Pretentious Latin Motto

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Proverbium Arrogans Latinum

Quidquid latine dictum sit, Altum Videtur.[1]
Eric Hallstrom

Well, nothing says pretentious credibility like a Latin motto. It's supposed to confer prestige, but Latin often gives off the "nyah nyah, we're so much smarter and more awesome than you" vibe, hence the tendency to consider it pretentious.

Dog Latin can be used in place of actual Latin for comedic purposes. If the translation isn't given, this becomes a Bilingual Bonus. See also Altum Videtur.

Examples of Pretentious Latin Motto include:


Comic Books[edit | hide | hide all]

  • X-Men: Xavier Institute - Mutatis Mutandis (Roughly, "having changed the things that were to be changed", but obviously playing off the word "mutant")
    • And for their Marvel 1602 counterpart, Master Carlos Javier's Institute takes the mottoe "Omnia mutantur, et nos mutamos con illis" (All things change, and we change with them).
  • Watchmen: Per Dolorem Ad Astra, to the stars, through suffering.
    • And of course the title of the story comes from the phrase 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes,' or, who watches the watchmen?
  • Carmine Falcone's grave in Batman: Dark Victory bears the epitaph "Veni Vidi Vici," or "I came, I saw, I conquered" (Chief O'Hara pronounces it "Vinny Veedee Vicky").
  • V for Vendetta, both book and movie: "Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici", "By the power of truth I, while living, have conquered the universe". From Faust, as told immediately afterwards, and quite an appropriate motto for V.

Film[edit | hide]

  • The Addams Family: Sic gorgiamus allos subiectatos nunc: We gladly feast on those who would subdue us. Dog Latin...
  • James Bond's family motto, from On Her Majesty's Secret Service: Orbis non sufficit. The English translation of this became the title of a later movie: The World Is Not Enough.
    • Incidentally, this implies that James is descended from the 17th century London architect Sir Thomas Bond, who first took this motto. (He's mostly remembered for creating Bond Street, one of the poshest parts of London's West End.)
  • Above the Oracle's doorway in The Matrix: Temet Nosce. Somewhat roughly translated to "know thyself."
    • That phrase is actually more well known in Greek: Γνωθι σεαυτον (Gnothi Seauton).
  • Cats Don't Dance: The motto of Mammoth Studios is Optimum Est Maximum. Biggest is best.
    • This spoofs the motto of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Ars Gratia Artis, Art for Art's sake.
  • Remember Caesar's line "Veni, vidi, vici" ("I came, I saw, I conquered"?) In an outtake in Married To the Mob, a character is cheating on his wife in an overdecorated "fantasy suite" hotel room that had the following Latin motto engraved on the headboard... Veni Veni Veni.
  • Dead Poets Society got a lot of mileage out of the classic Latin motto "Carpe Diem," "Seize the day."
    • They also played with the school motto, changing "excellence" to "excrement".
  • In Rushmore, Max Fischer remembers his late mother's Latin motto, "Sic transit gloria," which he translates, "Glory fades." The traditional quote is "Sic transit gloria mundi," "Thus passes the glory of the world," meaning worldly things are fleeting.
  • A twisted version appears in Event Horizon. Buried in the white noise of the "distress signal" are apparently two words of Latin. The phrase sounds like liberate me-- which you shouldn't need translated—but is actually liberate tutemet ex inferis, or, "Save yourselves from Hell." (It's later revealed that the captain of the ship was fond of signing off his log entries with a Latin motto.)

Literature[edit | hide]

