EAST ANGLIAN MOTTOES

I have already mentioned the motto of Carrow School (although this was more than a year ago and nobody will remember), which so appealed to my father when a pupil there; Sat cito si sat bene (quick enough if well enough). Carrow school was on Carrow Hill in Norwich; the building is still there, but the school has been closed for well over 70 years.

My old school, Gresham’s, had a motto but not a Latin one; Al  Worship be to God only. This cigarette card has spelled the first word right which in this case means wrong i.e all with two ‘l’s. The correct spelling is the archaic AL. Two institutions share this motto; Gresham’s School and its governing body, the London guild the Livery Company the Fishmongers. God is central to this motto, whereas He does not appear in the Carrow School’s motto, but at least it is in Latin while Gresham’s is in English.

My father, in choosing a motto for his optical company managed to include God in his motto, and it was in Latin too; Dixitque Deus: Fiat Lux (and God said:Let there be light). I think it  a very apt motto for an optician’s business. He had the motto printed on all his business stationery. The idea of any of today’s businesses having a motto (even in English let alone Latin) is rather laughable; I don’t see Specs Savers shops as having a motto carved above the door.

Nowadays we have mission statements instead. To provide the opportunity and incentive for every student is the objective of positive education; so runs the mission statement of the modern educationist, and a thoroughly laudable one it is too.  But it hardly rolls off the tongue. The Hewett School in Lakenham, Norwich, has To Aspire, Achieve and Advance as its Mission Statement, and that is more like a motto. Mission Statements tend to be rather wordy and unmemorable version of the old motto. The Hewett School’s is one of the better ones, but it has no relevance to what actually goes on at the school, where aspiration, achievement and the advance of the pupils seem singularly lacking. The CNS (City of Norwich School) has SUCCESSS FOR ALL as its mission statement-an absurd idea; would you apply the same phrase to a football match, where success for all could only result in endless draws? Far more appropriate is Norwich High School for Girls: Do thy best and rejoice with those who do better.

Thetford Grammar School is reputedly one of the oldest schools in the world, which traces its origins back to the seventh century. It has its motto in suitably archaic Norman French: Loyaute me oblige (Loyalty binds me). As far as Thetford school’s motto is concerned, being written in medieval French, this hasn’t been spoken in this country for about 700 years. Fortunately the words are so much like modern English that you can make a fair stab at the meaning. Another Nofolk Independent school, Norwich School, has  Praemia Virtutis Honores (Honours are the rewards of virtue). The Culford School motto is not very memorable: Viriliter Agite Estote Fortes (Quit Ye Like Men, Be Strong).  Another school in Suffolk is Framlingham College which has Studio sapientia crescit (Wisdom grows with study).

In the state sector Wymondham College has also got a Latin motto; Floreat Sapientia (Let Wisdom Flourish). How different from the Norwich State Schools, but when Wymondham College was set up Norfolk Education Committee was separate from Norwich where the Socialists held sway. Norfolk was firmly Conservative. Far from having a Latin motto the CNS did not even teach the subject, much to my father’s disgust.

Latin mottoes are from an age when Latin was the lingua franca (literally free tongue, i.e. common language) of the educated class; nowadays such words must be as opaque to most alumni of the school, as they are to 99 percent of the general public. But note how pervasive Latin words are – even ‘per centum‘ (that is percent) is pure Latin, as is ‘lingua franca‘ itself. In the 1920s when Hubert Catchpole (the brilliant but impoverished youngster who was brought up by a simple family of farm workers from Whitlingham) was a student at Cambridge all the undergraduates had to know Latin. As he had been to the CNS that, as I have already told you, did not teach Latin he had taught himself the language – an indication of his brilliance. Although he was a scientist, he was fluent in Latin and earned some extra money by coaching his less bright colleagues through the ‘pons assinorum‘ (the bridge of asses)- their term for the exam in Latin which they all had to pass.  .

Mottoes are a bit of a minefield and perhaps it just as well that the County of Norfolk does not have one. Suffolk however does – Opus Nostrum Dirige (Direct Our Work). The city of Norwich, and the UEA both have the same motto: Do Different. If you are doubtful of the grammatical correctness of this phrase I should point out that this in the Norfolk dialect, where the final word’s final syllable (as in differently) has been dropped from most adverbs.

JOSEPH MASON

THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIA

www.joemasonspage.wordpress.com

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2 responses

  1. You forgot ‘Praemia Virtutis Honores’!

    Like

    1. Missing paragraph now restored.

      Like

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