‘In God We Trust’ is the official motto of the United States, legislated in 1956 and similarly, all states have their very own motto in accordance with the individual values and ideals of their citizens. These mottos are different to state nicknames or slogans often used to promote themselves for marketing reasons.
Adopted many years ago, a lot of these mottos are not only bizarre but are often written in different languages – however, they do serve the purpose of telling a story about the state history. Thus, many ingrain messages of religion, patriotism, equality, and the rights of its citizens. But how well do we know our own state’s motto? Not very well, it appears in most cases, according to a poll of 5,668 Americans commissioned by SolitaireBliss.com.
Despite its historical significance, just 67% of Marylanders could correctly identify ‘Fatti maschii, parole femine‘ (‘Strong Deeds, Gentle Words‘) as their home state motto. Almost 1 in 4 thought it was ‘The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword‘, first written by English novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839. A further 10% guessed ‘Gentle Deeds, Strong Words‘ as the state motto, and 1% thought it was ‘Dirty Deeds Don’t Go Unpunished‘.
Marylanders were the 19th most clued up nationally when it comes to knowing their state motto, placing them just above average.
When broken down by state, Granite Staters emerged victorious with an A+ score: a whopping 99% of respondents knew their home state motto, which is: ‘Live Free or Die’. To be fair to respondents from other states, ‘Live Free or Die’ is perhaps the country’s second most known motto (behind the national one), so it is no surprise they scored so highly. Adopted from the Granite State’s official seal, the memorable motto was taken from a letter written by General John Stark, an American Revolution war hero native to New Hampshire. It is a testament to the state’s war history and its citizens’ resilience, which is especially notable given that the official motto and emblem were legislated as World War II finally came to a successful end.
Alaskans came out second in the league, with a grade-A score of 93%, just behind New Hampshire. The Last Frontier’s motto, ‘North to the Future’ was chosen during the Alaska Purchase Centennial, celebrating its purchase by the U.S. from Russia. The motto was selected as a way to represent Alaska as a land of promise, referring to its geographical position as the northernmost state and linking this to the prospect of a bright future.
On the other end of the scale, and in final position, North Carolinians had the lowest overall score: only 13% of respondents here could correctly identify their motto: ‘To Be, Rather Than to Seem’, which is the English translation of the Latin words ‘Esse Quam Videri’. The results revealed that a staggering 84% of respondents thought their official state motto is ‘First in Flight’, however, this is the phrase that appears on the state’s license plates – a tribute to the first successful controlled airplane flights operated by the Wright brothers.
Even if respondents from other states scored higher than North Carolinians overall, the quiz revealed that sizable proportions of each state’s population opted for some incorrect and often downright hilarious options! Notable mentions should go to the good people of the following states:
- Less than half (48%) of Floridians guessed their state motto was ‘In God We Trust’ (which is the same as the national motto). Nearly 1 in 10 (9%) thought it was ‘Our State of Snowbirds‘ – presumably they selected this option as approximately 1,000 people move to Florida each day: mainly retirees.
- Described by one writer as sounding vaguely like a Boyz II Men song, just 35% of Coloradans correctly identified ‘Nothing Without Providence’ as their state motto. A concerning 1 in 10 (12%) thought the motto was ’This Land is Not Flat’!
- Only 59% of Iowans got their motto right – ‘Our Liberties We Prize and Our Right We Will Maintain. However, nearly 1 in 5 (18%) thought it was ‘Children of the Corn’. Perhaps they thought this was the official motto as Iowa is the largest corn producing state in the country? Or could they have been prompted by Stephen King’s 1984 American supernatural folk horror film of the same name?
- New York’s state motto is ‘Ever Upwards’, and so it was a little disappointing that only 1 in 3 New Yorkers correctly identified this. Incredibly, 52% thought the state motto was Empire, State Of Mind, which happens to be a song by Jay-Z, featuring Alicia Keys!
- Mainers scored a commendable 61% for correctly naming ‘I Direct’, but you may wonder if originally, something may have followed after these two words, and somehow got omitted over the passage of time? A significant 23% thought their motto was ‘A Neighbor Of One‘… (Maine is the only state that shares its borders with only one other US state).
- 55% of Mississippians were correct in stating that ‘By Valor and Arms’ as the Magnolia state motto, but 1 in 10 thought it was ‘In the River, Catfish’ – understandable, perhaps, as Mississippi happens to be the world’s leading producer of pond-raised catfish.
- Missouri was a standout result. Just 35% correctly said the state motto was ‘The Welfare Of the People is the Highest Law’. However, 51% thought it was ‘Show Me Yours, I Will Show You Mine‘! We hope that respondents assumed this was a reference to firearms in the old days?!
- Over half of Texans correctly said ‘Friendship’ is the state motto. Although 1 in 10 thought it was ‘Ready and Rarin’ to Go’, a well-known Texas saying.
- West Virginia’s somewhat Lumbersexual motto is Mountaineers Are Always Free, although not surprisingly, over 1 in 3 (36%) thought it was ‘Country Roads Take Me Home’ – a popular John Denver song!
- Lastly and hilariously, nearly 1 in 10 Kentuckians thought their official motto was ‘Land of Succulent Poultry’!