  • (Started in radio, but crosses over to the novels) The motto of Garrison Keillor's fictional hometown of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota is "Sumus Quod Sumus," or "We are what we are." Or, alternatively, "We are because we are."
  • The Discworld novels often mock this trope, with "Latatian" mottoes, such as the motto of the city of Anhk-Morpork: "Quanti canicula ille in fenestra: "How Much is That Doggy in the Window"
    • The Watch's motto, "Fabricati diem, pvnc". According to Colon in Guards Guards, it translates as "To protect and to serve", but it's actually Canis Latinicus for "Make my day, punk."
      • Apparently abbreviated from the watch's original motto - "Fabricati Diem, Puncti Agunt Celeriter" - 'Make the Day, the Moments pass Quickly'.
      • Also according to the Discworld Companion, the new Watch motto is 'Viae sunt semper tutus pro hominibus probis' - 'The Streets Are Always Safe for Honest Folk'. It's not clear what Vimes thinks about this, given that The City Watch Diary stated he previously vetoed the motto "The Innocent Have Nothing To Fear" on the grounds that "the innocent had a great deal to fear, partly from the guilty, and partly from the sort of people who think the innocent have nothing to fear".
        • Given the general populus of the city, he probably thinks it's remarkably accurate. No Honest Folk has even been harmed on an Anhk Morpork street, after all.
          • Considering that Honest Folk in Anhk Morpork are generally either Captain Carrot or a Golem, it's easy to see how they are quite safe in the streets.
    • The motto of Unseen University is "Nunc id vides, nunc ne vides"—now you see it, now you don't.
      • Unseen University's unofficial motto is "Eta Beta Pi" ("Eat a better pie", or possibly "Eat a bit of pie"). Fitting considering the legendary feasts that take place within the University.
    • Feet of Clay has several family mottos, the biggest groaner surely being the baker's, "Quod Subigo Farinam," meaning "because I knead the dough." The person coming up with the mottos for upstart commoners purchasing arms did this sort of thing on purpose to show his contempt.
    • The motto of the Dunmanifestin mission in The Last Hero is "Morituri Nolumus Mori" - "We who are about to die don't want to". Needless to say, it was suggested by Rincewind.
      • Vetinari lets it stand because it's actually a pretty good motto for a mission to Save the World.
    • The motto of the Ankh-Morpork Fools' Guild is "Dico, dico, dico" - "I say, I say, I say..."
    • And don't forget the Assassins' guild: "Nil Mortifi Sine Lucre" (No killing without payment).
    • The Sto-Helits go with the unsubtle "Non Timetis Messor": "Don't Fear The Reaper", also a Shout-Out to Blue Oyster Cult.
    • Can't forget the book Carpe Jugulum, "seize the throat", about pretentious vampires.
    • In Small Gods, the Quisition's unwritten motto is "Cuius testiculos habes, habeas cardia and cerebellum" - "When you have their balls (translated to "full attention") in your grip, their hearts and minds will follow".
    • The Other Wiki has a collated list of Guilds, together with their mottos as cobbled together from various sources. Highlights include the Alchemists ("Omnis Qui Coruscat Est Or" - "All That Glitters Is Gold"), Conjurers ("Nunc Ille Est Magicus" - "Now That's Magic!", a Paul Daniels reference) and the Gamblers ("Excretus Ex Fortuna" - "Shit Out Of Luck"). Honourable mention to the Fools - 'Dico, Dico, Dico' (I say, I say, I say).
    • Lampshaded by Vimes in Jingo, when he suspects that General Tacticus's "Veni Vidi Vici" is too pat for anyone to make up on the spot, so must've been chosen in advance from a variety of alliterative phrases. Possible Dog Latin alternatives Vimes thinks of, that Tacticus might've rejected, include "Veni Vermini Vomiti" ("I came, I got ratted [drunk], I threw up") or "Veni Veneri Vamoosi" ("I came, I caught an embarrassing sexual disease, I left").
      • Let's not forget the last one: Veni, Vici, VETINARI.
      • Jingo also gives us a rather Ozymandian[3] piece of Canis Latinicus from Tacticus, that is equal parts boast, threat and Stock Phrase: "Ab hoc videre domum tuum" ("I can see your house from here")
    • In Thud! someone asks Vimes "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" (translated as "Who watches the watchmen?", as above). Vimes' answer? "Me."
    • Also, the Vetinari family motto-"Si non confectus, non reficiat."- If it ain't broke, don't fix it
  • Artemis Fowl's family motto is Aurum Est Potestas - Gold is power. Borders on Dog Latin, since while the sentence would be perfectly intelligible and theoretically even correct to a Latin-speaker, the preferred word order would have been Aurum potestas est.
    • Curiously enough, this troper's UK edition reads Aurum Potestas Est; my US edition reads Aurum Est Potestas.
      • The alternate word order might be suggestive of emphasis, i.e. "Gold is Power" vs "It is GOLD that is Power"
  • Harry Potter: The school motto for Hogwarts is Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus: A Sleeping Dragon Never Should be Tickled. J. K. Rowling has said she wanted Hogwarts to have a "practical motto" instead of something like "reach for the stars".
    • The Black family motto is Toujours Pur or "always pure". This is French rather than Latin, but hey, so is Britain's motto (Dieu et mon droit--"God and My right").
  • The Onion - Our Dumb Century uses Tu Stultus Es in the masthead of its "older" editions. Upon reaching the modern era, the paper acknowledges the "dumbing-down" of America by switching to the English equivalent - "You Are Dumb".
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: The motto of Prufrock Preparatory school is "Memento Mori" which is translated as "Remember, you will die."
  • In Edgar Allan Poe's The Cask of Amontillado, the narrator's family motto is "Nemo me impune lacessit", "No-one attacks me with impunity".
  • Outlander: The Fraser family motto is Je suis prest, which translates to "I am ready". French is perhaps not as pretentious as Latin, but it is Middle French (as used in old-school English heraldry and mottos) as opposed to modern French (in which prest has become prêt).
  • In Robert Heinlein's juvenile Space Cadet, the US Navy In Space Space Patrol's motto is "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes." (Translated in the novel as "Who will guard the guardians?")
  • The North Western Railway's motto is "Nil Unquam Simile" - There's nothing quite like it. Appropriate for a railway company still using primarily steam traction into the 21st century, and doing quite well.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The Middleman: Pugnantes Malos, no hos Pugnetis: We Fight Evil So You Don't Have To
    • In an earlier episode, Pip went for pretentious Latin to title his gallery show.

