Officially speaking

Bored of reading the side of a milk carton while waiting for my life-restoring coffee to be brewed earlier today, I turned my attention to the noticeboard that hangs from the wall in the kitchen. Among the charitable appeals and health and safety notices pinned to the board was an official New York notice, giving some statistics on the state including the capital, population, size and climate. Nothing strange in that – after all, it’s always good to get a bit of background on the state in which you live and work.

But nothing could really prepare me for the list that sat beneath it.

Don’t get me wrong, every state and every country has its official emblem. Wales, my home country, has the daffodil and (vaguely inexplicably) the leek, while England proudly displays the red rose. But one official symbol apparently isn’t enough for New York – not according to the lengthy list of official state emblems and products that the state has acquired over the last fifty years of so.

An official New York State flower I can understand, even if there is a certain lack of originality about the choice of the rose. But given that it was chosen in 1955, I’ll let it go. Apparently most states also have an official animal and fruit, although New York waited until 1975 to select the beaver…and then deliberated and cogitated for another year before picking out the humble apple.

But having covered the normal bases, New York obviously got into the swing of the things.

Now, I’m as much of a fan of fossils as the next man, but who knew that New York State really needed an official fossil in the form of the sea scorpion? It wasn’t selected until 1984, so maybe it was just an elaborate ploy to detract attention from Los Angeles which was hosting the Olympics that year? That doesn’t explain the selection of the bay scallop as the official New York State shell though, it has to be said.

The brook or speckled trout is obviously the official fish, although limited research shows a distinct lack of originality given that they share said aforementioned fish with Michigan, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Such widespread devotion must give the speckled trout quite an ego, although putting in an appearance at all the official state occasions presumably gets a little wearisome at times.

New York even has an official beverage, in the shape of milk. Milk wasn’t chosen until 1981, so I can only assume that Mountain Dew was usurped by the dairy giant in a bloodless (but creamy) coup.

Most astonishingly of all, New York State has an official muffin. Now, I’m sure that apple muffins are very pleasant, particularly when eaten alongside a glass of Official Milk. But I still wish that I could have been a fly-on-the-wall in 1987 when the state authorities decided that they needed an official baked goods product. Bagel and hamburger bun manufacturers must have been cursing that day, I can tell you.

As far as I can make out, New York hasn’t chosen an official emblem since 1989, when the ladybirdbug was selected as the official New York State insect (no, I don’t know why they need an official insect either). After 18 years of relative quiet, I think it’s time to crack open the statute books and add some new symbols of all that makes New York stand out. Any suggestions for Official Excuse For Mass Transportation Delays are more than welcome.

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