By Ned Cantwell
“Aliena nobis, nostra plus aliis placent.”
That is Latin, I’m sure you realize, for “Other people’s things are more pleasing to us, and ours to other people.”
Well, maybe. When it comes to state mottos, maybe not. The motto of the state of New Mexico is hardly pleasing to anyone. On the other hand, there are some around our nation that are pretty good, others that stink.
The Latin version of New Mexico’s motto rolls off the tongue with the beautiful fluidity of the language. “Crescit Eundo.” Sweet. Reminds me of my altar boy days back in the ’50s. “Ad deum qui laetificat juventutem meam,” I would solemnly intone.
That translates nicely: “To God, who gives joy to my youth.” Not so with “Crescit Eundo” whose English translation makes one wonder what its author might have been thinking: “It Grows As It Goes.”
I can think of various scenarios where that motto might apply, but I cannot fathom what inspired “Crescit Eundo” when it first surfaced. That was back in the 1851, just after the U.S. invaded New Mexico, then part of Mexico. The two words appeared on the seal of a territorial governor.
New Mexico isn’t the only state with a crummy slogan. Washington’s “Al-ki” is short but dumb. It is Chinook for “By and by.” By and by what?
Utah sticks with a single English word, “Industry.”
Industry is good, industry is bad? What is Utah trying to tell us?
North Carolina boasts “Esse quam videri,” (“To be rather than to seem” which, when you think about it, isn’t all that “ab absurdo” (“from the absurd”).
You have to wonder how Maryland gets away with “Fatti maschi, parole femmine.” That means “Manly deeds, womanly words,” meaning, one would guess, that in Maryland men get things done while Maryland women sit around gabbing.
Florida, too, is a puzzle. Why has not the ACLU jumped all over “In God we trust?” Should not atheistic Floridians have their own slogan, “In God we do not trust?”
New Mexico can do better than that. New Mexico needs to come up with a dynamite motto with or without Latin, Spanish or Indian translation. And to do this, we need the readers of this column to give serious thought to a motto that will set us apart from the rest of the field.
Do this for your state: “Amoto quaeramus seria ludo.” (“Joking aside, let us turn to serious matters.”)
Don’t just dwell on the obvious such as, “New Mexico — It’s Windy Here,” or “New Mexico — Las Vegas Wannabe.”
Here is what we will do. Send your suggestions and I will forward them to Sen. Joseph Carraro, who is a champion of state motto reform. He says we need to get this done before the New Mexico state quarter is issued in 2008. Put our state motto on the new 25-cent piece, he says, and it won’t be worth a quarter.
I might also attempt to enlist the support of Gov. Bill Richardson by reminding him he has a tendency to “ad captandum vulgus.” (That’s “appeal to the crowd.”)
I suspect Big Bill might reply “ascendo tuum.”
Which means, of course, “up yours.”
Syndicated columnist Ned Cantwell suggests Columna est fabula, plaudite! (The column is over, applaud!) Contact him at: email@example.com