In the City’s Image: City Slogans and Mottos

To help guide my blog for the next month or so while I gear up for exam season, I’ve decided to start a little series of smaller blog posts which will discuss the images of cities around the world. Lots of pieces fit together like a puzzle to create a city’s image, and I want to examine certain aspects of this kind of puzzle and comment on some examples from around the world. This time I will be discussing city mottos; be ready to read about city flags, demonyms, and landmarks later on, too.

I want to start this one off by asking a question. What do you think of something when it is described as ‘technically beautiful?’ Something that would come to my mind is maybe a piece of art that is technically done very well in its composition and creation, but it just doesn’t sit with me very well. So, it could be argued as technically beautiful, but the personal connection to it just isn’t there for me. Something that you may not think of when you hear this term is Ottawa, Ontario; I bring that up because ‘technically beautiful’ was actually Ottawa’s slogan in 2001, believe it or not. If you cringed at that, then you would agree that slogans have an impact on the creation (or ruin) of a city’s image.

In order for a slogan or motto to effectively market a city, the use of language must be perfectly accurate. (Keep in mind that typically a motto is an historically created name, thus usually isn’t there to market the city but provide a small description of it. Slogans are much more of the marketing material.) Obviously, the word ‘technically’ was not the best choice for Ottawa. Though it may have been somewhat true to a lot of people that Ottawa is technical beautiful, the word ‘technically’ has widely understood connotations which change its meaning to something more sarcastic. A more definite word choice would have possibly been ‘absolutely beautiful’ or ‘almighty beautiful’ where there is no (or at least very little) room for interpretation.

A slogan isn’t just a marketing tactic that appeals to a city’s beauty, though. While beauty is an excellent thing to market (because no one wants to travel to a city that is ugly), a lot of cities incorporate their main industries and histories in their slogans. For example, Kitchener’s motto is ‘prosperity through industry,’ reflecting on the industrious heritage that has contributed to its growth.

Regardless of what city’s merits contribute to its motto or slogan, a city’s slogan has a big effect on its tourism and image as far as it is marketed. Below I’ve included links if you’re curious to read some silly, odd, or brilliant city mottos:

National Post – Canada’s Best, Worst, and Most Confusing City Slogans

City Lab – [American] City Slogans

Wikipedia List of City Mottos

Some favourites from the Wikipedia list:
Karawang, Indonesia: ‘Struggle starting point.’ At least they’re honest.
Valletta, Malta: ‘The most humble city.’ Well, not really now.
Falkirk, Scotland: ‘Strike one, strike all – easier fight with the devil than the children of Falkirk.’ 100% badass motto.

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