoln!"). Not many state mottoes are recited during assassinations (note: if you plan on killing a political leader, please recite Oregon's for me, just for the history books) but here you go. Not so much a motto as a threat that we will punish tyrants with Virginians. [See also: My post about "Our American Cousin"]
  13. UTAH - Industry. Dear Utah, please see Oklahoma for a better version of your motto.
  14. TEXAS - Friendship. I'm not saying Texans aren't lovely people, but I was expecting something like "WE'LL LIBERTY ABOUT TWO BOOTS UP YOUR ASS!!!".
  15. MINNESOTA - L'étoile du Nord (French: "The star of the North"). Calling yourself the North-star is either an act of bragging about being the guidepost for the rest of us, or implying that you are gleaming brightness in the night sky. Either way, I don't feel comfortable with letting Minnesota have it.
  16. LOUISIANA - Union, justice, confidence. Not sure why, since I like Georgia's similar "three word motto", but somehow this combination just seems...meh. Like, the only people who talk about confidence as their personal motto strike me as the kind of people who have to remind themselves to be confident.
  17. MAINE - Dirigo (Latin: "I Lead"). This makes Maine sound vaguely like the sort of person whose personal motto includes the word "confident". And/or that jerk at the bar who decides the zombie invasion is his time to shine.
  18. MASSACHUSETTS - Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem (Latin: some variation, but literally something like "Seeks, by sword, peace under quiet liberty"). I don't know, I guess it sounds alright, but once you get to stabbing folks so you can have quiet time, the whole "peace" thing just sounds rhetorical.
  19. OHIO - With God, all things are possible. Your Ephesians may vary...
  20. OREGON - Alis volat propriis (Latin - "She flies with her own wings"). I get on to some of these for being unpoetic. This one may go the other way.
  21. IOWA - Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain. Somehow this makes Iowa sound like my mom ranting at the TV. At least they don't "dare" to maintain their rights, I suppose (see 'Bama, below).
  22. FLORIDA - In God, we trust. Meh. The sentiment is easy to grasp, but seems like something an old Midwesterner would go for. At least go for Latin or put an exclamation point on it or something.
  23. DELAWARE - Liberty and Independence. Though it only has three words, two of them mean pretty much the same thing, making it an interesting exercise in redundancy.
  24. NEW JERSEY - Liberty and Prosperity. I really have no issue with this motto outside of the fact it sounds like a bank slogan as much as a state one.
  25. PENNSYLVANIA - Virtue, Liberty, and Independence. Better than LA, not as good as GA [note: they also pull a Delaware].
  26. NEBRASKA - Equality before the law. While I want to give it to Nebraska for this one, it can be said to be a little confusing: is equality more important than the law to Nebraskans, or is the law required to insure equality? It's a contronym!

  27. CONNECTICUT - Qui transtulit sustinet (Latin: "He, who transplanted, sustains"). Can be confusing to wrap the tongue and mind around.
  28. CALIFORNIA - Eureka (Greek: "I've found it"). Considering how hard it is to ignore California, not sure what what the claim here is. There needs to be an "What do you know, I overlooked it!" if you want a real challenge.
  29. NEW YORK - Excelsior (Latin: "HOORAH!", or, more accurately "Upward!"). I find it hard to hate it, but not necessarily easier to truly love it.
  30. MISSOURI - Salus populi suprema lex esto (Latin: something in the vein of "Let the good of the people by the supreme law"). It's a nice sentiment for a state to live by, sure, but brings to mind a weird mental image of a friendlier Aleister Crowley. "Hey guys, tonight we're going to do that ritual, and I just want to make sure we are all comfortable with it..." That or some Missourians got hopped up on hooch and read John Locke's Two Treatises of Government while writing out a motto.
  31. WASHINGTON - Al-ki (Chinook: "By and by"). Alright.
  32. ARKANSAS - Regnat populus (Latin: "The people rule"). The plain-faced, more practical sister to Missouri's, with a leg up for simplicity.
  33. KENTUCKY - United, we stand. Divided, we fall. Kentucky apparently has two mottos. This is the better one, if not exactly original. The other translates from the Latin into "Let us be grateful to God", which sounds less like a motto than something a dad would say to his kids before supper.
  34. NEVADA - All For Our Country. For a state that allows gambling and prostitution and puts up with all of the rest of us visiting to blow off steam, this seems appropriate.
  35. HAWAII - Ua mau ke ea o ka 'aina i ka pono (Hawaiian: "The life of the land is perpetuated by righteousness"). I dig it.
  36. SOUTH CAROLINA - Dum spiro spero and Animis opibusque parati (Latin: "While I breath, I hope" and "Ready in soul and resource). SC seems to have two, though I think the former is the actual motto (and the other one is just on the seal). It has a good mix of poetry, bravado, and sentiment. Both of them do.
  37. NEW MEXICO - Crescit eundo (Latin: "It grows as it goes"). Tee hee. It sounds cute, but is actually a good code to live by. Make sure that everything you do is to the increase. Kind of.
  38. VERMONT - Freedom and Unity. Another "to the point with no poetry" motto, but this one works a little better with the meter.
  39. ALABAMA - Audemus jura nostra defendere (Latin: "We dare defend our rights"). Has a certain petulance to it that comes across as somewhere between inspiring, melancholy (thanks, Rhett), and passive aggressive.
  40. MICHIGAN - Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice (Latin: "If you seek a pleasant pennisula, look around"). At first, I was going to snark, but you know what, I like it. This is the king of the road map mottoes.
  41. GEORGIA - Wisdom, justice, and moderation. No doubt it would have sounded better in Latin, but as far as a battle cry for a state, that's something worth living up to.
  42. IDAHO - Esto perpetua (Latin: a few versions, but something in the vein of "[Let it] be forever"). I like it. It's a good motto to wrap a state around.
  43. MISSISSIPPI - Virtute et armis (Latin: "By valor and arms"). As a proud Alabaman, I hate giving both Mississippi and George the props, but I dig this motto. To the point and multi-purpose at the same time.
  44. COLORADO - Nil sine numine (Latin: some debate, but something like "Nothing without Divine Will"). Some of the "preachier" state mottoes can be offputting unless the state tends to be known for it's Christian heritage. However, props to Colorado for finding a way to say it succintly and with dignity.
  45. WEST VIRGINIA - Montani semper liberi (Latin: "Mountainmen are always free"). There is something downright Tolkienesque and beautiful in this sentiment.
  46. NORTH CAROLINA - Esse quam videri (Latin: "Be, rather than [only] seem to be"). I like it. Fakers may not.
  47. KANSAS - Ad astra per aspera (Latin: "To the stars, through difficulties"). I am a self-proclaimed space nut, but I think I like this one so much because it acknowledges both working on the present and the glory that the future can hold.
  48. NORTH DAKOTA - Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable. This sums up the contradiction between Americans as individualists and Americans as nationalists better than almost anything else.
  49. OKLAHOMA - Labor omnia vincit (Latin: "Labor conquers all"). Brings out my inner Goethe, and not a bad life lesson to motto your state with.
  50. NEW HAMPSHIRE - Live free or die. The quintessential state motto for this country. Almost makes me want to live in New Hampshire.

Si Vales, Valeo


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