Pip: I'm calling it Deus ex Pip. It's Latin for "The Machines of Pip."
Lacey: That's not what it means.

    • If he'd have translated it correctly ("God from Pip") it would have sounded even more pretentious.
  • Starfleet Command's motto is Ad Astra Per Aspera (Through Adversity to the Stars).
    • This also happens to be the state motto of Kansas.
      • And, more to the point, of the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, .... and NASA for some reason.
      • The RAF et al. motto is actually Per Ardua Ad Astra, but it translates to roughly the same thing.
      • And a high school in Bendigo, Australia.
    • The motto for Starfleet Academy is "Ex astris, scientia" (From the stars, knowledge). It was originally given as "Ex astra, scientia", until someone pointed out that this was a grammatical error.
      • Which is in turn a reference to the Apollo 13 motto "Ex luna, scientia"
      • Also a reference to the US Naval Academy's motto, "Ex scientia tridens": From knowledge, a trident (literally)/seapower (figuratively).
    • There's also the motto on the NX-02 Columbia mission patch, Audentes Fortuna Juvat (Fortune Favours the Bold), on Star Trek: Enterprise.
    • The motto of the Terran Empire is Audentes Fortuna Imperii (The bold are the fortune of the Empire).
    • The motto of Earth Starfleet is Semper Exploro (Always exploring).
  • Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati (When all else fails, play dead) makes a hilariously appropriate motto for The Red Green Show 's Possum Lodge.
  • Veridian Dynamics in Better Off Ted has one of these-

Veronica: "Money before people." That's the company motto, engraved on the lobby floor. It just looks more heroic in Latin.

  • Rory McGrath and Bill Oddie planned to do a show toghether based around a Birdwatcher (Bill) and his eager assistent (Rory). Rory planned to call the show "Panori Biamici", derived by pluralizing "Panurus biarmicus", the bearded tit (i.e. 'bearded tits'). When he mentioned this on QI, Sean Locke mocked him mercilessly.

Sean: There's probably about six blokes in Oxford who'd have gone 'heh heh'.

Willow: Carpe diem!
Buffy: Fish of the day???

