MAD DOG: Motto-less in Iowa

Slogans are everywhere. You see them in advertising, on bumper stickers, and even in politics, where they've been an important part of campaigning from the days of "Tippicanoe and Tyler too" all the way to the just announced Republican Slogan of the New Millennium: "I don't brake for Democrats!" Heck, even the first edition of the Bible was released with the motto "All the Commandments That Are Fit to Print."States need mottoes too, otherwise their economy will suffer. Try to picture souvenir shops filled with blank bumper stickers, plastic key chains with just the kid's name on it, and T-shirts without -- gasp! -- anything at all on them. Not to mention how pitiful it would look if the space at the bottom of their license plates read: "This Space For Rent."So it's not surprising that Iowa is in such an uproar over their motto. Well, that and the fact that they have little else to do once the hogs are fed for the day. You see, their motto, well -- it sucks. It's so bad that when highway crews went out to take the old governor's name off the signs, the new one told them not to put his up there. It's: "Iowa, You Make Me Smile." Let me know when you get back from the bathroom so I can continue.So now there's a new Official Game of Iowa -- dreaming up the next state motto. So far they've been suggesting things like "Iowa -- It's Not As Flat As You Think" and "Eat Pork or Die," but there's been no decision yet, just a lot of talk show air time filled and Letters to the Editor printed.Other states don't seem to have this problem. New Jersey is perfectly happy being the Garden State, even though the rest of us don't get it. And Utah seems to like being the Beehive State, even though a lot of their license plates read "Ski Utah!" For years Virginia has used the slogan "Virginia Is For Lovers" and no one's been up in arms over that. This in spite of the fact that they still have laws against living together, oral sex, and holding hands with a dog in public.Land is a word you see in a lot of state and city mottoes. Illinois is the "Land of Lincoln." New Mexico is the "Land of Enchantment." Poor Minnesota, though, is just "10,000 Lakes" because their first choice, Land O' Lakes, was already taken. Land of 1,000 Dances is still open the last I checked, but there's a rumor some country line dancers in Texas are trying to lay claim to it.It's time states sat down to rethink their mottoes. After all, we're about to embark on a new century. California, where Jose was the most popular boys' name in 1998, could switch to "No Way, Jose." Alabama, where vibrators and sex toys were outlawed last year, should consider the slogan: "Alabama. At Least You Won't Go Blind." North Dakota, where parking meters are illegal, could attract an influx of tourists with the motto: "Park Free or Die." And of course Minnesota should switch theirs to the obvious: "Our Governor Can Beat Up Your Governor."Cities have mottoes too. New Orleans is "The Big Easy." Baker, California is the "Gateway to the Mojave Desert." Salt Lake City, a virtually spotless place where everything is under construction -- from the main interstate highway to every hotel in town -- should consider using "The Cleanest Detour in America." Unfortunately it looks like "Don't You Wish You Bought The Olympics?" is going to win out, but only because someone forgot to pay the International Motto Committee's first class plane fare.Pasadena, where one of this year's grand marshals of the Rose Parade was the long-dead baseball player Jackie Robinson, should think about: "Living Is Optional." Newark, New Jersey might consider "At Least We Have An Airport." And there's a rumor that Redmond, Washington, home of Microsoft, is officially changing its motto to: "Bill's."I'm surprised no one's taken the next logical step -- corporate sponsorship. After all, they do it for arenas, stadiums, bowl games, and even parades. (That's right, this year it's the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Festival in San Francisco.) Think about how easily they could increase state revenues while lowering taxes if they'd just let corporations kick in a few bucks. We could have Doritos Texas, Intel California, and Sunkist Florida. Cities could get in on this too. Morton's Salt could sponsor Seattle, giving them the natural, "When It Rains It Pours." But sometimes all the mottoes in the world are superfluous. There's one place in the country which has a name so perfect that a motto is completely unnecessary. It's about 80 miles east of Grand Junction, Colorado, right off I-70. It's a city called No Name. They should all be so easy.

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