Tuesday, March 07, 2006

family motto

Today i have been killing some time between looking at old linguistics papers by trying to improve the format and function of this website, trying to put some of the old dynamism and extensibility into its DXHTML. So I have been adding a few buttons into the sidebar and reworking the footer, but now I want to do something about header, perhaps even the title to be even more distinctive. Alas it has not been to fruitful on that goal, just as its not helping me with my research, but I have found pictures of a strange artifact while trying to find my family motto.

Not to brag, but I have family going back directly through early colonial Massachusetts to the deck of the Mayflower, so figure there must be a motto inscribed somewhere. Lo and behold, I found one version of the motto, presumably the real one, on the only known Chinese exported silver cider jug of the 19th century:
The assemblage also includes the family crest in elaborate form, which I had already seen on a framed plaque I bought at the Eastern States Exposition when I was younger. The shield has a stripe of red running diagonally from top left to bottom right with a chain of diamonds on it:A curious detail is the lightning-blasted (not really chopped but jaggedly broken) tree stump which appears both top the shield and as a detail on the cap, a classic Freudian castration symbol. But also of regeneration with its single sprouting leaf. The motto is 'Decoptus florio', which Spencers translates effusively as:"The truth, crushed to the earth, shall rise again."...although I really have a few doubts as to the accuracy of, unless it is only part of a larger quote. Then again, some concepts, even in Latin, are not easily collapsible. However, it does make for an inspiring subtitle.

While reading about a distant relation who left America to help found New Brunswick, it becomes clear that the American Revolution forced some serious quality-of-life changes:
The American revolution brought real suffering and deprivation to the Winslow family. Eventually his aged parents, his two maiden sisters, and his own young family had to abandon their beloved Plymouth and huddle as indigent exiles in the garrison town of New York, totally dependent on Edward and the British army for their future. Their distress pained Winslow deeply the war also brought Winslow’s personal talents and sensibilities into brilliant juxtaposition: his gallantry, his organizational flair, and his passionate sympathies all expanded and found new purpose. His periodic visits to the loyalist army units and his work with the muster rolls and pay sheets brought him into frequent contact with the men of the regiments and he established a close bond with all ranks of loyalist soldiers. Like them, he deeply resented British favouritism to rebel deserters, “scoundrels who have just emerged from the very center of rebellion,” over the steadfast loyalist corps. Like them, he based his hopes on the outcome of the war. And like them also, he increasingly blamed Great Britain for the frustration of those hopes: “There has been such a damnable series of treating & retreating – pidling, Conciliating – & commissionering that fighting (which is the only remedy for the American disorder) has been totally suspended.” The loyalist troops’ disdain for British timidity reached its height with General Sir Henry Clinton, who provoked Winslow’s most scathing comments: “The Stupor which Seemd to seize his Excy, & which nothing short of a Supernatural event can rouse him from – effectually prevented any military enterprise.”
Ok...but that wouldn't explain why this motto, presumably laid down earlier before such hardship, would talk about an beaten but undying truth. Its strange pawing through legions of similarly named people of the past, who could both be named John and one could live 2 years and another the following 88, but all you will be able to find anywhere is a line in a book or a table in a database.

When I look for my mom's family, it gets even weirder, not only are they not sure what the name Baima is descended from at ancestry.com, the closest guess is that its from Frisian (from the natives of the north of the Netherlands), itself from an unknown 'son-of-somebody' construction(Bajema). It is also the name of a vanishing Tibeto-Burman language and most strangely, and I dunno if I am any relation...a transgendered drag queen who appeared in Marilyn Manson's Dope Show video! i wonder what the motto on that side is...Decoptus Florio suddenly seems appropriate here as well.

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