No good deed goes unpunished

(Note: those visiting this page for the first time may also want to read two follow-up posts: one exploring the historical roots of the proposed motto, and one about a state Senate committee’s consideration of the motto.)

_________________________________________

You try to do something nice…

Last spring, Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning got a letter from an eighth-grader at The Riverside School in Lyndonville. She was studying Latin, and wanted Senator Joe to introduce a bill to give Vermont a Latin motto. We’ve got “Freedom and Unity,” but no Latin.

As the idea developed, those involved came up with a motto: Stella quarta decima fulgeat. The translation: “May the Fourteenth Star Shine Bright,” is a nod to Vermont’s status as the fourteenth state to join the union. Nice. Poetic in both languages. Benning brought the student to Montpelier and introduced her to the Government Operations Committee, which would consider her proposal.

*Also possible endorsement deal with the new 14th Star Brewery in St. Albans?

It was too late in last year’s session to launch the idea, but Benning introduced it this month. Senate Bill 2 would not affect “Freedom and Unity” at all; it would simply establish the Latin motto as a separate thing.

A nice harmless moment, no? A reward for a hardworking, creative student, yes?

Funny thing. Last week, WCAX did a story about Benning’s bill. And the reaction, as Benning told me in an email?

I anticipated suffering the backroom internal joking from my colleagues in the legislature.  What I did not anticipate was the vitriolic verbal assault from those who don’t know the difference between the Classics and illegal immigrants from South America.

Sen. Joe Benning, perhaps on his way back to Mexico. (Photo from his Facebook page.)

Sen. Joe Benning, perhaps on his way back to Mexico. (Photo from his Facebook page.)

That’s right, the WCAX Facebook page was inundated with angry posts from ignorant Vermonters spewing their hatred in barely readable fractured English. (Spelling and punctuation as-is) Warning: Teh stoopid, it burns!

Dorothy Lynn Lepisto: “I thought Vermont was American not Latin? Does any Latin places have American mottos?”

Norman Flanders: “What next Arab motto??”

Kevin P. Hahn: “How about ‘go back south of the boarder'”

Richard Mason: “We are AMERICANS, not latins, why not come up with a Vermont motto that is actually from us”

Judy Lamoureux: “Throw him out of the country tell him to take obama with him!”

Phil Salzano: “My question is, are we Latin, or are we Vermonters? Alright then, English it is…..”

Lori Olds: “I thought this was USA why are they trying to make Americans aliens”

Chris Ferro: “That’s a BIG NO, if you live in the United State YOU need to learn ENGLISH!!”

Julie Kellner: “No, you a USA citizen!.. Learn & understand the language!!!.”

Kurtis Jones: “No cause vt ain’t no Latino area. Leave the motto alone”

Zeb Swierczynski: “ABSOLUTLY NOT!!!! sick and tired of that crap, they have their own countries”

Ken Curtis: “Just when I felt our represenatives could not possibly get any dumber , they come up with this…get real… this is the USA, not some Moslim or Mexican country…stop given in to these people…PRESS 1 for English and forget the rest… worry about the problems you were elected to do”

Ronald Prouty Jr. “No way this is America not Mexico or Latin America. And they nee to learn our language, just like if we go there they want us to speak theirs”

Kristen Wright: “thats un called for this is the usa”

Kelley Dawley: “How do you say idiotic senator in spanish? I’d settle for deport illegals in spanish as a back up motto”

Heather Chase: “Seriously?? Last time I checked..real vermonters were speakin ENGLISH.. NOT LATIN..good god…”

I could go on, but that’s more than enough.

And really, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. For every commenter who didn’t know the difference between Mexico and Rome, there were ten who were apoplectic over the notion that Our Representatives Are Wasting Their Time (as if this bill will take more than a few minutes anywhere), and that Joe Benning is a moron who should be voted out of office and/or evicted from Vermont.

The good Senator is reacting to this with admirable equanimity:

I figure this is a good opportunity for my now ninth grader to learn how to respond to such attacks with fortitude and grace.  I hope to be meeting with her and her parents this weekend to continue the educational experience.

Good on ya, Senator. Illegitimi non carborundum.

 

172 thoughts on “No good deed goes unpunished

  1. Mary Pellecchia

    “Illegitimi noncarborundum” meaning “Don’t let the bastards wear you down,” is joke Latin, the way “Sic transit gloria mundi” might be translated as “Gloria got sick on the bus on Monday.” And you certainly can start sentences with “and” or “but.” But don’t do it too often.

    Reply
  2. lettersfromheartscontent

    Enjoying this thread! It is delightful, for a change, to read literate responses.

    I am a Vermonter who has homeschooled since 1994. We teach Latin at our one-day-a-week classical program called Classical Conversations! Students study Latin all week, for several years. We are having information meetings and Open houses through February and March. We have campuses in Burlington area, St Johnsbury, White River Junction, and possibly a new one in Rutland next year. See http://www.classicalconversations.com.

