Washington has a state motto? Who knew?

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

Yes, the state of Washing has a state motto – and most Washingtonians don’t know it.

But it turns out the same is true in most states.

To see the details on various states and their knowledge of their own state mottoes, take a look here.

In a recent poll, only 28% of us knew what our state motto is. I’d guess that about that many even knew that we had a state motto.

Most companies and many organizations have a motto that defines and frames their mission and purpose. Who even thinks of a state having a mission or purpose?

Our unofficial motto is ‘Alki’, originally a Native American word meaning ‘Bye and Bye’ which originally meant something like “see you later” and has evolved to mean something closer to ‘into the future’.

Despite its historical significance, just 28% of Washingtonians could correctly identify ‘Bye and Bye’ as their home state motto from a set of 4 multiple-choice options.

Almost 1 in 10 (9%) thought it was ‘Hello, Goodbye’, a well-known song by The Beatles. As a footnote, ‘Hello, Goodbye’ might be the best name for our state when it comes to companies that began here and made their mark on the world while neglecting the place that where they were born; Mars candy and Boeing are only a few who have followed that pattern.

Washingtonians were the 49th least aware nationally when it comes to knowing their state motto. That means that there was only one state more clueless than we are.

The other contenders for our state motto were “On and On” (18%) and “By the Grace of God” (45%).

At least we weren’t last

It is rarely a good thing to be last.

In this case North Carolina had the lowest overall score: only 13% of respondents could correctly identify their motto: ‘To Be, Rather Than to Seem’, which is the English translation of the Latin words ‘Esse Quam Videri’.

New Hampshire was the easy winner with 99% of its residents (and most of us) knowing its motto – “Live Free or Die.’ That statement, besides being all over the place in movies and books, is on New Hampshire license plates.

An unofficial slogan of New Hampshire could be “Just Like Old Hampshire, but Newer.”

Alaska came out second, 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 the state to the prospect of a bright future – both for residents and those of us of other states.

In North Carolina, 84% of respondents thought their official state motto is ‘First in Flight.’ This might be because this is the phrase that appears on the state’s license plates – a tribute to the first successful controlled airplane flights at Kitty Hawk operated by the Wright brothers. An alternate state motto could be “We’re Northier than South Carolina” or even “Tobacco is a Vegetable”.

At least we weren’t alone in our obliviousness.

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’ – which it probably should be.

35% of Coloradans correctly identified ‘Nothing Without Providence’ as their state motto. One in 10 (12%) thought the motto was ‘This Land is Not Flat’. This makes sense, since about half of the state is, in fact 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’.

It was not clear if that had to do with agricultural production of corn or the Stephen King’s 1984 American supernatural folk-horror film. Either way, I’m not sure it’s something to be particularly proud of.

New York’s state motto is ‘Ever Upwards’, but only 1 in 3 New Yorkers correctly identified this. 52% thought the state motto was “Empire State Of Mind”, which happens to be a song by Jay-Z, featuring Alicia Keys.

Residents of Maine scored 61% for correctly naming ‘I Direct.’ Whatever that might mean. 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’ is the Magnolia state motto. 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.

‘In the River, Catfish’ sounds like it should be a Mississippi delta blues song. If it isn’t already.

Missouri, the “Show Me” state, is an example of why the people should decide on these things. Just 35% correctly said the state motto was ‘The Welfare Of the People is the Highest Law.’ 51% thought it was ‘Show Me Yours, I Will Show You Mine.’ I don’t know anything about the history or context of that phrase, but I’m sure that the Latin version would be inspiring.

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, home to most of coal’s mountain top removal, has the motto “Mountaineers Are Always Free.” Thanks to the prevalence of pop culture, more than 1 in 3 (36%) thought it was ‘Country Roads Take Me Home’ – a popular John Denver song.

And in another tribute to history and pop culture, nearly 1 in 10 Kentuckians thought their official motto was ‘Land of Succulent Poultry’.

Oklahoma could have slogans as memorable as “We’re OK, You’re NOT” or “Like the Play, Only No Singing.”

Rhode Island could have gone with “We’re Not REALLY an Island” or “Size Ain’t Everything”.

Wyoming could have gone with “More than Just a Rectangle”.

We in Washington could use a bit more imagination for our motto. How about “We Look Good in Flannel” or “Home of Bigfoot”? Or “The only state named after a president”? Or “We saw UFOs first”?

But somehow a one-word motto seems to fit us.