Vol. 2, Issue 12, March 23, 2004
Maryland Motto Sends Wrong Message, Say Opponents
Less than a week after its introduction, Maryland's new state motto has already come under fire from the Chamber of Commerce.
"This is an example of hasty legislation with potentially significant consequences that makes you wonder what the Governor's office was thinking," said Oscar Parma, president of the Chamber of Commerce. "Maryland is a state with a proud history, and we deserve better than this."
The new motto, "Crabby and Proud of it!" was intended to reflect the popular Chesapeake bay specialty for which the state is renowned.
"We think the new motto connects much better with Americans today," said Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich. "I think it will really boost tourism significantly, and fail to understand why the Chamber of Commerce, of all organizations, would oppose that. And the new state mascot, 'Buster' Crab, has serious marketing potential."
The question of replacing Maryland's motto came up last year when Ronald Perlmutter, mayor of Deep Creek, attacked the motto on the Great Seal, Fatti Maschii, Parole Femine, as sending a bad message to diet-conscious Americans.
"How can we face the 21st century with a motto that begins with the word 'fatty?'" said Perlmutter in an interview with the Baltimore Sun last April. When it was pointed out that the motto is in fact Italian and has nothing to do with fat, Perlmutter persisted, asserting that no one "in their right mind" could expect Americans to understand a motto in a foreign language, "especially Italian."
Governor Ehrlich quickly took up the cause and the new motto was approved on March 17. The new motto, and the pipe-smoking "Buster" Crab, were designed by Kemperson and Twill, a public relations firm based in Baltimore, at a cost of $532,000.
"Buster tested very well in focus groups," said Ehrlich. "I think we should be proud of our crabby heritage, and embrace the crabbiness within."
Maryland is not the only state to re-examine an old motto; many states with Latin mottos are realizing that no one understands what they mean anymore, especially states such as Arkansas. A few states embrace their cryptic mottos, such as Hawaii (whose Hawaiian "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono" has long been suspected to mean "Give us our land back you imperialists"), but most see their mottos as a form of marketing and are treating them as such.
"Now Texas' motto is 'Friendship' - that's brilliant marketing. It says it all about the state," Ehrlich said. "As for us, we're crabby to the core."
"Who are you calling crabby?" snapped Parma.