No Mo' Mottos

A couple weeks back I flew from the land of Eureka (I have found it) out to the state of Wisdom, Justice & Moderation, passing over Ditat Deus (God enriches), Crescit eundo (It grows as it goes), Friendship, Regnat populus (The people rule), Virtute et armis (By valor and arms) and Audemus jura nostra defendere (We dare defend our rights) en route. I eventually drove down to a stretch of In God We Trust, visting family along the way. Six months earlier I had traveled to Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem (By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty), my original stomping grounds, the area where I grew up. To recap: left California for Georgia, flying over Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama and later drove down to Florida. Earlier I'd gone to Massachusetts, my home state.

Between the title and the bevy of Greek and Latin phrases you may have deducted that state mottos are what I was alluding to there, the idea for this piece being a product of my having seen them plastered on flags, seals and literature in various hotel lobbies along the way throughout the years. Their seeming randomness finally piqued my curiosity so I googled all fifty thinking maybe I'd be able to piece together a pattern in these slogans unifying the states, a common thread that somehow made sense... So, yeah, that didn't happen. Half of 'em sounded like a Miss America contestant giving you their one sentence take on "Game of Thrones" the other like a fortune cookie author with writer's block. Interesting, too, how so many of them are in Latin, as if employing a more exotic language would somehow put lipstick, blush and maybe a even a little eyeliner on the pig.

Indeed, if my take seems a bit snide it's only because it's warranted. Case in point, Idaho's "Let it be perpetual"; are we talkin' a state here or a tagline for an engagment ring commercial? Or the aforementioned New Mexico's "It grows as it goes", yeah, maybe fine for Hawaii with its volcano, Kilauea, frequently erupting and adding to the landscape but, c'mon, you're a landlocked territory. How 'bout you sell the line to a movie studio as a catchphrase for their upcoming horror flick and use the dough to pay someone to pen a better motto? Just sayin'. Then there's "She flies with her own wings", Oregon's offering which begs the question, "Was she actually borrowing wings before that?" And let's not forget Connectictut's "He who transplanted still sustains", an obvious ode to a botanist. North Carolina's contribution, "To be, rather than to seem", seems to be... kinda pretentious? And to Washington's unoffical slogan, "Bye and bye" I say "ta and ta".

Okay, so what is a motto exactly? The word itself is derived from the Latin muttum, "mutter", by way of Italian motto, "word" or "sentence". By definition it is a maxim, a phrase meant to formally summarize the general motivation or intention of an individual, family, social group or organization. Interestingly, these so-called motivational phrases have been around since the end of the Middle Ages when nobles enscribed them on their coat of arms. So, okay, let's give it up for their longevity, the reality being that maybe therein lies the problem; they came from a much simpler time when one good saying could encapsulate an individual or group's entire objective. But in today's tiktoking, group-chatting, multi-tasking, flip-flopping, name-changing, career-switching world?... yeah, that dog just won't hunt.

Alas, groups, organizations, states, countries, family and friends, it's high time we let mottos ride into the sunset, bidding them goodby, adieu, adios, ciao, or more appropriately... "valete" (seeing as they're so damn enamored with Latin). And in passing let it always be remembered that these adages had their place, embodying the spirit of a much simpler era, a quaint time when men were men, women were women and one simple idea was more than enough for the whole lot of 'em to wrestle with. So as we pass by them in the discard bin along with the horse and buggy, shag carpeting, the Thomas Guide and, you guessed it... Latin, let us always remember that all things must pass. And most importantly: Always know when it's time to go... That's my motto anyway.