In mottoes we trust.
January 19, 2009 8:24 PM   Subscribe

Strangemaps presents a unique map of the United Statements of America; it's a map of the USA with each state's motto (or a translation thereof) by artist Emily Wick. The strangemaps post includes an explanation of most of the mottoes below the image.
posted by Eideteker (30 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The art may not be particularly arresting, and the mottoes are easy enough to find (indeed, much of the information is culled from wikipedia), but I found it thought-provoking, (and in a few cases, surprising) to see all the mottoes compiled for easy comparison. I hope you enjoy the post, and maybe pick up something you didn't know.
posted by Eideteker at 8:28 PM on January 19, 2009

I find North Dakota's motto amusing given that the Dakota territory was divided in two at statehood, and it was done in large part for political reasons.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:39 PM on January 19, 2009

If you like this, you might like the recent Jim Harrison book, The English Major, in which the main character starts planning his life's capstone project -- to rename the fifty states, and to change and sometimes also rename some of the state birds. Not his best book by any means, but if you're into state birds, flowers, or mottoes, you might like some of the digressions therein.
posted by salvia at 8:46 PM on January 19, 2009

Oregon's motto might as well be "Magic Happens" or "The Goddess is Dancing".
posted by mattoxic at 8:53 PM on January 19, 2009

The so-called motto of Maryland is the Calvert motto, and hasn't been adopted as the official state motto. (via).
posted by datawrangler at 8:59 PM on January 19, 2009

Some of these are really cool, like South Carolina's.
posted by salvia at 9:01 PM on January 19, 2009

Well, Southern mottos are racist as shit.
posted by shii at 9:01 PM on January 19, 2009

I've always liked my state's (Kansas') motto: Ad astra per aspera (To the stars through difficulties). The site says it's also found on packs of Pall Mall cigarettes. For some reason, that just tickles me. I have to go out and buy a pack.
posted by amyms at 9:03 PM on January 19, 2009

Well, Southern mottos are racist as shit.
Beg pardon?
posted by dawson at 9:10 PM on January 19, 2009

Look around you. Look around you. Have you figured out what it is we're looking for?

That's right, it's Michigan.
posted by not_on_display at 9:31 PM on January 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

Ooh, I want one of the New Mexico prints so much. Covet!
posted by sugarfish at 9:33 PM on January 19, 2009

I rather like the solicitousness of Michigan's motto. Other states' mottos should strike the same tone.
If You're Looking For a Decent Place to Live, You Could Do Worse Than New Jersey, You Know
posted by Bromius at 9:37 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

What no Wacko Warner?
posted by The Whelk at 9:48 PM on January 19, 2009

Mississippi:Virtute et armis - By Valor and Arms
May have been influenced by Lord Gray de Wilton’s motto: Virtute non armis fido (I trust in virtue, not arms).

Oh, Mississippi. Bless your gun-lovin' heart, you're doing it wrong.
posted by jnaps at 9:48 PM on January 19, 2009

Sic semper, baby. Sic semper.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:52 PM on January 19, 2009

Yeah, I like Michigan's too. I liked it better just as "Look About You" without the "if you're looking for a good penninsula" bit.

Plus, isn't all that detail selling themselves a bit short? Like "If you're looking for a good northern state, one that borders the Great Lakes that starts with M and ends with N, look about you!"
posted by salvia at 9:53 PM on January 19, 2009

Florida: Yo Michigan, Check out this big sweaty dangler, ah? Ah?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:45 PM on January 19, 2009

Ha! "The People Rule." Way to go, Arkansas!

Also: Colorado? "Nothing Without Providence?" Providence is in RHODE ISLAND, dudes. Guess that makes you... well... nothing.

Wow. Maryland. Just. Wow. What's a womanly word? Menstruation? Cervix? Really, I don't know!

Montana has the same motto as Yukon Cornelius.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:18 AM on January 20, 2009

Um. Maine's motto is "Dirigo," for which "I Direct" is definitely not the intended translation.
posted by rusty at 5:39 AM on January 20, 2009

@salvia Michigan's motto never seemed too specific to me. More like, "Sure, other states may have pleasant peninsulas, but that's all we are."

