A few preliminary questions.

  • Do you know your province’s or territory’s (or state’s) slogan?
  • Do you know the slogan in its original language?
  • Does the slogan in the original language matter?
  • Does the meaning of the slogan matter to you?
  • Does the slogan affect you in any way?
  • Do you know each of your neighbouring provinces’ or territories’ (or state’s) slogans?
  • Do those slogans matter to you?
  • Do they affect you in any way?

The following is a list of Canada’s provincial and territorial slogans in their original languages (Latin, French, Inuktitut).

  • British Columbia: Splendor sine occasu
  • Alberta: Fortis et liber
  • Saskatchewan: Multis e Gentibus Vires
  • Manitoba: Gloriosus et Liber
  • Ontario: Ut Incepit Fidelis Sic Permanet
  • Quebec: Je me souviens
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Quaerite prime regnum Dei
  • New Brunswick: Spem reduxit
  • Nova Scotia: Munit Hae et Altera Vincit
  • Prince Edward Island: Parva sub ingenti
  • Yukon: –
  • Northwest Territories: –
  • Nunavut: Nunavut Sannginivut

The following are those same slogans, but translated into English:

  • British Columbia: Splendour without diminishment
  • Alberta: Strong and free
  • Saskatchewan: Strength from Many Peoples
  • Manitoba: Glorious and free
  • Ontario: Loyal she began, loyal she remains
  • Quebec: I remember
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Seek ye first the kingdom of God (a quote from the Bible)
  • New Brunswick: Hope restored
  • Nova Scotia: One defends and the other conquers
  • Prince Edward Island: The small protected by the great
  • Yukon: –
  • Northwest Territories: –
  • Nunavut: Our land, our strength

As of January 24, 2009, the following are the only two government websites with additional slogans on their websites:

  • British Columbia: The Best Place on Earth
  • Manitoba: Spirited Energy

BC’s slogan, The Best Place on Earth, is placed on nearly all government produced things, including posters, pamphlets, official correspondence, coffee mugs, etc. I don’t know about the situation in Manitoba or any other province or territory.

Now, a look at the slogans on vehicle license plates* in Canada’s provinces and territories:

  • British Columbia:
    • Beautiful British Columbia – (since 1964)
    • The Best Place on Earth – (since April 2007, special edition) **
  • Alberta:
    • Wild Rose Country – (since 1974)
  • Saskatchewan:
    • Land of Living Skies – (since 1998)
  • Manitoba:
    • “Sunny Manitoba” & “100,000 Lakes” – (1971-1975)
    • Friendly – (since 1976)
  • Ontario:
    • Keep it Beautiful – (1973-1981)
    • Yours To Discover – (since 1982)
  • Quebec:
    • La Belle Province (The Beautiful Province) – (1964-1977)
    • Je me souviens (I remember) – (since 1978)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador:
    • The Mighty Churchill – (1969)
    • A World of Difference – (1993-2002)
  • New Brunswick:
    • Picture Province – (1958-1971)
  • Nova Scotia:
    • Canada’s Ocean Playground – (since 1972)
  • Prince Edward Island:
    • The Place To Be … In “73” – (1973-1975)
    • SEAT BELTS SAVE – (1976-1980)
    • Home of “Anne of Green Gables” – (1993-1999)
    • Confederation Bridge – (2000-2003)
    • Birthplace of Confederation – (2003-2006?)
    • Canada’s Green Province – (since 2007)
  • Yukon:
    • Land of the Midnight Sun – (1953-1970)
    • Home of the Klondike – (1971-1977)
    • The Klondike – (since 1978)
  • Northwest Territories:
    • Canada’s Northland – (1966-1969)
    • Centennial – (1970) ***
    • Explore Canada’s Arctic – (since 1986)
  • Nunavut:
    • Explore Canada’s Arctic – (since 1999)

* Data obtained from http://www.15q.net/

** BC’s special edition “The Best Place on Earth” license plate is intended to support the 2010 Winter Games. 130,000 have been issued since October 23, 2008. Source: http://www.bcpl8s.ca/Olympics.htm

*** Northwest Territories’ 1970 “Centennial” license plate won the inaugural ALPCA Plate of the Year award in 1970; indeed it is a truly special design. ALPCA is the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association, founded in 1954.

