Just, Gold and Silver

I was looking over a list of state mottos the other day, and I came across one that struck me as kind of odd. It was Montana’s motto: Gold and silver.

Just, “Gold and silver.”

Not, “We have gold and silver.” Or, “Come to Montana for gold and silver.” Or even, “Montana: beautiful as gold and silver.” Merely, “Gold and silver.”

Feels a little short, no? I’m guessing that the guy who came up with it wasn’t exactly the talkative sort. Not that I’ve got any problem with shy people or introverts, but I wouldn’t look to them to come up with the motto for my state, that’s for sure. I mean, okay, it’s not all bad. It’s got potential. I’d just feel better if there were an action verb in there somewhere.

Compare this to Hawaii’s state motto: The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. Obviously written by an extrovert (and potentially a huge windbag but that’s besides the point). It’s a good motto! There’s some meat in there, including a morals lesson (couldn’t tell you what it is but I know it’s got one).

Don’t get me wrong, length isn’t necessarily the issue. You know what they say, “It’s not the size of the boat that counts — it’s the motion of the ocean.” I mean, consider New York’s: Ever upward. Only two words! But two very evocative words behind an optimistic sentiment. It’s a feel-gooder. “Gold and silver” is, well, boring. Maybe if it was something more unexpected, like, “Gold and coffee” or “Sandwiches and silver” I could get more into it. Alas.

I’m just wondering: was there more to it initially? Did a few extras words get lopped off in the printer? Did they run off a bunch of fliers but realize too late that there was a pretty embarrassing typo or pornographic-looking coffee stain?

Imagine the scene. A bunch of Montanans seated around a big table, wracking their brains for the perfect slogan that would embody the essence of Montana. Someone throws out, “Let the rivers run free and the hawks fly,” but this is nixed. So too is “Under God the people rule,” because South Dakota already did it. With no better options, they turn to the guy in the back who’s picking his nose.

“Hey Carl.”
“Wanna write the state motto?”
“Whatcha got?”
“Gold and silver.”
“Carl, did you just list the first two things that came to mind?”

Could you imagine if other states did that?
Florida: Oranges and grapefruits here
California: Big trees
South Carolina: Below other Carolina
Idaho: Potato

Where’s the poetry? The inspiration? The spark of whimsy? The splash of god-fearing? The whiff of neener-neener? Because that’s what America’s about (poetry/inspiration/whimsy/god-fearing/neener-neener). And each state’s motto should celebrate the “wow” moment of establishing that state. Right?

But not Montana. Montana just shits out a few nouns and moves on to the state bird (“chicken”).


  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Showalter, Dan Pechacek and Blake, Lawrence E. Forbes. Lawrence E. Forbes said: RT @mshowalter: some thoughts on montana's state motto; i have a few. http://tinyurl.com/37bhqdw [...]

  2. Maybe “gold and silver” = we’ve go the best and 2nd best?

  3. Threads of silver, gobs of gold. No. Gold and silver have I none, but that man’s father is my father’s… walrus? Sorry, man; I got nothin’. Wait a second! I’VE GOT PLENTY OF… walruses. Sorry, false alarm.

  4. <3 this.

    I bet the Montanian who coined that phrase (Get it? Coined?) was Henry F. Potter.

  5. hey, as a floridian here, I gotta say Im pretty disappointed with our motto “In God we trust”. this is nothing against god or anything, but how unoriginal can we be? Montana may have asked the guy picking his nose, but at least they didnt just look at a dollar and say “yeah that sounds pretty good. ok we’re done here.”

  6. We can all only aspire to live in New Hampshire, the ” live free or die” state. Sadly, I live in Oklahoma where we believe “Labor conquers all things.”

  7. “Did you just list the first two things that came to mind?”

    haha…”Oranges and grapefruits here…Big trees…below OTHER Carolina.”


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