    • In a darker vein, the inscription over the entrance at Sunnydale High School reads "Formatia trans sicere educatorum" ("Enter all ye who seek knowledge"), which Angelus used as an invitation (vampires in the Buffyverse can only enter a building once invited). Turns out to be a bit of Fridge Brilliance, as Mayor Wilkins intended Sunnydale to be a haven for vampires, so naturally he would give the school a motto that made it easy for vampires to invade.
    • However, Angelus was just having fun, as no invitation is required to enter public buildings.
      • Fridge Brilliance: School isn't a public building. Random hobos can't wonder in, now can they?
        • Invitations are only necessary for places where people live: houses, dorm rooms. Facilities like hotels, which are temporary accommodations, restaurants, office buildings and schools are fair game.
  • On the set of The Colbert Report, the inscription above the fireplace reads "Videri Quam Esse"—-translation: "to seem to be rather than to be." It's a play on "Esse quam videri," which is the real-life motto of quite a few different US and UK schools and the state of North Carolina (which borders his home state of South Carolina).
    • Also fits the fact that Colbert plays a alter ego of himself on the show.
  • Queer as Folk has a nice and very subtle one. In a behind-the-scenes feature about the costumes in the US series, it's pointed out that St James Academy, the one that Justin goes to, has a Latin motto on its logo: "Veni, veni, veni." Now if that doesn't fit the show!
  • A High Guard branch in Andromeda had "Una Salus Victus" as its motto. This is considering the Commonwealth was not founded by humans and would thus have no reason to have a motto in a dead human language. A motto in Vedran would make a lot more sense.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Vampire: The Masquerade had the regal, aristocratic Ventrue: "Regere sanguine, regere in veritatem est." ("To rule through blood is to truly rule.")
    • Their Evil-er Counterpart, the Lasombra, naturally have their own, briefer version: "Morte Ascendo." ("I rise through death." Which is interesting, considering the fate of their Antediluvian and all...)
  • The Dungeons and Dragons Min-Maxing community took a vote on an unofficial motto, and adopted Dulce et decorum est pro alea mori: "It is sweet and fitting that we die for the dice". Yes, we do like puns.
    • Alternately, "Carpe DM".
  • Players of Diplomacy frequently joke that the game's motto ought to be "Carpe Terram" (Seize the World), or at the very least "Carpe Europam" (should be obvious).
  • The Inquisition in Warhammer 40000 gets the almost correct Innocentia Nihil Probat...it should properly be Innocentiae Nihil Probat.[4]

Theatre[edit | hide]

Harry: "Winnifred, Princess of Icolmkill, Guardian of the Midgard Serpent and Warden of the Ragnorok Marsh Lily." The inscription on her family crest reads: "Tu ne cede malis sed contra audentior ito."
Queen: What does that mean?
Harry: Uh... roughly, it means, "If at first you don't succeed--"
Queen: Never mind.

    • For the record, said motto is usually translated "Yield not to misfortune, but advance all the more boldly before them". Harry is roughly correct, but it sounds much better in the literal translation.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Bungie is fond of those, with tongue firmly in cheek. Their official motto is Non facete nobis calcitrare vestrum perinaeum: "Don't make us kick your asses."
    • Between puns on the number four and the enemy names (the Pfhor), and Beavis and Butthead references, level names for the Marathon trilogy include Ingue Ferroque (an admitted misspelling of Igni Ferroque, by fire and steel), Fatum Iustum Stultorum (the just fate of fools), Ne Cede Malis (don't give in to misfortune)
    • One of a more serious tone is used for the UNSC Spirit of Fire in the RTS Halo Wars: "Exitus Acta Probat" - "The end justifies the means".
  • Hostile Waters - Antaeus Rising. If the name of the Cool Ship wasn't pretentious enough, the motto is Pugio in Averso Belli (a dagger used against war).
