x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

It's just not English in the Premier League

That is in fact true. Mottos of a majority of the football clubs in England are in Latin.

The motto on Everton's badge, 'Nil Satis Nisi Optimum', means only the best is enough.
The motto on Everton's badge, 'Nil Satis Nisi Optimum', means only the best is enough.

"Latin's a dead language, as dead as dead can be, it killed off all the Romans but it's big at EFC."

OK, that is not quite the schoolboy rhyme of my youth. However, following an extraordinary few days at Everton FC, the new version may take hold.

Who knows, at this precise moment, a young scamp may be carving it into his desk with a compass, or whatever the modern equivalent is. Twinking it onto his Facespace, perhaps?

Robert Elstone, Everton's chief executive, was forced to make a humiliating U-turn after launching a modified club crest which would, the marketing men said, improve and unify global branding. (Translation: we need a simpler badge so the factories knocking out cheap shirts abroad can get it right.)

Several parts of the old design were removed, including a pair of laurel wreaths and the railings around Prince Rupert's Tower. (Long story.)

The omission which caused the gravest offence among Evertonians, however, was the scroll bearing the club motto "Nil Satis Nisi Optimum". Only the best is good enough.

More than 20,000 Evertonians signed a petition demanding the old crest be re-instated. Eventually the club capitulated to fan pressure.

They will keep the offending badge for this season but pledged to design a new one, with proper consultation of fans, in time for the start of next season.

Will that one feature the Latin motto? Does the genitive plural always end in -um?! (For the non-Evertonians, that means yes.)

Now, those of you who have visited Goodison Park on a match day might be forgiven for assuming the Gwladys Street End is not a hot bed for the classics. Not unless you mean Reebok Classics.

Well, evidently you were wrong. They love a bit of "amo, amas, eh mate".

Cruel rival fans might also express surprise at the content of Everton's motto, seeing as their last "Optimum" league finish was in 1987.

So perhaps - whisper it – now would be the ideal time to adapt that motto.

"Nil Satis Nisi Optimum. Sed Verberans Vicinis Faciemus." Only the best is good enough. But beating the neighbours will do."

And while we are in tweak mode, why stop with Everton? Plenty of Premier League giants have Latin mottos.

Arsenal's is "Victoria Concordia Crescit", or "Victory comes from harmony", which might explain a few things.

How about something more upbeat: "Quarta Nova Primo." Fourth is the new first.

Chelsea's motto is "Nisi Domius Frustra". Unless God is with us, all will be in vain.

Suggested addition: "Sine Romano, Omnium Indebitatur." Without Roman, all will be in debt.

West Bromwich Albion originally adopted the town's motto of "Labor Omnia Vincit", or "Work conquers all."

Well, it was either that or "Boing Boing Baggies Boing", which does not look very elegant on a scroll.

Confusingly, "work conquers all" would seem like a much better fit for the ever-industrious Stoke City's motto.

However, it cannot be, because the Potters' preferred mission statement is "Vis Unita Fortior", or United strength is stronger.

United strikers, on the other hand, are often crocked. As the failed Michael Owen experiment proved.

Sunderland's Latin motto, "Consectatio Excellentiae", is rather clever. It means "in pursuit of excellence" - but cunningly offers no guarantees about when, if ever, such a goal will be achieved.

Local rivals Newcastle, meanwhile, have plumped for "Fortiter Defendit Triumphans", or "Triumphing by brave defence".

Under the Kevin Keegan years, presumably, this was changed to "Perniciosasque Triumphans Per Impetum, Deinde Amisso". Triumphing by suicidal attack, then losing.

Bit of mouthful, to be honest. What is wrong with "Ingens Fuste", or "massive club"?

Manchester United have no Latin motto, so we start with a clean slate. A club of such magnitude needs something masterful, something Caesar-esque for the loyal fans.

"Venimus, Vidimus, Vicimus. Transivimus Domum Ad Wigorniensem." We came, we saw, we conquered. We went back home to Worcestershire."

And so to a spot test. Which English football club has the motto: "Superbia In Proelio"?

No, not Tottenham. You are getting understandably confused with "Supermarket in Progress".

No, not Fulham either, although you may hear its well-heeled fans braying that they enjoy football for its "superb proles".

In fact, the answer is Manchester City, and it means "pride in battle" - a quality in short supply towards the end of Roberto Mancini's reign.

Not all football clubs have Latin mottos, of course. Some are in English, of all things.

Premier League new boys Cardiff City's badge says "Fire and Passion", although when they play Leeds it should probably read "Fire, Police and Ambulance".

And arguably the simplest motto to grace a crest is the single English word "Prepared", beneath a lion rampant.

Its owner, ironically, is a place where Latin should feel at home: Villa.

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