Am I the only one who finds it strange that California's "Eureka" was not translated?
posted by timing at 5:49 AM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Strange Maps is a really fun blog. If you liked this, dig around in that site some more, there's some great stuff.
posted by baphomet at 7:14 AM on January 20, 2009

Mottos for other U.S. places:

-Washington D.C.: Let's Go to the Mall!
-Guam: Nothing Whatsoever To Do With Bat Dung.
-Puerto Rico: Can't You Squeeze Another Star On There Somewhere?
-U.S. Virgin Islands: What Are You Giggling At?
-American Samoa: We Don't Just Tag Along.
posted by ericbop at 7:23 AM on January 20, 2009

There's no explanation of New Hampshire's motto on the site! Balls!

Okay, then, it falls to the native son:


This state motto was originally uttered by the Revolutionary War general John Stark, who was born in Londonderry, NH. After the war was over, he was invited to a dinner celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of Bennington. However, General Stark was too sick to attend. In his stead, he sent a letter which directed the following toast to be read:

"Live Free or Die; Death is not the worst of evils."

Needless to say, everyone at the dinner was impressed by Stark's general badassery, and drank heartily in honor of the man. One story (which may be apocryphal) is that everyone was so impressed that several heads exploded, and a few other generals shrieked, "MotherFUCKER that is AWESOME, let us put that on our motherfuking LICENSE PLATES" Also some dragons appeared and did a dance. From the flaming breath of these wyverns emerged Rick and Ron Shaw.

Today, John Stark's legacy of freedom-loving lives on in insane libertarians, delicious vodka, and the fact that I don't have to wear a motherfucking seatbelt up in my homeland, YEAHHHH, TAKE THAT, MASSHOLES

The More You Know

posted by Greg Nog at 8:38 AM on January 20, 2009

While I've always enjoyed the poetic qualities of South Carolina's official mottos: "Dum Spiro Spero (While I Breathe, I Hope)" and "Animis Opibusque Parati (Prepared in Mind and Resources.)," I still have a place in my heart for its unofficial motto, James Lewis Petigru's immortal, "Too small to be an republic and too large to be an insane asylum."
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:25 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Very nice; thanks Eideteker. "Live Free or Die" of course is on the NH license plate, too, famously made by prisoners not living free at all in the state pen. (Sometimes, the plates even become candy dishes.)

Maine's motto is "Dirigo," for which "I Direct" is definitely not the intended translation.

The Maine Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 9, Subchapter 1 say, "The state motto shall be Dirigo (I direct or I guide)." The intent, this site says, was more for the second meaning: " the Polar Star has been considered the mariner's guide and director in conducting the ship over the pathless ocean to the desired haven, and as the center of magnetic attraction; as it has been figuratively used to denote the point, to which all affections turn, and as it is here intended to represent the State, it may be considered the citizens' guide, and the object to which the patriot's best exertions should be directed."

The polar star is at the top of our state seal right above the motto.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:57 PM on January 20, 2009

Whenever I see "Live Free or Die" I'm reminded that for a while that didn't extend to being allowed to not believing in "Live Free or Die".

Freedom and Unity is where it is at.
posted by meinvt at 9:04 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

As a transplanted masshole now in New York, all I have to say to those in NH who want to despise MA, go for it. Don't come down and work in Boston. Forget all the money that we send up to your state to keep it running. Feel free to shut down 93 and 95 to keep the massholes out of New Hampshire. I'll just go to Vermont. (Although it will make getting to Maine rather annoying.)

Ok, now that I've gotten the conforming to stereotypes part of the comment out of the way, my home state's motto is lame. Rhode Island's and Washington's (the state, not the district) are great. Unassuming and respectful almost. And I'm still surprised that Virginia kept theirs, given the most famous man to shout it was the first presidential assassin in the United States. (And New Hampshire gets points for actually living their motto. I don't know of any other state that does.)
posted by Hactar at 1:17 AM on January 21, 2009

Ye New Englanders grousing about relative lack of freedom are missing the point; it's not so much that we New Hampshirites love freedom, it's that we have a deep lustful yearning for death.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:39 AM on January 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

it's not so much that we New Hampshirites love freedom, it's that we have a deep lustful yearning for death.

Vermonters feel the same way...

That is, we have a deep and lustful yearning for the death of New Hampshire.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:16 PM on January 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

(Yes, my location says I'm living in Boston. I don't care. You can't take the Vermont out of the Vermonster.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:16 PM on January 21, 2009

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