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15 Unusual College Mottos

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This graduation season, students will lovingly inspect their hard-earned diplomas and come across something they never gave much thought to before: their school motto. The standard school motto is a Latin platitude about truth, knowledge, honor, duty and stuff like that, but some mottos do things a little differently. Here are 15 college mottos that go beyond the ordinary.

1. SI QUAERIS PAENINSULAM AMOENAM CIRCUMSPICE

The motto of Lake Superior University is part of the seal of the state of Michigan: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you.” With coasts on four of the five great lakes, peninsulas are indeed not hard to come by in Michigan.

2. OMNIA EXTARES

At The Evergreen State College, a liberal arts college founded in the swinging '60s in Washington state, the motto fits the laid-back attitude: Omnia Extares, “let it all hang out.”

3. VOX CLAMANTIS IN DESERTO

Dartmouth College goes with “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness” as its motto. The phrase was taken from the Bible, but it fit the college well when it started in 1769 in the rough wilds of New Hampshire.

4. IN MONTIBUS, EX MONTIBUS, PRO MONTIBUS

“In the mountains, of the mountains, for the mountains.” Lees-McRae College, in the heart of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, not only has great mountain views, it also has a focus on Appalachian culture and history.

5. 'EN CHA HUNÁ

Not many colleges have mottos in Dakelh, a native language of Canada, but the University of Northern British Columbia does. It translates as “respecting all forms of life.” According to the school website, it is a phrase that “would be used when reminding someone, critical of another, that that person was also a living being, with a voice and a viewpoint.”

6. HAZARD ZET FORWARD

There are also not many college mottos in a combination of Norman French and Old English. Hazard Zet Forward had been part of the Seton family crest for centuries before it came to Seton Hall. It means “hazard yet forward” or “despite the danger, keep going.”

7. IN PULVERE VINCES

Nova Scotia’s Acadia University tells us, “In dust, you win.” In other words, you gotta get a little dirty with hard work to succeed.

8. DIE LUFT DER FREIHEIT WEHT

“The wind of freedom blows” at Stanford University, but why does it do it in German? It’s a long story that starts when Leland Stanford was impressed by the phrase in a speech on a 16th century German humanist.

9. BE ASHAMED TO DIE UNTIL YOU HAVE WON SOME VICTORY FOR HUMANITY

It’s a bit long to fit on the seal of Antioch College, but this quote from Horace Mann is the school’s no-beating-around-the-bush motto. Better get to it kids.

10. NON INCAUTUS FUTURI

Washington and Lee takes a gentler approach with “not unmindful of the future.” As in, we like to study history and the classics and all that, but not to the point where we don’t think about the future too. We’re not not thinking about it.

11. NUMEN LUMEN

The motto of the University of Wisconsin, Madison is not that unusual in terms of sentiment. Many schools reference religious notions of divinity and light, as does Numen Lumen, translating as “God, our light” or “The divine within the universe, however manifested, is my light.” But no one beats this one for simplicity, meter, and rhyme.

12. FACIO LIBEROS EX LIBERIS LIBRIS LIBRAQUE

The motto of St. John’s College is longer and harder to say, but it’s a beautiful play on Latin roots for language lovers. It takes advantage of the similarity between the adjective liber (free), the noun liber (book), the noun liberi (children), and the noun libra (scale). It says "I make free adults out of children by means of books and a balance."

13. I WOULD FOUND AN INSTITUTION WHERE ANY PERSON CAN FIND INSTRUCTION IN ANY STUDY

Cornell University’s motto is also a mouthful, but it plainly sums up the intentions of founder Ezra Cornell.

14. PRODESSE QUAM CONSPICI

While some school mottos go to town crowing about excellence and greatness, the motto of Miami University of Ohio takes a modest approach. “Achieve without conspicuousness.” Y’know, just go along doing great things, no need to brag about it.

15. FORTITER, FELICITER, FIDELITER

Cheerfulness is not a typical feature of school mottos, but the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has it in the melodious alliteration of the Latin as well as the jaunty English translation: “Boldly, Happily, Faithfully."

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Designer Reimagines the Spanish Alphabet With Only 19 Letters
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According to designer José de la O, the Spanish alphabet is too crowded. Letters like B and V and S and Z are hard to tell apart when spoken out loud, which makes for a language that's "confusing, complicated, and unpractical," per his design agency's website. His solution is Nueva Qwerty. As Co.Design reports, the "speculative alphabet" combines redundant letters into single characters, leaving 19 letters total.

In place of the letters missing from the original 27-letter Spanish alphabet are five new symbols. The S slot, for example, is occupied by one letter that does the job of C, Z, and S. Q, K, and C have been merged into a single character, as have I and Y. The design of each glyph borrows elements from each of the letters it represents, making the new alphabet easy for Spanish-speakers to learn, its designer says.

Speculative Spanish alphabet.
José de la O

By streamlining the Spanish alphabet, de la O claims he's made it easier to read, write, and type. But the convenience factor may not be enough to win over some Spanish scholars: When the Royal Spanish Academy cut just two letters (CH and LL) from the Spanish alphabet in 2010, their decision was met with outrage.

José de la O has already envisioned how his alphabet might function in the real world, Photoshopping it onto storefronts and newspapers. He also showcased the letters in two new fonts. You can install New Times New Roman and Futurysma onto your computer after downloading it here.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Big Questions
Why Does Japan Have Blue Traffic Lights Instead of Green?
ANTTI T. NISSINEN, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
ANTTI T. NISSINEN, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In Japan, a game of Red Light, Green Light might be more like Red Light, Blue Light. Because of a linguistic quirk of Japanese, some of the country’s street lights feature "go" signals that are distinctly more blue than green, as Atlas Obscura alerts us, making the country an outlier in international road design.

Different languages refer to colors very differently. For instance, some languages, like Russian and Japanese, have different words for light blue and dark blue, treating them as two distinct colors. And some languages lump colors English speakers see as distinct together under the same umbrella, using the same word for green and blue, for instance. Again, Japanese is one of those languages. While there are now separate terms for blue and green, in Old Japanese, the word ao was used for both colors—what English-speaking scholars label grue.

In modern Japanese, ao refers to blue, while the word midori means green, but you can see the overlap culturally, including at traffic intersections. Officially, the “go” color in traffic lights is called ao, even though traffic lights used to be a regular green, Reader’s Digest says. This posed a linguistic conundrum: How can bureaucrats call the lights ao in official literature if they're really midori?

Since it was written in 1968, dozens of countries around the world have signed the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, an international treaty aimed at standardizing traffic signals. Japan hasn’t signed (neither has the U.S.), but the country has nevertheless moved toward more internationalized signals.

They ended up splitting the difference between international law and linguists' outcry. Since 1973, the Japanese government has decreed that traffic lights should be green—but that they be the bluest shade of green. They can still qualify as ao, but they're also green enough to mean go to foreigners. But, as Atlas Obscura points out, when drivers take their licensing test, they have to go through a vision test that includes the ability to distinguish between red, yellow, and blue—not green.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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