Thursday, January 31, 2008

"No Motto Please, We're British"

I feel bad that I always pick on the Brits, but it can be difficult to avoid. Sometimes they just bring it on themselves, with their properness and whatnot. Anyway, I suppose it's to be expected.... Do robins get along with eagles? Not really.

In any case, today I neutrally share that Britain has decided, as part of some new measures to "boost pride" [Insert your own quip here], they would like to develop a motto. The Times of London had a motto-writing contest for the general public, and among the top suggestions were "One Mighty Empire, Slightly Used," "We Apologize for the Inconvenience," and (the winner) "No Motto, Please, We're British." Love that dry British humor. (Really!)


Until today, I had thought the motto of the United States was the first sentence I learned in Latin, the one that Latin teachers like to point out first to illustrate "Latin is everywhere," the phrase stamped optimistically on American currency -- i.e., E pluribus unum (Out of many, one). But, actually, I regret to inform you, Congress passed a law making in 1956 making In God We Trust the official motto. (Congress was certainly busy making all kinds of symbolic rhetorical changes at this time, weren't they?) 

How do you reduce an entire nation into a single phrase that means anything? Since America no longer has anything very special, maybe Britain should follow Switzerland's example.  Their motto -- Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno! (One for all, all for one!) -- is everything you could ever want a slogan to be: elegant, enthusiastic, hip, and Latin.  

3 comments:

Karl Rove said...

I thought E pluribus unum was stolen from "Yogurt U" on 28th street. Their motto was "E pluribus yummy"

Julie & Captain said...

Every country is better with a cool motto! Brazil has "Ordem e progresso" . Barbados has "Pride and industry." Barbados is clearly an industrial powerhouse. How boring, UK...

jenicrob said...

Oklahoma's state motto is whatever the Latin phrase is that translates to "labor conquers all." I've always thought that's an awful motto. It makes me feel so downtrodden and conquered by work. Speaking of which, I'm on the clock right now so better get back to it. . . .