I say to motto


A couple days back, I was looking up the mottoes of various universities. All of this came about because of an idea for a t-shirt. I want a shirt that reads “the glory of God is intelligence”. Not only is the idea really neat, but it’s also the motto of BYU, my alma mater. But BYU has two other mottoes (Enter to learn, go forth to serve and The world is our campus). None of these are in Latin, the common trend for mottoes (though the University of Calgary has a Scots Gaelic motto--a translation of a Psalm). This t-shirt would help me complete my “university motto” collection. I have a Lux et Veritas from Yale and a Vox Clamantis in Deserto (a voice crying in the wilderness) from Dartmouth. I’ll need to track down a Quaecumque Vera (whatsoever things are true) before I leave U. of Alberta.

Some other institutions have great mottoes. USC can stand for University of Southern California or University of South Carolina. Both are great. The one in CA has Palmam qui meruit ferat (Let whoever earns the palm bear it). What does that mean? Do their graduates get their diplomata printed on palm fronds? The Gamecock of U. of South Carolina have Emollit mores nec sinit esse feros (Learning humanizes character and does not permit it to be cruel). Why not? What’s the point of a university degree if not to lord it over your lessers and treat them poorly?

I like Cambridge’s Hinc lucem et pocula sacra (From here, light and sacred draughts), though the same prepositional phrase opens the much more humourous U. of Idaho statement: From here you can go anywhere! (that exclamation point actually appears as part of the motto). They’ve actually built in the “get out of here” into their motto, that’s nice.

The University of Arizona scoffs the need for Latinate phrases and lofty wisdom with the homey “Bear Down!” the official battlecry of a former quarterback. And the University of British Columbia instills a nice sense of entitlement with Tuum est (it is yours). I’m not entirely sure what is being described about the University of South Dakota with its one word motto “Extraordinary!”. And University of Washington goes even a step further from the familiar Let there be light to “Lux sit” (let light exist).

The proverbial cake, however, is taken by the University of Kansas. Every time their seal is used, we get an image of Moses before the burning bush and read outside it Videbo visionem hanc magnam quare non comburatur rubus (I will see this great vision in which the bush does not burn). UofK, by the way, is a land-grant institution funded heavily by state and federal taxes. Brilliant, really.


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