Prince Edward Island’s slogans:

Prince Edward Island’s slogan, “The small protected by the great”, is, in my opinion, a perfect slogan. It is humble, timeless, and dear. And it seems that PEI’s government has recognized that, and has left it be. PEI’s license plate slogans on the other hand are often changed, in fact, they change with the times: I don’t know what it was like in 1973, but apparently PEI was the place to be; lives lost in car accidents were apparently an issue in the mid to late 70s, and PEI was proactive: they used their license plates to promote an important concept; looking further, Anne of Green Gables… Confederation Bridge… Birthplace of Confederation… these where milestone’s in PEI’s history. Their slogan “Canada’s Green Province” is clearly due to the current issue at hand: global warming. PEI is being proactive again. Every single PEI license plate slogan is a statement of something relevant to the times. It really seems that this is the best use of a license plate slogan: something which can be used to make a statement about, or bring awareness to, something relevant to the times. PEI gets an A+ on slogans, hands down.

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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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/

On slogans (in general)

January 24, 2009

Now that the logical argument is complete, let’s further our understanding.

First, what is a slogan? According to my dictionary, it is

  1. “a short and striking or memorable phrase used in advertising”;
  2. “a motto associated with a political party or movement or other group”;
  3. “a Scottish Highland war cry”

Indeed, the latter meaning is from the word’s origin, the early 16th century: from Scottish Gaelic sluagh-ghairm, from sluagh ‘army’ + gairm ‘shout’.

Let’s stick to the meaning most relevant to the context: a motto associated with political party or movement … or province. What is a motto? Again, according to “the” dictionary: a short sentence or phrase chosen as encapsulating the beliefs or ideals guiding an individual, family, or institution, … or people. Great. Then let’s go with the following:

A memorable phrase chosen as encapsulating the beliefs or ideals guiding the people.

The people being, of course, the citizens of some governed land (country, territory, province, state, municipality, whatever, wherever). The core focus is:

the beliefs or ideals guiding the people

Now that the meaning is established, let’s question the concept of slogans in general.

Does it make sense to have slogans?

Must they be totally representative? Is 80% good enough? 51%? Presumably, as the size of the land mass increases, the accuracy of representation likely decreases. Does it makes sense to attribute one short phrase to an entire country? To a province? To a city?

Is a slogan timeless? Eternal? Do slogans expire? Should they?

Are slogans deceiving?

Of course the answers vary depending on the slogan; each depends on its intended purpose (and perhaps whether that purpose has been, or will ever be, served).

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/

On relevance

January 22, 2009

A slogan is not relevant if people

  • don’t care for it;
  • don’t believe in it;
  • don’t understand it

… perhaps among other things.

Understanding a slogan is important. Here we need to discuss syntax and semantics. Syntax is the language that the slogan is written in. Semantics is the meaning of the slogan. Historically, many slogans were Latin. That was fine and dandy back in the day when (some) people actually spoke (some?) Latin. My grandfather spoke Latin among numerous other languages; but I can’t think of another person I know that speaks Latin. Fortunately, British Columbia’s slogan, “The Best Place on Earth“, is written in English. At least we can read it. That’s one out of the two criteria of understanding. Unfortunately, the second criteria, the semantics (the meaning) is where it fails. This slogan happens to be *way* out there, so “understanding” it is a philosophical challenge in its own right; and perhaps the reason why so many people find it so revolting.

Believing in a slogan is important. It’s one thing to understand the meaning, and another to believe in it. Believing in a slogan means agreeing with its semantics.

It seems that a good slogan can be semantically described as either  factual or motivating, or both. An example of a factual slogan, is Canada’s “A Mari Usque Ad Mare” (translation: “From Sea to Sea“); indeed Canada spans from sea to sea… well, if you must, it spans from ocean to ocean to ocean (…to border-near-49th-parallel), but let’s not get silly — poetry is at stake! An example of a motivating slogan is the 2008 presidential campaign slogan of Barack Obama, “Yes We Can”. An example of a slogan that can be considered both factual and motivating is McGill University’s “Grandescunt Aucta Labore” (translation: “By hard work, all things increase and grow”). In the context of education, it’s hard to dispute that from hard work all things increase and grow — clearly the context here is knowledge, minds, etc. — so that is the factually oriented side, and certainly if you’re a student, you will be motivated to increase your knowledge via hard work.

In the BC Government’s own words, the slogan is a mix of both fact and motivation:

Many British Columbians have gone one step further and believe that B.C. is, in fact, “The Best Place on Earth”. For others, the words can be seen as a kind of challenge to come up with solutions so that we can be the best.

Unfortunately, the “factual” component is nearer a ludicrous claim than anything else. The slogan is vague and mostly meaningless because the criteria for such a claim are highly subjective (and undisclosed). The motivational (“challenge”) component is absurd because it presents an impossible goalas was explained in my previous blog post.

