Every state in America has a state motto. They tend to be inspirational catchwords, brief yet powerful, no doubt meant to inspire the populace to greatness.
The mottos are heavy on truth, justice and the American way – much like Superman without the blue tights, red cape and the need to masquerade as a mild-mannered reporter.
The most famous state motto is New Hampshire – “Live free or die.” It leaves little doubt where the citizens of the Granite State stand on various issues. Being a wimpy outsider in New Hampshire is a lot like going to a clown convention in full costume and accidentally showing up at a Sicilian funeral for a guy named Big Tony the Enforcer – you tend to be noticed.
The smallest state in the Union, Rhode Island, has the shortest motto – “Hope." There's nothing wrong with being small or short, however calling yourself an island when you are surrounded on two sides by land is either a sign of ignorance or a sign of wishful thinking, also called hope.
Massachusetts, the state with the most letters in its name, has the longest motto – “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.” It is also a Kickapoo Indian (Native American) term meaning "Pale Face arrive from across big pond and teach us to be Pale Face."
At least one state hasn’t caught up with political correctness yet. Maryland – “Manly deeds womanly words.” Obviously, the good citizens of Maryland have gender identity issues. Too many transvestites.
The most confusing state motto is Connecticut – “He who transplanted still sustains.” Apparently, the people of Connecticut understood the deeper meaning, that he who has not transplanted no longer sustains, and adopted it as their state motto. Backwards it reads “Sustains still transplanted who he” which pretty much means the same thing. In Latin, it reads, “Qui transtulit sustinet.” Even though I know nothing about Latin, except that Latin America is somewhere south of Texas, it somehow makes more sense than the English version.
I’ve asked several reasonably intelligent people to explain this motto but all I get is a look of bewilderment and a request to go away. Then again, I often get that sort of reaction whenever I mingle with real people.
To the citizens of Connecticut, here are some suggestions on a new state motto.
• The gateway to Rhode Island
• So close to New York, you can smell it
• No loitering
• Live free or move to New Hampshire
• Sustains still transplanted who he
• Size isn’t everything
Some of the redneck states in the Deep South tend to be high on machismo.
Alabama – “We dare defend our rights.”
Mississippi – “By valor and arms.”
They're still upset by the outcome of the Civil War way down yonder in the land of cotton, where old times there are not forgotten.
Other southern states are more reflective,
Georgia – “Wisdom, justice and moderation.”
I know a couple of guys from Georgia and the word moderation is not in their vocabulary. Live hard, drive fast and die young is more their style. I lived in Georgia for a couple of years when I was in the Army. I never did notice much wisdom -- but then again, I was in the Army.
Only two states have the word “people” in their motto.
Missouri – “The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law.” It’s not very slick or thought-provoking, but neither are the folks in Missouri. It is also known as the "Show Me" state. A word of caution however -- if it is not raining in Missouri, do not ask a man in a trench coat to "show me."
The state motto of Arkansas is “The people rule.” This seems like a reasonable proposition. If we must be ruled, people would be my first choice as opposed to non-people. I’m not quite sure what the alternatives would be. Perhaps raccoons or possums. Armadillos would also be a possibility but they tend to be late for budget meetings.
Some suggestions for a new state motto for Arkansas.
• Non-people cannot rule
• Rivers, Razorbacks and Rednecks
• No shoes, no shirt, no big deal
• He who transplanted is still transplanted
• Where road-kill is legal tender
• Very few Texans
• Wisdom, justice and moonshine
• Lots of guys named Billy Bob and Bubba
• Free ticks and chiggers
For better or worse, Arkansas is where the people rule -- the raccoons and possums find it all very amusing.
Quote for the Day – "Start off every day with a smile and get it over with." W.C. Fields
Bret Burquest is the author of 12 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where the people rule.