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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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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

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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language
Here's the Right Way to Pronounce Kitchenware Brand Le Creuset

If you were never quite sure how to pronounce the name of beloved French kitchenware brand Le Creuset, don't fret: For the longest time, southern chef, author, and PBS personality Vivian Howard wasn't sure either.

In this video from Le Creuset, shared by Food & Wine, Howard prepares to sear some meat in her bright orange Le Creuset pot and explains, "For the longest time I had such a crush on them but I could never verbalize it because I didn’t know how to say it and I was so afraid of sounding like a big old redneck." Listen closely as she demonstrates the official, Le Creuset-endorsed pronunciation at 0:51.

Le Creuset is known for its colorful, cast-iron cookware, which is revered by pro chefs and home cooks everywhere. The company first introduced their durable pots to the world in 1925. Especially popular are their Dutch ovens, which are thick cast-iron pots that have been around since the 18th century and are used for slow-cooking dishes like roasts, stews, and casseroles.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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