    • Works well given the storyline, though.
  • Bully has Bullworth Academy, and the motto Canis Canem Edit, "dog eats dog". Canis Canem Edit is the game's Market-Based Title in Britain.
  • Lucas Arts' adventure game Escape from Monkey Island features the phrase "Contra Leges Marinas Latrocinium Maris Est" above the (one) cell in the Lucre Island jail. Examining it prompts Guybrush Threepwood to offer several suggestions of what it means, including "buyer beware," "seize the day," and "no admittance." It roughly means "piracy is against the law of the sea."
  • The Midnight Club in City of Heroes uses the phrase "Si vis pacem, para bellum" (If you wish for peace, prepare for war) as a password.
  • "Memento Mori" is the tagline of Persona 3. The game runs this motto through the whole gamut of meanings: despite being able to summon forth nearly godlike powers, "remember that you are mortal," and you can't escape the ultimate fate which cannot be escaped from. Even though you're living in the flower of your youth, "remember that you are mortal," and thus, life is fleeting. But most importantly, "remember that you are mortal," so make the best of it and live to the fullest while you can.
    • Remember you are mortal, because when the Main Character obtains the power of The Universe (Essentially becoming a Physical God), he dies anyway.
  • Sword of the Stars plays with this trope a bit: While the official motto of the human faction in the game is "Per Ardua Ad Astra", a straight example that means "Through Hardship, the Stars" (humanity's first steps into FTL coincided with the Earth nearly getting destroyed by a Hiver fleet), the game's tagline and the unofficial motto of humanity is the somewhat more playful "Repensum Est Canicula"—literally, "Payback is a Bitch".
    • Taken further actually: Latin has become humanity's second official language in the setting, partly because it's an extremely easy language to learn and utilize, but mostly because it just sounds epic.
      • And the Roman Catholic Church is largest surviving religion.
  • Lost: The Game was released as Lost: Via Domus in the United States, but the title was changed for the European release after several critics pointed out that the Pretentious Latin Motto was badly mangled: what they intended to mean "The Way Home" actually became "Road House" somehow.
    • Let's face it, it was doomed to be called "Lost: The Game" from the start, no matter what name they called it and how mangled it was.
  • In Team Fortress 2, the Demoman, a one-eyed black man with a Scottish accent, is part of a clan of black Scottish cyclopes. The clan's motto is "In regione caecorum rex est luscus", which roughly translates as "In the realm of the blind, the one eyed man is king." Ironically, most of the family loses both of their eyes before 30 years of age.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum features a large Latin phrase above the puppet Scarface's tommygun -- "Mors Certa, Hora Incerta", meaning "Death is Certain, its Hour is Not"—in addition to many others.
    • That one is the actual motto of Arkham Asylum, if I recall. Yet they continue to send people there.
    • There's also the inscription over the Green Mile area: Liberate Me Ex Infernis. "Save me from Hell."
  • Mirror's Edge gives the City government "Finis Coronat Opus", 'The end crowns the work'. I feel safer already.
  • In the ancient TRS-80 game Galactic Revolution, the flag for DuBuque's forces read "SEMPER UBI SUB UBI". This is a classic Latin-to-English pun: The phrase translates to "alwaye where under where", which is nonsense in Latin, but sounds like the English sentence "Always wear underwear.". (Which is good advice; you might get run over by a truck.)
  • In Deus Ex, the UNATCO handbook is prefaced with a quote by Publilius Syrus: Nihil aliud scit necessitas quam vincere, meaning "necessity knows no other law but how to conquer," an early hint to just how sinister UNATCO's ideology is.
    • The Majestic 12 Cyberinformation Warfare Division has the motto Ipsa scientia potestas est - "Knowledge itself is power."

