To try to answer the question...Re: "united we stand"

Gordon Mohr gojomo@usa.net
Mon, 8 Apr 2002 09:54:43 -0700


Joe wrote:
> Who started the use of this phrase post-9/11?

I suspect it popped up many places independently, in some
form or another, it's been a slogan of flag-waving solidarity 
since the Revolutionary War, according to the following
discussion [found via Google of course]:

  http://phrases.shu.ac.uk/bulletin_board/8/messages/1013.html

Standing alone, I find it a somewhat odd construction, with 
"united" serving ambiguously as either an adjective modifying 
"we" or an adverb modifying "stand", perhaps needing a comma
("united, we stand") or just reordering ("we stand united")
to be deeply "correct".

When viewed as a fragment of "United we stand, divided we fall",
the reason for promoting "united" to its initial position 
for emphasis is clearer. (Thinking this way, also, the unspoken
completion "divided we fall" could be seen as an unvoiced 
threat/reminder: "we don't want any of that division-that-
leads-to-falling right abount now, folks".)

Perhaps William Safire will devote an "On Language" to it
sometime soon.

On a separate but related issue, I find it odd that people
feel the need to take a perfectly good, broad, graphically
attractive and appropriate symbol like the American flag,
and rather than letting it stand alone with its own power
and many levels of meaning, proceed to dilute and contaminate 
it with adjacent awkward or narrowing  textual messages, like 
"United We Stand" or "God Bless America", typically in some 
atrocious typeface.

I suppose it's just another symptom of different styles of
thinking, where I find solace/strength in clean lines, regular 
shapes, and bright colors, others prefer group chants ("United We
Stand") or appeals to supernatural benevolence ("God Bless
America"). Different kinds for different minds, I guess.

- Gordon



I suspect traditional grammarians would recommend a
comma in there: "United, We Stand".