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The difference between east and west - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
The difference between east and west
I've lived in three states now (not counting a month living in California; a month isn't really long enough to say you've lived somewhere). Today, while looking for information about mottos--I am wondering if a family can just assign itself a motto, the same way a university does--and I ended up surfing for motto information in general, and looking at state mottos.

I grew up in New York. Excelsior!--higher. It's that old Gloria Estefan song: "If I could reach... higher..." Strive, be the best, whatever it is you happen to be doing. Excelsior.

I went to undergraduate school and now live in Massachusetts. Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem--"By the sword she seeks peace under liberty." True to form, a grand idea, overstated and awkward (at least in translation), but obviously a form of utopianism that has marked Massachusetts since the pilgrims showed up to build a city on the hill. (The founder of my undergrad school referred to building it in the mid-1800s as "setting a light upon the hill," and the motto is "Pax et Lux," though I would be happy to see it changed to "There's a sucker born every minute"--terrathree suggested Nulla minuta sine barcala as the translation when I asked--for the sake of our later trustee...)

I lived in New Mexico for about three years, and my mother and grandmother still live there, so I'm still connected. Crescit eundo--"It grows as it goes."

This made me giggle, because I can't think of a clearer cultural contrast. It's not a good or bad thing, just a difference. "Reach higher!" "Fight for the right!" "It grows as it goes." You half-expect it to end with "dude" or "mijo." The first two, you imagine given by orators in front of packed crowds, the third, sitting on a doorstoop with the hat pushed back, watching the sun set.
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Comments
megstuff From: megstuff Date: February 5th, 2006 06:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
As a southwesterner living in the east, I'm always trying to explain that cultural difference to people. This is better than any illustration I've ever come up with!
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barbara_the_w From: barbara_the_w Date: February 5th, 2006 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wisconsin's is "Forward!"

I was always wondering... to *where*?
harriet_wimsey From: harriet_wimsey Date: February 5th, 2006 07:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, that's interesting. The Kansas motto fits our state, too--Ad astra per aspera--"To the stars through difficulty." That's pioneer spirit in a nutshell.
forked From: forked Date: February 5th, 2006 07:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
LOL- meme! And yep, holds well for me:

Mississippi - Virtute et armis - By valor and arms - seal: American eagle of the national arms
Virginia - Sic Semper Tyrannis - Thus Always to Tyrants - seal: Virtus holding a spear, her foot on a dead guy
Washington state - Al-ki - neither official nor latin- Chinook trading jargon 'by and by' - seal is GW
alphabet26 From: alphabet26 Date: February 5th, 2006 07:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Let's see...of the states not previously mentioned (NY and CA), I've lived in Montana, which is "Oro y plata (Gold and Silver)." Um, okay. Now that "Silver and Gold" song from Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer is running through my head, though.

Colorado: Nil sine Numine (Nothing without Providence). Providence with a capital P? I'm sure it will be changed soon.

Iowa: Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain. I like it! It doesn't not fit Iowans. The state does play an important role in presidential elections.

That was fun.
sixth_light From: sixth_light Date: February 5th, 2006 07:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Don't have a state motto, as I don't have a state, but my city's motto is "Suprema a situ" - roughly, "Great because of its location".

Which, given that we are located at different points on a very major faultline, filled-in seabed, a shallow piece of land raised by an earthquake and liable to sink again, a regularly-flooding river valley, and a lot of very steep hills, is....kinda inaccurate.

Our less formal motto is "Absolutely Positively Wellington", which doesn't make a lot of sense, but seems to be very popular.
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dreagoddess From: dreagoddess Date: February 5th, 2006 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
The motto of Texas is "Friendship." We're, ah, not real big on them fancy Latin words. ;)
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: February 5th, 2006 07:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I always think it is interesting when people compare regional attitudes. I have lived all over and I hope I appreciate something about every state (well -- except New Jersey, but I was so young I hardly knew her!

New Jersey - age: 0-2.5, motto: Liberty and prosperity (they didn't bother to translate it to Latin, or any other language) (sadly).

Washington - age: 2.5-18, and again from 30-35, motto: Al-ki (already mentioned Chinook Jargon, "By and by")

Maryland - age: 18-22 and again 28-30, motto: Fatti maschii, parole femine (Italian vice latin) - meaning "Manly deeds, womanly words" (sounds like something the Italians would say -- I don;t know about Marylanders, although my Mother-in-law would (also from Maryland) probably wishes I were more womanly with my words...another story.

