Some state legislators, rallying frantically to the cause of sexual sensitivity only 345 years after the fact, want to change the words of the ancient Maryland motto bearing the Italian phrase:
"Fatti Maschii Parole Femine."
Which, we are told, translates as: "Manly Deeds, Womanly Words," though in my sophistication I always assumed it said something deeply inspirational about fat coming from mashed potatoes and women getting paroled.
In such confusion, we need to get a new state motto that talks to us not in some foreign language, where translation gets tricky, but in proper English, which is still spoken in many parts of America, though rarely in places where attorneys gather.
(Although, to be fair, Latin does have certain advantages. For example, in Maryland, the phrases "Semper Corruptus" and "Semper Muldoonus" seem to have modern political hooks.)
Since women and other human beings are offended by this sexist "Manly Deeds, Womanly Words" business, we could shop for something similar:
"Manly Deeds, Womanly Reprisals," see Arnick, John.
Or historically appropriate:
"Mandel Deeds, Prosecutor Reprisals."
Or, simply, the more politically generic:
"Take the Money and Run."
What's important is a motto that accurately reflects the soaring pride this state feels in itself, a timeless message that sums up the very nature of Maryland's unique qualities and gives all a battle cry around which to rally.
Thus, the Top 10 Suggestions for a New Maryland Motto:
1. Maryland: We Still Have Hourly Motel Rates on U.S. Route 1.
2. Proud to Share a Peninsula with Delaware and Virginia.
3. Maryland: If You Can't Find a Friend in Pennsylvania.
4. Keno's Our Idea of Sound Financial Planning.
5. Maryland: One of America's States.
6. The Sinus Crescent.
7. Maryland: One End of the Delaware Bay Bridge.
8. Close to Half Our Politicians Have Never Violated Their Parole.
RTC 9. Bigger Than Delaware and With Just As Many Letters.
10. Maryland: A Tri-Syllabic State.
See, in English, there's no problem with translations.
In "Fatti Maschii Parole Femine," however, we have the seeds of controversy.
In Annapolis last week, some members of the House Ways and Means Committee, wishing to hold on to the old motto, suggested a modern (wink, wink) translation: Not "Manly Deeds, Womanly Words," which many see as a put-down of women, but "Strong Deeds, Gentle Words."
In its way, this is more insulting. While sensitizing the language, it obscures the true translation from the original Italian, and assumes everyone will be too dumb to notice it.
Meanwhile, have you noticed, in all the talk about Maryland's official motto, that not a word has been said about the city of Baltimore's?
There's a reason for this, explained after careful research by the office of legislative reference at City Hall: Baltimore has no motto.
It has a slogan, "The City That Reads," which is well-intended but lamentable in a time of library closings and depressing school tests.
It has a song ("Baltimore, where Carroll flourished/And the fame of Calvert grew . . . "). It has a baseball team and a fort where the national anthem was written, even though almost no one can sing its tune on key. It has Brooks Robinson six months a year.
It even has a Sewage Disposal Plant.
But, hey, what's a city without a motto to reflect its modern charms,its picturesque delights?
The Top 10 Suggestions for a Baltimore City Motto:
1. Baltimore: Where Many of Our Public School Kids Can Spell TV.
/# 2. Original Home of Dialing for
Dollars, As Far As We Can Tell.
3. Baltimore: Where Babe Ruth Got Sent to Reform School Instead of Right Field.
4. Car Windows Cleaned Against Your Will At Many Street Corners.
5. Baltimore: No Cover Charge at Many of Our Topless Bars.
-! 6. Home of the Late Mr. Ray's
7. Baltimore: Some of Our Libraries Are Still Open.
8. Edgar Allan Poe Found Us an Appropriate Place to Die.
9. Everybody's Gotta Live Somewhere.
10. Will the Last Person Leaving the City Please Turn Out the Lights?