The Top 5 Strangest National Mottos

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Attempting to sum up the spirit of an entire nation in a few choice words is no simple undertaking. Perhaps that’s why many countries have decided not to adopt official mottos at all. And the inherent difficulty of defining a country with a single expression is certainly why so many of the world’s sovereign states have such miserable maxims! Some national mottos speak in lofty, sweeping terms, such as our own E Pluribus, Unum, or “One From Many.” Many national mottos speak of unity and progress. Of course, we can also find some from the fringe…

5 Turks and Caicos

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When a country has chosen a national motto clearly designed as a hook for tourists, you have to wonder how genuinely they mean it. The motto of Turks and Caicos is “Beautiful by Nature, Clean by Choice.” However, much of this semi-autonomous island nation is covered by moldering towns peopled with the impoverished. The government has had frequent problems with corruption charges, and the economy of Turks and Caicos is largely built off its status as a tax haven. So maybe much of the region is beautiful, but little of it is clean.

4 Chile

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Chile’s motto might seem to refer to its years under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, but it is actually in reference to the nation’s struggle for independence from Spain during the 19th century. Proudly emblazoned across Chile’s coat of arms are the words “Por la razón o la fuerza,” meaning “By reason or by force.” What a great motto, when you think about it! “Hey, you guys want to talk this little problem through like rational human beings? No? Then hand me that goddamn hammer, it’s about to get real in here!”

3 Bermuda

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The official motto of Bermuda reads more like a line from a William Blake poem than a statement of national pride or conviction. While most countries talk about unity, faith and all that stuff, Bermudans apparently prefer to say “Hell with it all, it is what it is!” No, seriously: their motto is “Quo Fata Ferunt,” which means “Whither the Fates Carry Us!” It is in reference to a 1609 shipwreck in which a crew of Brits ran aground on reefs off the island to keep from losing their ship in a storm; apparently that sense of fatalism has permeated the island’s character ever since.

2 Austria

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For being a rather docile, unassuming nation these days, Austria sure dreamt big back when it was part of an empire. In the 15th century, under the rule of the Hapsburgs, Austria assumed a maxim they still nominally use to this day. It is an acronym, A.E.I.O.U. that stood for something in German translated as either “All the world is subject to Austria” or “It is Austria's destiny to rule the whole world.” Frankly, we don’t think either interpretation is exactly correct.

1 North Korea

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We guess the DPRK didn’t like being called The Hermit Kingdom, so instead the adopted the motto “A Prosperous and Great Country.” Now, let’s clear the airwaves here: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is hardly a democracy in the first place, so you gotta watch what these guys say. They’re… not… honest. Thus when they say “prosperous and great,” what they meant to say was “destitute and wretched.” But hey, they tried, right?