Over the years, every state has gone through a number of official and unofficial state mottoes and tourism slogans. They’ve earned nicknames — some of which have stuck, some of which haven’t.
Some of those mottoes and slogans are so effective that they can get you longing for the state just by hearing them. Others are so bad that they are great. Still others are so unapologetically brash, that it would be a mistake to ever write them off.
Here are the 15 best state mottoes, slogans, and nicknames.
15. “Uncle Sam’s Pocket Handkerchief” – Delaware
This obscure nickname is only slightly better than being called the armpit of America (New Jersey), but not much. What this nickname has going for it is its sheer ridiculousness and self-deprecating humor while somehow still being patriotic. It’s better to be Uncle Sam’s handkerchief than someone else’s, after all.
14. “Stay Just a Little Bit Longer” – Wisconsin
This motto smacks of desperation. Just like the doo-wop song which (possibly) inspired it, this motto is the equivalent of standing on her front porch and begging her not to go inside yet. Then again, Wisconsin is home to the U.S. Watermelon Seed Spiting Championships. So we might just stay after all.
13. “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” – Kentucky
When all else fails, go with a classic. Used as early as the late 18th century by politicians from Kentucky, the phrase officially became the state motto in 1942.
12. “Razorback State” – Arkansas
Arkansas gets major points for having one of the fiercest nicknames on this list. No one wants to mess with an Arkansas razorback. Not the animal, or the athlete.
11. “Mountaineers are Always Free” – West Virginia
“Mountaineers are Always Free” edges out “Almost Heaven” slightly as the state’s best moniker, despite the latter’s soul-warming connotations. You just can’t argue with “Mountaineers are Always Free.” Try it and you just might end up with a black eye.
10. “Great Potatoes, Tasty Destinations” – Idaho
Come on, Idaho, really? This was the best you could do? What this slogan lacks in creativity, however, it makes up in directness. Because, hey, play to your strengths. Idaho’s strengths are potatoes. And apparently tasty destinations. It gets points for simply being so unapologetic.
9. “Nutmeg State” – Connecticut
This nickname doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you consider that nutmeg is grown in Indonesia. But legend has it that wily Connecticut merchants used to sell fake nutmeg carved out of wood to unsuspecting customers. You’ve got to watch out for those northerners.
8. “Enter a Higher State” – Colorado
There is no possible way that Colorado was not intending to make a pun with this incredible state slogan. With the legalization of marijuana and their elevation in the Rockies, this “Higher State” has one of the U.S.A.’s best slogans.
7. “Georgia on my Mind” – Georgia
A good motto should stay with you long after you’ve read it. There are very few people who can read Georgia’s motto and not be humming Willie Nelson or Ray Charles to themselves hours later. Besides, Georgia’s is one of the only mottoes that makes you long for Georgia, no matter where you are.
6. “Seward’s Folly” – Alaska
It must be tough going through life thinking you were a mistake. Then again, Alaska has proven again and again that its purchase by the former U.S. Secretary of State was a stroke of genius. Now the nickname “Seward’s Folly” seems foolish itself.
5. “Legendary” – North Dakota
North Dakota isn’t messing around. It only needs one word to tell the rest of the world what is going on up there. And you’d best believe that what’s going on is legendary.
4. “Live Free or Die” – New Hampshire
It’s not Live Free or Compromise. New Hampshirites take a very serious stance when it comes to their rights, which they will defend to the death. This motto encapsulates the New Hampshire spirit perfectly.
3. “Big Sky Country” – Montana
With three simple words, this Montana slogan conjures up images of majestic prairies and snow-capped mountains. It simultaneously captures the state and its culture and makes you wish you were there. Bravo, Montana.
2. “Virginia is for Lovers” – Virginia
In a wise move, Virginia dropped the “History” from its state slogan (it used to be “Virginia is for History Lovers). This immediately turned it from one of the dullest slogans to one of the best but begs the question: do you have to be lovers prior to traveling to Virginia? Or is there something in that Virginia soil that works its magic on you and turns you into lovers?
1. “Don’t Mess With Texas” – Texas
What started out as an anti-litter campaign has become a full-scale movement. No other slogan quite captures its state like Don’t Mess With Texas captures Texan pride.