Michigan’s motto makes my mind meander

The United States has the Latin motto E pluribus unum, ‘From many, one,’ which reflects the fact that the country came into being when 13 former British colonies united.* Many of the individual states, and not just the original 13, also have Latin mottos. Michigan’s is unusually long: “Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice,” which means “If you’re seeking a pleasant peninsula, look around you.” Spanish speakers will recognize in amoenam the source of their own adjective ameno ‘pleasant, lovely, delightful.’ The corresponding Latin noun amoenitas has given us amenidad/amenity ‘entertaining quality, pleasantness,’ with English adding the sense ‘a feature that makes living or working pleasant.’ In the plural, English amenities has taken on the meaning ‘agreeable manners, social graces.’

Unlike English, which doesn’t even have a version of the basic adjective, Spanish has used its adjective ameno to generate a verb, amenizar, which means ‘to make pleasant, liven up.’ The corresponding noun amenización means ‘a brightening up, an enlivening,’ which of course is what I hope this post has been for you today. For me it has been not only pleasant, but the 250th in this continuing series.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

* I hope you’ll give me some bonus points for not saying, as so many people now do, “united together.” Unite by itself already means ‘come together.’ Has there ever been an instance of two things uniting apart? I think not.


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If you encounter an unfamiliar technical term in any of these postings, check the Glossary in the bar across the top of the page.
©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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