Thursday, September 25, 2008

UPDATE: Old North State motto lost in translation?

Last week or so I posted this query about an old N.C. state seal.

Came across an old book, American Symbols: The Seals and Flags of the Fifty States by M. B. Schnapper, which includes an interesting (and up until now unknown-to-me) history about North Carolina's state seal.

One of Nostre Caroline's early seals (around 1663) includes the phrase "Que Sera Tamen Respexit." This obviously predates the motto of "Esse Quam Videri" (To Be Rather Than To Seem), which was authorized in the 1890s.

The question, for you Latin experts out there, is what does that old motto actually mean?I went to an expert (an Internet translation site) which spit this out:"And sera nothwithstanding regard."

Somehow, I don't think this is what King Charles II had in mind.Obviously, "que sera" means " what will be will be." But what about the rest of it. For the record, Schnapper never divulges it either.

No one ever came forth to answer this question, so I went to an expert.

"The line comes from Virgil, Eclog 1, line 27: 'Libertas, quae sera tamen respexit inertem . . .'" replied Zola Packman, an assistant language professor at N.C. State University and a Latin expert.

Packman states that "Que Sera Tamen Respexit" "roughly" translates to "Liberty, which, (though) late (in life), looked upon (me), inactive (as I was)."

"The speaker is an ex-slave, so the liberty spoken of was meant to be that of a free, ie non-slave, man," Packman responded in an email. "I suppose that when used as a motto it must be understood to refer to a population, or an area, and that the freedom is meant to be understood as freedom from foreign occupation."

Thanks for the feedback! And how cool is it that there is a professor named "Packman" at NCSU?


James C. said...

Yeah, that's gotta be a pseudonym he put down on his resume when applying for the State job.

The name on his Carolina resume was probably Kenan Sheepenstein.

Anonymous said...

That, or "Clay Aiken."

Yeah, I went there.

James C. said...

Wild man!

M. Lail said...

Wow. That's just ... wow.