4

The high school of my town (Oak Park, Illinois) has the following Greek quote as its motto (introduced in 1908), presumably offering its best to the nation, or else giving its students the best provisions (who knows?)

Τὰ γ᾽ ἄριστα ούδὲν οὐ μὴν ἐπιμήνια.

Could you source the quote?

I copied it off the local newspaper a few years ago, and I have failed to even locate that paper. I have done all the TLG searches and googlings, chopping up the quote, using capitals, etc... but nothing suggestive came of it.The first word is carved in stone all over that high-school, but it is a bland excellence meme, not the offerings or provisions woven in...

9
  • 2
    I can't find anything similar in the TLG, and honestly this doesn't make any sense to me. Are you sure this is the complete quote? I've never seen "ούδὲν οὐ μὴν."
    – brianpck
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 16:19
  • This is all I could find. That's why I am asking here. "Nothing but". Sounds right. Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 16:23
  • 2
    My question was whether you are sure this is the complete motto: that's not the usual way of saying "nothing but," and in fact those three words are never used as a continuous particle phrase in the whole corpus of ancient Greek...
    – brianpck
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 16:31
  • 3
    Wiki has nothing on the second half of the phrase. Everything I've seen online suggest it's only Τὰ γ᾽ ἄριστα. Can you get a picture or anything that shows it in its entirety?
    – cmw
    Commented Jun 10, 2022 at 2:32
  • 1
    As I suggested, the quote I am providing is what I copied off the local newspaper a few years ago, and I have failed to even locate that paper. I have done all the TLG searches and googlings, etc, searches the commenters appear to be doing, myself, chopping up the quote, using capitals, etc... but nothing suggestive came of it. The first word is carved in stone all over that high-school, but it is a bland excellence meme, not the offerings or provisions woven in... That's the point of my asking, hoping it might ring a bell, and I could better understand it, which it clearly didn't. Commented Jun 11, 2022 at 0:31

2 Answers 2

11

The line is, in fact:

Τα γ’αριστα ουδεν ημιν αμεινονα

It would seem that, somewhere along the line, it has been transcribed incorrectly. I can just imagine a harried reporter hearing the line and scrambling to commit it to paper!

It does not appear to be a quotation of anything but was rather "suggested" by the school principal, John Calvin Hanna, in 1900 as the school's motto (according to my source but I note that the school itself says 1908 on its present-day website).

It was incorporated into a school chant, in Greek and in lyric form no less, and apparently “may be rendered freely ‘… The best is not at all too good for us!’”

You can read the chant, and its history here, in a scrapbook that either was kept for or by Ernest Hemingway, from 1914 to 1917, and held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum - see pages 18 and 19.

Today, the only surviving remnant of all this Hellenistic zeal are the words τα γ’αριστα emblazoned on the school crest, reflected in the school's much reduced motto of "those things which are the best".

4
  • Hah! You seem to explain the madness! I can picture a journalist belting the song to a UC classicist who struggled to reconstruct it… Commented Jun 11, 2022 at 9:45
  • 5
    Impressive find!
    – cmw
    Commented Jun 11, 2022 at 15:22
  • 3
    @cmw I was looking for information about the principal who coined the motto, on the assumption that he must have intended it to make sense so hoped to find his explanation of what it meant. I'm not quite sure how I found the scrapbook but you wouldn't believe my excitement when I flipped through it and found that booklet!!!
    – Penelope
    Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 8:07
  • Indeed, the syntax sounds tortured to my amateur ear... "οὐδὲν ἀμείνονα τὰ ἄριστα" ? Adverbial "οὐδὲν ~ in no way", but... – Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 18:17
5

The Wiki article on the school has nothing on the second half of the phrase, and searching yields nothing.

The closest I got is an English motto—"Nothing but the Best"—which I found in an AP article via Lexis, "Hemingway Hometown, Relatives to Mark 90th Anniversary of Writer's Birth".

My best guess, in light of the evidence, is that a mistake was made somewhere.

One possibility is that the mistake was on your end. As you can see from the paper, it has the English phrase "nothing but the best," and maybe you filled it in or "translated" it or something. This was some years ago, right?

The other possibility is that the paper made a mistake. They got half of it, but bungled the rest. Journalists aren't Hellenists, after all.

The final is that the school used to have this motto, but someone pointed out that it was incorrect, and they have since dropped it. This was before the internet, so it didn't make its way online, but perhaps a local paper somewhere can be found that can clarify that history.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.