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • In Sluggy Freelance Nosce te Ipsum: Know Thyself, was a Pretentious Latin Motto that was also used as a trigger phrase for the Ax Crazy Dark Action Girl Oasis.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court doesn't seem to have a motto, but the hallway outside the classroom where Mort hangs out has a large plaque that reads Dulce et decorum est; a reference to a line from the poet Horace: "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori"; "How sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country."
    • The treatise page following Chapter 7 has a banner across the top: Ora lege relege labora et invenies; "Pray, read, read again, work, and you shall find."
  • Lampshaded in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob: the motto of the science department of Generictown University is "Quidquid Latine dictum sit, altum viditur," literally, "Anything said in Latin sounds profound."
  • The motto of St. Dyphn(i)a Academy is Abte Schola, Fatuus ("Go To School, Dummy!")

Web Original[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Parodied in The Simpsons - the motto of Springfield U is "Ask about our Latin motto competition."
    • Not to mention Mayor-for-life Quimby's motto - Corruptus in extremis, "Corruption in high places". At least he's honest about it, although he can afford to be.
    • And (IIRC) Shelbyville Elementary's motto, "Veritas et Scientia" ("Truth and Knowledge").
  • The South Park Planetarium's motto is Me transmitte sursum, Caledoni!
  • An episode of George of the Jungle had two villains cut a hole in the floor of George's treehouse and hit him over the head when he fell through it. The smarter crook explained it to Ursula with a parodic translation of Caesar's famous line, "We came, we sawed, we conked him!"
  • Phineas and Ferb seem to have adopted "Carpe Diem" as the show's unofficial motto—it keeps getting slipped into musical numbers and dialogue, and even gets an entire song about it in "Rollercoaster: The Musical". "Seize the Day" certainly fits the show's theme.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Harvard University's motto on its crest is "Veritas" (Truth). Crosstown M.I.T. enjoys changing the crest to read "HackUs", Hack being MIT slang for prank.
  • Princeton University's motto is Dei sub numine viget—roughly, "Under God she prospers", but campus folklore insists the proper translation is "God went to Princeton".
    • The Princeton Tiger, the campus humor magazine, once suffered a complete purge of its officers due to a deliberate misquote of Caesar's famous "Veni, vidi, vici": In an issue published during the late 1940s, a cartoon appeared depicting two coeds of the period, one of whom has obviously just gotten home from a date. Proudly, she declares to her roommate: "Vidi, vici, veni" -- "I saw, I conquered, I came." The University administration was not amused.
  • Stan Freberg's Latin motto is "Ars gratia pecuniae," meaning "Art for money's sake."
  • Caveat emptor: Buyer beware. There's a Calvin and Hobbes one about this, but it shows up in quite a few places if you look.
  • The University of California's motto is technically Fiat lux. However, it's apparently considered too obscure, as even on most versions of the university seal they switched to the English, "Let there be light!"
    • Maybe too many people snicker at seeing "Fiat" in the same sentence as "lux", or maybe the electrics packed in again.
      • Someone once claimed that "Fiat Lux" meant "My small Italian car is on fire!"
    • Likewise, the University of Washington's motto is "Lux sit" ("Let there be light" in Dog Latin). Lux sit, as in sit down?
  • A Greek-temple inspired building across the street from Amsterdam's largest cinema sports: "homo sapiens non urinat in ventum" which, though grammatically incorrect was supposed to translate to "man shouldn't piss against the wind". The architect had put it on one of his designs as a joke, but the contractor (ignorant of Latin) got the wrong design, or so I heard.
  • Averted by the United States of America. For almost 200 years, "E pluribus unum," meaning "Out of many, one," was considered America's de facto motto, being a literal and poetic description of a nation formed from different states, peoples, and ideologies. However, in 1956 Congress officially declared "In God We Trust" to be the official motto of the nation as a Take That to the godless Commies.
  • Many American states have Latin mottos, including:
    • Michigan: Si quaeris amoenam paeninsulam, circumspice: "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you." Of course, which peninsula do they mean? (It's a reference to Sir Christopher Wren's epitaph...)
    • New Mexico: Crescit eundo: "It grows as it goes." (It's about a lightning bolt, we swear.)
  • Many Universities around the world love this trope. Just look at some samples on this list.
  • "Semper fidelis": "always faithful"; so closely associated with the Marines that even our trope name for the organization is Semper Fi.
  • Some regiments in the U.S. Army and Coast Guard use a similar motto, "Semper paratus" ("always ready").
  • Of course, the US Navy's Landing Signal Officer school's motto is "Rectum Non Bustus": "Don't Bust Your Ass"; which considering the job they perform is totally appropriate.
  • The nation of Canada has "A Mari Usque Ad Mare,"[5] which is not only pretentious for being Latin but doubly so for being taken from The Bible, the full line being "Et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos terrae."[6] Said quote is also where the full title of the country, the Dominion of Canada, is from.
    • The Order of Canada, the ribbon of which appears on the arms of Canada much as the Order of the Garter's...garter...appears on the British arms, has the suitably pretentiously Latin motto Desiderantes Meliorem Patriam, meaning "They desire a better country."
  • Stephen Colbert's motto is "Videri quam Esse", or "To seem rather than to be". The Fear Medals Stephen handed out at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear had the motto "Cave ne sit cadmium," meaning "Warning: may contain cadmium." Jon Stewart's Medals of Reasonableness read "Sit Vis Nobiscum" (may the Force be with us).
