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Californians Often Misidentify State’s ‘Eureka’ Motto
Seal of California

While ‘In God We Trust’ is the official motto of the United States, legislated in 1956, all states also have their very own motto in accordance with the individual values and ideals of their citizens. These mottos are different to state nicknames or slogans often used to promote themselves for marketing reasons. Adopted many years ago, a lot of these mottos are not only bizarre, but are often written in different languages – however, they do serve the purpose of telling a story about the state history. Thus, many ingrain messages of religion, patriotism, equality, and the rights of its citizens. But how well do we know our own state’s motto? Not very well, it appears in most cases, according to a poll of 5,668 Americans commissioned by

Despite its historical significance, just 53 percent of Californians could correctly identify ‘Eureka’ (‘I have found it’) as their home state motto, which obviously refers to the discovery of gold many years ago. Over one in five thought it was ‘Gold in These Lands’, and hilariously, six percent thought the motto was ‘Keep Searching'. The other 21 percent thought it was the ‘Land of Discovery’.

Californians were the 32nd most clued up nationally when it comes to knowing their state motto.

When broken down by state, Granite Staters (New Hampshire) emerged victorious with an A+ score: a whopping 99 percent of respondents knew their home state motto, which is: ‘Live Free or Die’. To be fair to respondents from other states, ‘Live Free or Die’ is perhaps the country’s second most known motto (behind the national one), so it is no surprise they scored so highly. Adopted from the Granite State’s official seal, the memorable motto was taken from a letter written by General John Stark, an American Revolution war hero native to New Hampshire. It is a testament to the state’s war history and its citizens’ resilience, which is especially notable given that the official motto and emblem were legislated as World War II finally came to a successful end.

Alaskans came out second in the league, with a grade-A score of 93 percent, just behind New Hampshire. The Last Frontier’s motto, ‘North to the Future’ was chosen during the Alaska Purchase Centennial, celebrating its purchase by the U.S. from Russia. The motto was selected as a way to represent Alaska as a land of promise, referring to its geographical position as the northernmost state and linking this to the prospect of a bright future.

On the other end of the scale, and in final position, North Carolinians had the lowest overall score: only 13 percent of respondents here could correctly identify their motto: ‘To Be, Rather Than to Seem’, which is the English translation of the Latin words ‘Esse Quam Videri’. The results revealed that a staggering 84 percent of respondents thought their official state motto is ‘First in Flight’, however, this is the phrase that appears on the state’s license plates – a tribute to the first successful controlled airplane flights operated by the Wright brothers.

Even if respondents from other states scored higher than North Carolinians overall, the quiz revealed that sizable proportions of each state’s population opted for some incorrect and often downright hilarious options.

Less than half (48 percent) of Floridians guessed their state motto was ‘In God We Trust’ (which is the same as the national motto). Nearly one in 10 (9 percent) thought it was ‘Our State of Snowbirds’ – presumably they selected this option as approximately 1,000 people move to Florida each day: mainly retirees.

Only 59 percent of Iowans got their motto right – ‘Our Liberties We Prize and Our Right We Will Maintain’. However, nearly one in five (18%) thought it was ‘Children of the Corn’. Perhaps they thought this was the official motto as Iowa is the largest corn producing state in the country? Or could they have been prompted by Stephen King’s 1984 American supernatural folk horror film of the same name?

New York’s state motto is ‘Ever Upwards’, and so it was a little disappointing that only one in three New Yorkers correctly identified this. Incredibly, 52 percent thought the state motto was Empire, State Of Mind, which happens to be a song by Jay-Z, featuring Alicia Keys.

Mainers scored a commendable 61 percent for correctly naming ‘I Direct’, but you may wonder if originally, something may have followed after these two words, and somehow got omitted over the passage of time? A significant 23 percent thought their motto was ‘A Neighbor Of One’ … (Maine is the only state that shares its borders with only one other US state).

Over half of Texans correctly said ‘Friendship’ is the state motto. Although one in 10 thought it was ‘Ready and Rarin’ to Go’, a well-known Texas saying.