Tag Archives: Latin motto

…et puer parvulus minabit eos.

(If you have any issues with the Latin above, take it up with Google Translate.) 

At the risk of losing my street cred, I have to admit being edified and inspired by an event at the Statehouse today.

The occasion: The Senate Government Operations Committee taking up a bill to establish Stella Quarta Decima Fulgeat as an alternate motto for the state of Vermont.

This proposal has famously been the target of unedifying and uninspiring commentary, mistakenly conflating Latin with Latino, criticizing it as a waste of time, and wrongly complaining that the new motto would supplant “Freedom and Unity.”

Angela Kubicke and the motto bill's sponsor Sen. Joe Benning, with the broad shoulders and flowing mane of Seven Days' Paul "Party in the Back" Heintz in the middle.

Angela Kubicke and the motto bill’s sponsor Sen. Joe Benning, with the broad shoulders and flowing mane of Seven Days’ Paul “Party in the Back” Heintz in the middle.

The hearing was attended by roughly five dozen middle- and high-school students of Latin, along with teachers, parents, and three Classicists from the University of Vermont. The hearing’s central figure was 15-year-old Angela Kubicke, who had the original idea for the Latin motto and, with her teacher and others, came up with the exact wording. The first three words, translated as “The Fourteenth Star,” appeared on the first coin minted in the 1780s by the then-independent Vermont. “Fulgeat,” the verb, completes the sentence “May the fourteenth star shine brightly.” Kubicke and her teacher, Ray Starling, gave a thorough account of the historical rationale for their proposal.

One of the other witnesses almost stole the show. If you were casting the part of a tenured professor of classical languages, you might just see Robert Rodgers as a gift of the gods. Slightly tousled gray hair, well-trimmed gray beard, glasses, precise in speech to the point of pedantry, his testimony was perched delicately on the border between entertaining and aggravating. As committee chair Jeanette White admitted afterward, “I forgot that professors are used to talking in 45-minute increments.” Professor Rodgers went nowhere near that long, but with the chair’s forbearance he blithely ignored the two-minute time limit per speaker. It was a rare opportunity for a Classicist to speak to a lay audience on a subject dear to his heart, and he was (in his own reserved way) happy as a pig in slop.

Still, he was an effective if nerdy (and wordy) witness, praising “Fulgeat” as “a felicitous choice for a verb,” parsing its contextual meanings and citing its use by the Roman poet Virgil.

Three students from Lamoille Union High School also spoke to the committee, defending Latin as a foundation of modern science, architecture, music, and Western languages. At the end, committee member Chris Bray commended Kubicke and her fellow speakers for the “depth of thought” behind the motto.

And then came the vote: FIve in favor, zero opposed. The bill goes on to the full Senate on Friday.

For the many who complained about the bill being a “waste of time,” you should have been there. Everyone — Senators, professors, teachers, and students — were fully engaged in the process and the issue. It took less than an hour all told, and it was a great learning experience for all. I’ve got nothing cynical to say about it in the least.

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Ethics, shmethics

Riddle me this, Batman: How is a political blogpost like a roadkill skunk?

The apparent answer: At first their stench makes them unfit for polite company, but after three weeks or so the smell goes away.

See, way; back on January 19, I wrote a piece about a bill before the legislature to establish a Latin motto for Vermont. Over time, the story went viral; it appeared on the Huffington Post, the Daily Kos, Reddit, Fark, and Gawker. It was shared on Facebook more than 10,000 times, and I literally got over 100,000 pageviews out of it.

But nobody else in Vermont media picked up on the story.

That is, until now. The Associated Press’ Dave Gram wrote a piece about it. The Burlington Free Press posted it on their paywalled website; here’s a link to the story on a non-paywalled site.

Nice of Dave to finally notice the story. Don’t know why it took three weeks.

Not so nice: he didn’t credit the Vermont Political Observer as the original source. Maybe the story’s blogorrific stench has dissipated, but the smell still permeates the dread name “theVPO.”

Gawker, that irresponsible gossipmonger, credited me; the local media, I guess, chooses not to.

Now I realize that (a) this is a trivial story, a sidebar to our coverage of politics and policy, and (b) nobody outside of the room I’m sitting in cares whether I get fair credit. But I do. And the giving and receiving of credit is always a lively topic whenever journalists gather; my salaried colleagues are quick to complain when they are slighted by another media outlet.

So here’s my complaint. For the vast majority of you who don’t care, my apologies and I promise something more relevant next time. Just needed to get that off my chest.