Irvine World News

Feb. 22, 2004


Mike Stein

Mike Stein, a journalist and author who has taught at two universities, can be reached by e-mail at:

Motto ought tobe boffo
Fearing that the city motto issue might have slipped into a bureaucratic abyss, I phoned City Hall the other day to check on its status.

As reported in this newspaper last October, the City Council directed its staff to make recommendations concerning the proposed motto: “Angulus mi hi ridet,” which, translated from Latin, supposedly reads “On this corner of earth, the sun always shines.” The maxim emerged as the winning entry in a 1972 contest sponsored by the Irvine Junior Women’s Club. For all its progress, Irvine somehow neglected to define itself with an official motto.

The matter is hardly setting City Hall aflame. It has been tabled by the council, which could mean it has been relegated to a purgatory from which it may never arise. City Clerk Jeri Stately told me there has been no activity on the item. Nor, she added, has there been any public reaction, pro or con, to the proposal. Council member Christina Shea allowed, however, that the subject is still breathing pending a report from staffers.

“The translation doesn’t seem to me to be what Irvine is about,” she said. “I have asked the city manager for a report on whether the (Latin version) can be translated into a viable motto.”

I go along with that. With all due respect to its author, Claude Girault, his offering does not, in my mind, evoke Irvine. What it does conjure up is a tropical retreat, where tourists sip tall drinks on the beach, shaded from a relentless sun. Of course, we get our fair share of sunshine here, but a Caribbean getaway Irvine is not.

And somehow, Girault’s entry doesn’t have the resonance of, say, Emerald City for Seattle, the City of Light for Paris, Rome’s Eternal City, Boston’s Cradle of Liberty or even Music City–USA for Nashville.

Still, things could get worse. International Falls, Minn., is saddled with The Icebox of the United States. Castroville, Calif., bears the title of Artichoke Center of the World, Annapolis, Md., calls itself Crabtown, and Cape Hatteras, N.C., is known as The Graveyard of the Atlantic. Little Snellville, Ga., says it all with Everybody is Somebody in Snellville. Could that be tinkered with to work for Irvine?

It should be noted that some of the above are nicknames rather than official mottoes, but the towns are stuck with them all the same. Maybe the city should resurrect the motto question before somebody dubs us with an awful moniker.

Internet jokesters already are having fun with city and state sobriquets. One wag has staked out Indiana as the “Home of David Letterman – bring something to do.” Another comedian, Erik Allerman, has posted the “Top 10 Rejected City Mottos.” Among them are New York: “Is that your final answer?” Salt Lake City: “Come. Vacation with all 7 of your wives;” Chicago: “The Cubs should win the World Series SOMETIME this century.” Someone else provided “Detroit: See it while it’s still there.”

But seriously, folks. One of Los Angeles’ many appellations is City of Flowers and Sunshine. Since L.A. is older, why not let it have the sunshine on its label while we think along the lines of City on the Move. Oops, sorry! Just learned both Sansom Park, Tex. And Winfield, Ala., claim that one. But there’s no claim on the core idea.

If this doesn’t cut it, there’s always the Snellville approach.
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