Saturday, January 14, 2006

New Jersey's Self-Esteem Problem

Last spring, while my friend Jon and I were driving through the Northeast and the appropriately titled Rust Belt, we had a trusty road atlas that included the motto for every state. These ranged from the well-known (New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die") to the blunt (Utah's "Industry"), to sly commentaries on real-estate markets (New York's "Ever Upward"), to the feminist-angering (Maryland's "Manly Deeds, Womanly Words"), to the maddeningly vague (Idaho's "It Is Perpetual"), to mottos that sounded like future Will Oldham album titles (Connecticut's "He Who Transplanted Still Sustains").

After spending time in several states, we came up with new possibilities for a few of them -- replacing Indiana's "The Crossroads of America," for instance, with "Indiana: The Gateway to Ohio," and changing Ohio's "With God All Things Are Possible" to "Ohio."

New Jersey recently wanted a new state slogan (I should note that this differs from the motto, which will remain "Liberty and Prosperity"). A few months ago, the state paid an ad agency $250,000, and the agency came back with "New Jersey: We'll Win You Over." Needless to say, the state wasn't pleased. Like me, NJ officials probably calculated that such a slogan meant the agency still had to account for $249,998.75.

Now, I like New Jersey. When I was growing up on Long Island, we would sometimes visit family friends in truly beautiful areas of the state that most Turnpike drivers never see. But it is battling an image problem, so rejecting the agency's suggestion and taking the time to find something better was wise. Unfortunately, rather than regrouping and coming up with a sensible alternative, officials asked state residents (New Jerseyans? New Jerseyites? New Jerseytonians?) to send in suggestions. Now, they have a winner: "New Jersey: Come See for Yourself."

Huh? How is this better? It seems to me that both the agency's effort and this new one could be translated as: "New Jersey: Don't Believe the Incredible Number of Crappy Things That People Say About Us. Please. Just Don't."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a number of discussions with my college advisor -- a soft-spoken, young, liberal, and overwhelmingly kind political science professor -- about where I should go to law school. Having never been to many of the places I was considering, I asked his opinion. A couple of the schools I was seriously considering were in the Northeast. When I asked his opinion, he immediately took the materials from New Jersey law schools and told me to throw them away. He then took some that he felt were too close to New Jersey and suggested I get rid of them, too. I was asked him why. His explanation was, "New Jersey is the only place in America that would be improved by a nuclear bomb."

I laughed. He didn't. "Seriously," he said. "They should just bomb that place."

Another professor happened to walk by, so my advisor called him in. He told the other prof that I was considering [insert New Jersey law schools]. The professor twisted his face and said, "Aren't they in New Jersey?" Yes. "No. Nobody should have to live in New Jersey."

I doubt my advisor would make the same joke post-9/11. But it stuck with me. My advisor was fairly cosmopolitan; he'd lived overseas and in a number of cities, including New York City. I'd never heard him say a mean thing to or about anyone. (And that's saying something considering how much time he spent around me.) But I guess a lot of people just don't like New Jersey.

--The Comish (sic)

9:37 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home