A look at 140 country slogans

January 24, 2009

The following is an analysis of 140 country slogans based on Wikipedia’s list of state mottos (accessed January 23, 2009). My analysis is based on English language slogans as well as slogans translated into English.

First, we look at the frequency of consequential* words encountered at least four times each:

  • unity (32)
  • god (25)
  • work (15)
  • one (15)
  • justice (15)
  • peace (14)
  • liberty (14)
  • progress (11)
  • people (11)
  • freedom (11)
  • strength (9)
  • country (8 )
  • nation (5)
  • homeland (5)
  • union (4)
  • together (4)
  • prosperity (4)
  • honour (4)
  • fatherland (4)
  • faith (4)
  • diversity (4)

* The following inconsequential words were ignored: “and”, “the”, “in”, “for”, “we”, “is”, “of”, “to”, “or”, “all”, “with”, “my”, “death”, and “are”. The word “death” was inconsequential because it was used for emphasis, in the sense of “nothing” as in “liberty or death” (Uruguay and Greece), “freedom or death” (Macedonia), and “homeland or death” (Cuba); and the words “liberty”, “freedom”, and “homeland” had already made the list.

Certain words in the list above are synonyms according to the following interpretation: “unity“, “one”, “people”, “union”, and “together”, are similar; “god” and “faith” are similar; “liberty” and “freedom” are similar; “country“, “nation”, “homeland”, and “fatherland” are similar. If we care only for the meaning of any given word, here is the revised list, with the similar words combined:

  • unity (62)
  • god (29)
  • liberty (25)
  • country (22)
  • work (15)
  • justice (15)
  • peace (14)
  • progress (11)
  • strength (9)
  • prosperity (4)
  • honour (4)
  • diversity (4)

Those are some really important words / concepts / beliefs. By no means do I intend to suggest that what is most popular (most frequent) is better. This analysis is a matter of interest — to see what beliefs are shared across nations, cultures, etc. through slogans.

At the top of the list, UNITY! The ideas of togetherness — one for all, all for one. Second is GOD; I’m actually surprised (yet equally relieved) that “God” is not first on the list; perhaps this is the result of countries evolving, and separating politics from religion. Perhaps when Earth was “flat”, God was first on the list. Third is LIBERTY. After all, what is life without it? Whatever, it is unnatural. Fourth is COUNTRY. Though historically relevant, in my opinion the formulation of the notion of “country” was among the beginnings of the notions of “us” and “them”; of course in the context of these slogans, country means “us”, nationhood, patriotism, etc. But I will leave it at that for now, because it warrants a long discussion. Fifth is WORK. This is the only word that really stands out from the whole list. All the other words are quite predictable. Not work. The following is a list of the countries using the word “work” — interestingly they are relatively near (if not on) the equator. Seychelles, and particularly Costa Rica, are the odd ones out in terms of proximity to the others, but they are hot climate places:

  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad (120N)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Republic of the Congo
  • Costa Rica (90N) *
  • Gabon
  • Guinea (90N)
  • Kenya
  • Niger (130N)
  • Rwanda
  • Seychelles
  • Togo (60N)
  • Zimbabwe (170S)

All but two (or three) of the 140 country slogans are similar (mild variations of common concepts). The two slogans that really stood out from the pack were:

  • Botswana: “Rain”
  • Canada: “From sea to sea”

When I  spotted “Rain”, I then searched for it through the entire list, at which point I found the only other occurrence:

  • Lesotho: “Peace, Rain, Prosperity”

Oddly, at the time of my research (on Wikipedia), only Lesotho’s connection to rain was clear: it’s percentage of water is “negligible”; most of its rain falls as summer thunderstorms; yet Lesotho’s only significant natural resource is water; and its economy is primarily based on water sold to South Africa. Presumably, given that it’s tiny and landlocked by South Africa, “peace” is key. And I guess peace and rain (water) bring prosperity.

As for Canada’s “From sea to sea” slogan, it’s cute.

One frightening slogan, which wasn’t one of the 140, was Habsburg Monarchy‘s: “It is Austria’s destiny to rule the whole world”.

If you disagree with BC’s slogan, The Best Place on Earth, please sign the petition asking for it to be changed:

http://www.petitiononline.com/bcslogan/

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