Caring for a slogan is important. Caring for a slogan supports its existence. Caring for a slogan (i.e. liking it) is actually dependent on believing in it, which in turn is dependent on understanding it. You could say then, that caring is believing is understanding. If you care about a slogan, you will carry it with you. You will think of it once in a while; after all, by definition, and in short, a slogan is a memorable phrase… a memorable belief or ideal that guides the people.

This also brings up another point. For whom is BC The Best Place on Earth? Perhaps there is a minority living in lala land, completely unawares. Indeed, ignorance is bliss. But even if — EVEN IF — the majority believed in this pretentious slogan, what is to be said for the thousands of homeless, thousands of malnourished, thousands disregarded? Shame on that majority! A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If there are homeless people in BC, BC is NOT the best place on Earth. If there are hungry people in BC, BC is NOT the best place on Earth.

Q.E.D.

In light of reality, BC’s slogan, The Best Place on Earth, is NOT relevant.

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/

A flawed challenge

January 21, 2009

The Government said that BC’s slogan, The Best Place on Earth, is “a kind of challenge”:

… the words can be seen as a kind of challenge to come up with solutions so that we can be the best.

The challenge is: to come up with solutions so that BC can be the best place on Earth. The goal, therefore, is for British Columbia to be the best place on Earth.

Wow.

Let’s pretend, for a couple of minutes, that that is not literally absurd. Let’s consider this goal. Is this goal effective? First, what is an effective goal? An effective goal is a S.M.A.R.T. goal:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Specifics are necessary because we must know what we are trying to achieve. Measurability is necessary because we must have means to determine whether we are on course to achieving the goal. Achievability is necessary because a goal is self-evidently useless if it cannot be attained or accomplished. Relevance is necessary because a goal must make contextual sense. Time-boundedness is necessary because without it, an objective is technically still on track even if it hasn’t been achieved in a billion years.

So, now we know what an effective goal is — it’s a SMART goal. Let’s put The Best Place on Earth goal to the test.

  • Specific – NO – What is the meaning of “best”? Best on what grounds? All grounds?
  • Measurable – NO – For instance, how do you measure beauty or culture?
  • Achievable – NO – Is it possible to have less flaws than all other “places” on Earth?
  • Relevant – PARTLY – But it’s an insubstantial attempt at trying to improve a place.
  • Time-bound – NO – I haven’t heard of any milestones… 2010 perhaps? 2100? 9999?

If just ONE of the SMART goal criteria are not met, the goal is not a good one. Based on the above analysis, it can therefore be said that the goal, the “kind of challenge”, of trying to be the best place on Earth is flawed.

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/

In November of 2007 (yes, 2007) I raised my concern over BC’s slogan with an internal BC government group. That group provided a response to me after consultation with the Corporate Communications office at the Public Affairs Bureau. For the record, the following was the response:

The decision to use the term “The Best Place on Earth” was made by our democratically-elected government. The words “The Best Place on Earth” are intended to underscore a sense of pride in British Columbia and a spirit of achievement. As a resident of B.C., you probably already appreciate such things as our province’s natural beauty, cultural diversity and strong economy. Many British Columbians have gone one step further and believe that B.C. is, in fact, “The Best Place on Earth”. For others, the words can be seen as a kind of challenge to come up with solutions so that we can be the best.

There is some recognition that visitors from other countries may disagree with this term. As a result, most materials distributed to international audiences or used to promote the 2010 Winter Games do not include the words “The Best Place on Earth”. Other terms such as “Beautiful British Columbia” and “Super, Natural British Columbia” are also still in use.

So, to be clear, the reasoning was: to underscore a sense of pride in British Columbia and a spirit of achievement, as well as to present a challenge to come up with solutions so that  [BC] can be the best.

My thoughts on the pride and achievement bit is that there is an important distinction between well founded pride and conceit, and I find the slogan to be at the extreme of egotism — the height of conceit.

As far as the slogan presenting a challenge to be the best — I find that a long stretch — instead the slogan will develop an elitist mentality in the residents of BC, and leave a bad impression with everyone else.

What I find most shocking about this response is that even the government recognizes that international audiences “may disagree with this [slogan]” — so most materials distributed internationally do not include it. As a resident of BC, how do you feel about that?

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/

Thank you.

Petition and comments

February 27, 2008

To read and sign the petition, please go to the following URL: http://www.PetitionOnline.com/bcslogan/. Thank you.

This web page, the one you’re looking at right now, is intended for you to write comments regarding the BC slogan, regardless of whether you disapprove of it or not.

For your information, the slogan has made its way to BC’s logo, and is published on most of BC government’s public relations literature:

BC Logo

The slogan has also made it to special edition license plates:

BC License Plate