    Reply
  3. sotadragon

    According to the translation app I have, “Illegitimati non carborundum” translates to “rats are not illegitimate.” I’m not entirely sure that’s what was meant, as the article actually stated “Illegitimi non carborundum,” which translates to “illegitimate not rats.” o.O Either way, I got to use the translation app, which is fun. :-)

    Reply
    1. Steve Ledbetter

      That translation app may be fun, but it has no sense of humor! The sentence is joke Latin: “Illegitimi” = “bastards”, and “Carborundum” is the name of a stone used for grinding — but I don’t think it is real Latin, despite the Latinate form. The sentense as a whole is taken to mean, “Don’t let the bastards wear you down!”

      Reply
    2. Chari Kolp

      I first heard it means “Bastard roots shall not take slip.” Or root themselves firmly. Generally nowadays “don’t let the bastards get you down” is accepted.

      Reply
    3. Latin Man The

      In Latin word order does not matter. You could have the words: ‘Person The Elephant Trampled’, and due to the endings it would mean ‘The elephant trampled the person’. Also, they frequently assume ‘is’ is implied.

      Reply
  4. Danny Jones

    Kansas state motto adopted in 1861, in the same year we declared statehood: “Ad Astra per Aspera” (Latin: “To the Stars through Difficulties”)

    Reply
  5. flohri1754

    As an American resident outside the U.S., I lose track of the times I stop, ponder, cringe and sigh in the course of a year reading such stories from my birth country …………

    Reply
    1. lettersfromheartscontent

      With all due respect, I think the Right does not have a monopoly on mean spirited and ignorant rants. We all have “allies” that embarrass us.

      I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying the good humor and intelligence I am finding in this thread. It keeps me from cringing about the state of education among my fellow Vermonters. In my wistful fantasy, this turns out to be an elaborate joke carried out among citizens of the most educated state, Vermonters who are snickering as the story goes viral.

      Reply
      1. chuck gregory

        Only an unregenerate liberal would claim the left is capable of “mean spirited and ignorant rants.”

        You are a credit to your political persuasion, and clearly living in a state where you are, or at least ought to be, appreciated…

      2. Kenneth Lane

        Mame, I’ve always found Vermont interesting and exciting to visit and yes most responses to this topic are intelligent. But I would be remiss to not warn the citizens of Vermont of the embarrassing possibility of becoming the Texas of the north. Rightwingedness is a highly contagious disease of the mind that creeps up on a society in sinister ways————

    2. commenter28

      I disagree completely with your stereotyping of the state of Texas. As a liberal born and raised in Texas, I can say from firsthand experience that many of the citizens of Texas are very respectful and are willing to listen to multiple political beliefs, regardless of whether or not they may agree with them. I have grown up around many wonderful people who believe in right-wing policies, but who are also very respectful of other people’s beliefs and opinions. I think that many people could learn a lesson from this courtesy.

      Reply
      1. Peter

        Mr Gregory, RE: sinister ways – in Canada our socialist (not always a bad thing) party was said to be more gauche than sinister.

  6. Blue

    The real irony in all of this is that the adoption of Latin mottoes was instituted, in some measure, to dispute the global perception of Americans as ignorant rubes … Ah, full circle.

    Reply
  7. commenter28

    I disagree completely with your stereotyping of the state of Texas. As a liberal born and raised in Texas, I can say from firsthand experience that many of the citizens of Texas are very respectful and are willing to listen to multiple political beliefs, regardless of whether or not they may agree with them. I have grown up around many wonderful people who believe in right-wing policies, but who are also very respectful of other people’s beliefs and opinions. I think that many people could learn a lesson from this courtesy.

    Reply
  8. oira79

    Why does Vermont need a motto in Latin? Why not one in Sanskrit and Sumerian and hieroglyphics while you’re at it?

    You don’t have to be xenophobic to think this is stupid. I think there’s a case to be made for a Spanish-language motto, for the benefit of living residents who speak the language. But who speaks Latin? It’s pretentious and pointless.

    Reply
    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Well, if you’d bothered to read up on the proposal, you’d know that the Latin motto is straight out of Vermont’s early history. “Stella Quarta Decima” was the legend on one of the coins minted by Vermont before it joined the United States. So it’s a completely different thing than Sanskrit or any other language.

      Reply
    2. haldonahue

      I was taught Latin all through high school and was not impressed until we actually started reading real Roman plays and letters etc. But a curious thing happened during my life. As I studied French, German, Russian and Greek for work, Latin was a tremendous help. The words and structure learned there were an immense aid in learning new western languages. Then there is my personal belief that history is necessary for a full life.

      Reply
      1. Marco Usuelli

        Ah, somebody finally seems to understand one of the practical benefits of having basic Latin knowledge.
        Good.
        Training in analytical thinking is another.

    3. commenter28

      Latin mottoes serve as a reminder of how indebted we are to Classical civilizations in many ways, especially our politics and language. Mottoes don’t really do much to benefit a state or it’s residents, per se (a Latin saying, by the way); instead, they are acknowledgements of those who have influenced us and how they still affect us today.

      Reply
      1. GrammarPoop

        Well said, except it’s “its” not “it’s”. The word “it” never takes an apostrophe unless you mean “it is” … which you don’t.

    1. Marco Usuelli

      Yeah, but as it WAS intended by the Founding Fathers.
      Nowadays that motto seems more an ironic description of massified thinking, induced by the Media.
      To which the best reaction from the People would be: “Viribus Unitis”

      Reply
  9. Pingback: No, not sad … | Homeless on the High Desert

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s