  • The Swedish Army Music Corps has an association for its discharged members. The association bears the proud motto "Ante Melior Erat" (It was better before), the "Before" being the time in the Army.
  • Averted with Cornell University. While the rest of its Ivy League counterparts, as well as most of the other schools with similar academic reputations have have Pretentious Latin Mottos, Cornell has a plain English one: "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study."
    • Similarly, Rice University specifically chose to use its founder's dedication of "Letters, Science, Art" in English, rather than Latin as a Take That to Harvard. It was supposed to mean that the school offered useful education without pretense. Played straight in that one of the residential colleges does have a Pretentious Latin Motto, specifically Brown ("Tende bene alta pete"[7])
  • Averted with England (and later Britain) which uses Old French mottoes: Dieu et mon Droit ("God and my Right") and Honi soit qui mal y pense ("Woe upon he that thinks ill of it" or "Evil be to he who evil thinks", for the Order of the Garter, which appears on the non-Scottish variant of the royal arms). Scotland however does use a Latin motto, Nemo me impune lacessit - "No one insults me with impunity" and also the English/Scots 'In Defens God Me Defend', which is an old Scots prayer: "In defens God me defend/and bring my saul to ane guid end/ane virtuous life procureth ane happy death." The Prince of Wales' motto is German, of all things (it's Ich dien, meaning "I serve").[8]
    • It's fitting that Scotland has that motto in that language, considering that Hadrian's Wall, near the Scottish/English border, is the point where the Roman Empire said "Fuck it, these people are too tough for us."
    • You might think that the Prince of Wales' motto being in German has something to do with the fact that Britain's monarch has been from a German dynasty since 1714. However, the motto dates back to Edward the Black Prince, the second English heir apparent to be given the title, way back in the mid-14th century; he used the motto and its associated feathers on his jousting shield.
    • Under Oliver Cromwell's republican regime, the motto of the Commonwealth of England was Pax quaeritur bello, literally "Peace is sought by war" and more figuratively rendered as "If you would seek peace, prepare for war."
  • The Dutch royal family (and I think also the country) have the Old French motto: "Je maintiendrai", "I will maintain."
  • Some people have as their personal motto the fake "Latin" motto "Illegitemis nil carborundum" -- "don't let the bastards grind you down". (Carborundum is actually a trademark for silicon carbide, and the first word is also suspect.)
  • The U.S. state of Virginia uses Sic semper tyrannis ("thus always to tyrants"), in reference to its seal, which depicts the figure of Virtue standing over the fallen figure of Tyranny.[9] The phrase is attributed to Brutus, who supposedly said it after assassinating Caesar.
  • Wymondham College, a British boarding school, uses the motto 'Floreat Sapientia'-let wisdom flourish.
    • This is a favourite of public schools, eg Floreat Rugbeia (overlapping with Dog Latin, let Rugby Flourish), Floreat Etona (" Eton "), as well as other Latin mottoes - Charterhouse for instance, has Deo Dante Dedi - God Giving I Gave, Harrow has Stet Fortuna Domus, Let the Fortunes of the House Stand.
      • British state schools avert this, tending ot English or in Scotland Gaelic.
    • A semi-famous Scottish school has a motto which, while in Latin, somehow manages to be very, very Scottish: disce, puer, aut abi. [10]
  • Imperial College London has Scientia imperii decus et tutamen. (Knowledge is the adornment and protection of the Empire)
  • Gallaudet University, the first post-secondary institution for the deaf in the world, one ups everyone with a pretentious motto in Chaldean: Ephphatha (be opened). The word was spoken by Christ when healing a man who was deaf and dumb (Mark 7:34).
  • As he left the court room following his conviction, Charles Ponzi (for whom the Ponzi Scheme is named) passed a note to the reporters. "Sic transit gloria mundi". Pretentious asshole.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization, whose mission is to eliminate hunger, has Fiat Panis, "Let there be bread."
  • Stanford University in Palo Alto, California has a pretentious German motto, "Die Luft der Freiheit weht", meaning "The wind of freedom blows." It was adopted in the very early 20th century when German was known for being one of the most authoritative languages of cutting edge science.
  • Brooklyn College has the motto of "Nil sine magno labore", "Nothing without great labor". Of course, as this troper's Latin professor remarked a decade ago, the joke's on them - the quote is from a satire by Horace about a prattling fool that never had an original thought in the whole piece.
  • Poena culpam premit comes is the motto of the Australian New South Wales Police Force. Quite appropriate, as it translates to "Punishment follows guilt swiftly," or being more poetic, "Guilt finds swift vengeance."

Notes

  1. "Anything said in Latin seems profound".
  2. "It will ruin your life."
  3. viz, it was engraved on a plinth, which still had Tacticus' feet and ankles, in the middle of a ruined city he'd founded (Alexander-style)
  4. Justifiable, as this is High Gothic, not actual Latin; it's just been transliterated to look Latinesque.
  5. "From Sea to Sea," usually rendered as "From Sea to Shining Sea."
  6. "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth."
  7. roughly, "Try hard, aim high."
  8. Technically, "I Serve" in German is "Ich diene", but depending on who you ask the odd spelling was adopted because 1) they thought the "e" was taking too much space or 2) the English do not and never have given two shits about foreign languages other than their sounding/looking cool.
  9. The fact that the seal depicts Virtue with her foot on Tyranny's throat has led some Virginian wags to joke that the phrase really means "Get your foot off my neck."
  10. "Learn, child, or else go away."