Latin's too much like hard yakka

7th July 1995 at 01:00
The upsurge of republicanism in Australia has coincided with the ditching of Latin school mottoes that are seen to be too reminiscent of Mother England.

Antique, and often unintelligible mottoes, such as Ad altiora (to higher things) are being dropped in favour of Aussie expressions that are equally incomprehensible to Poms and Latin scholars. "Fair go" and "Hard Yakka" (hard work) are two favourites.

Another cryptic addition to the new generation of mottoes is "If you don't dig the hole, the post will fall over", which may (or may not) be another celebration of the value of hard work.

The gradual disappearance of the Latin motto has been charted by two Australian academics, John Synott and Colin Symes, who have examined the uniforms, badges and mottoes of more than 500 Queensland schools.

They have concluded that state schools generally choose a phrase that stresses the importance of work and aspiration (Per ardua ad augusta: through hard work to the top) whereas private schools invariably want to reflect goals that are spiritual (Fortes in fide: strong in faith) or chivalric (Honor supra honores: honour above glory).

The Queensland University lecturers also contend that every school motto can be placed in one of six categories: chivalry, religion, knowledge, achievement and aspiration, work, or combinations. But some of the mottoes they collected seem to defy classification: "Only my best for Gympie West" being a case in point.

The full account of Synott and Symes's research appears in the current issue of the British Journal of Sociology of Education, available from Carfax Publishing Company, PO Box 25, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX14 3UE.

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