Hawaii - age 23-26, motto: Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono (obviously Hawaiian) "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness".

Virginia - age 26-28 and 35-present (I'm only 36, but trust me, I live here), motto: Sic semper tyrannis (also already mentioned)- "Thus always to tyrants"

Virginia's motto sort of reminds me about that joke where the Muslim terrorist "martyr" goes to Heaven and Thomas Jefferson meets him and punches him, then George Washington does the same, and he sees a long line of men waiting to do the same and asks what's going on and why isn't he in heaven and the response is, "You are, we're your 72 Virginians."

OK -- perhaps that might be offensive to some, but I live in Virginia now. It's funny.

P.S. In my 30th year I did spend about 6 months in Rhode Island -- motto: "Hope" As in, I hope I get out of here before winter sets in.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 5th, 2006 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
"You are, we're your 72 Virginians."

OK -- perhaps that might be offensive to some, but I live in Virginia now. It's funny.


Hah. I'm not Virginian, but I find it funny. And Virginia, bless her, has produced any number of high class ass-kickers. :)
karit From: karit Date: February 5th, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ohio's is "With God, All Things Are Possible."

...that's really quite annoying, actually.
siegeofangels From: siegeofangels Date: February 5th, 2006 08:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Michigan's is "si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice," which means "if you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you."

I'm not sure what that says about us as a people, but I do know you can get it on boxer shorts.
sneaky_rhae From: sneaky_rhae Date: February 5th, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
That is the best way I've seen the New Mexico attitude described in a long time, and it's quite accurate.

Texas, and more specifically El Paso, is known as "The Land of Mañana" which, of course, instead of "why put off for tomorrow what you could do today" means "why on earth would we do anything today that could be put off until tomorrow, or better yet, next week. Let's party."

It bleeds out of El Paso a bit. I work at Texas Tech and my PI who recently moved down from Princeton commented that it takes much longer to get things done around here than it did up there. I told him he had better get used to it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 5th, 2006 10:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
For awhile, NM was trying to go with a "tomorrow" theme, with the implication that it's thinking about the future, but I seem to recall a lot of jokes about how it was really about everything getting done mañana.
darkeyedwolf From: darkeyedwolf Date: February 5th, 2006 09:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
*googles* My -- my state's motto is Agriculture and Commerce.

...

scionofgrace From: scionofgrace Date: February 5th, 2006 09:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nebraska's is "Equality Before the Law." Stodgy, yet idealistic. And our state seal depicts all the kinds of industry that go on here. Pretty accurate to say that Midwesterners/Great Plainsmen define themselves by their work.
hermia7 From: hermia7 Date: February 5th, 2006 09:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, You've covered my undergrad state (MA) and my current state (NY), but I grew up in Oregon, which has usually had the motto "Alis Volat Propiis"—She Flies With Her Own Wings. Though for a while it was "The Union" instead. (huh.) It works; Oregon is certainly a...unique place. Anarchists, libertarians, loggers, hippies, "Limousine Liberals," and the rest of us.
(Something about this reminds me of the story of one of my dad's colleagues, informing her elderly mother-in-law, Georgie born and bred, that they were moving to Oregon. This was back in 1985 or so. The MiL's response, with a thick southern accent? "Oregon? Not much is *known* about Oregon.")

I also lived in Michigan as a toddler, "Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam, circum spice" [If you are seeking a pleasant peninsula, look around you]. AHahhahahahaha. What a funny motto!
lannamichaels From: lannamichaels Date: February 6th, 2006 12:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Pennsylvania's motto is "Virtue, Liberty, and Independance." Not too sure about that virtue bit. ;)
hymnia From: hymnia Date: February 6th, 2006 02:34 am (UTC) (Link)
You inspired me to look up my state motto (Florida). I was surprised to learn that it is identical to the national motto: In God we trust.

According to this site, Florida's is one of seven state mottos that are religious.

I grew up in NM, and I think its motto is fitting, too.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 6th, 2006 02:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Grew up in Alabama and live there now- Audemus jura nostra defendere, We dare to defend our rights.

Undergrad, North Carolina- Esse quam videri, To be rather than to seem.

Grad school, Georgia- Wisdom, justice, and moderation. Moderation? Not in Savannah, thanks. Ah, the open container liquor laws.

Rene
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