Monday, October 09, 2006

what's in a name

Don't get me wrong. I love college football. It's those team nicknames that have me wondering, confused and amused. Whose idea was it, anyway, to attach nicknames to our athletic teams? Why couldn't they be left alone to be known simply by the institution's name that they represent?

Granted, some of the names are ok, even inspiring. Some of them aren't embarrassing. Some of them even inspire dread among their opponents. Like Spartans and Trojans. But there are still some that are decidedly politically incorrect like Seminoles, Souix, Aztecs, and maybe Illini, although that could go either way. You'd think that in this day of rampant PCism, that that horrible warchant that spoils the autumn air in Florida would cause the Natives to rise up a smite those idiots with a real war axe upside their collective heads.

Using the name of a verocious animal, or at least a tough critter, seems to be the way a lot of teams like to go. You have your Huskies, Razorbacks, Longhorns, Bulldogs, Tigers, Lions, Panthers, Wolverines (though my guess is that there hasn't been a real live Wolverine spotted in Michigan in at least a hundred years), Badgers (again, if anyone has actually seen a Badger of the animal variety anytime within the past 150 years or so in Wisconsin, please contact the DNR immediately), Hawks, Eagles, and an assortment of other fearsome beasts that have a local flavor or meaning. But you also get some Ducks (ooh, ooh, here come the cute little duckies) and Gophers (damn those petty little nuisances in my lawn). And let's not forget the made-up names that are somewhat animalistic, but not real, like Hawkeyes (I guess they can just see you coming really well) and Wildcats (look out, honey, here come those awful Undomesticated Pussies).

Of course we can't really find fault with the names that show some respct for the history of a particular region like Sooners, Cornhuskers, and Boilermakers, although if I was attending Oklahoma, Nebraska, or Purdue, my career goals would probably not include being a wagon driver, a farm hand, or a sheetmetal worker. But that's just me.

I'm not totally sure what a Buckeye is other than it originated in Ohio. Somekind of nut I think. So Ohio State players are a bunch of nuts. Or just nuts. That pretty much explains Ohio.

But the really weird names that have no satisfying explanation or ascertainable origin are what make me wonder if these are really institutions of higher learning we're dealing with. Can anyone satisfactorily explain the derivation of Hoosier? I get hoosier confused a lot of the time with hosery, so I tend to think of Indiana's players as a bunch of guys with really nice socks. And please, someone, anyone, explain to me what a Nittany lion is. Is Nittany a place (as in, I went to Nittany yesterday, but it was closed) or a description (as in, oh, Bruce, you look so nittany in that outfit)? I'm dying to know who came up with that one. Penn State probably awards graduate credits to anyone who can offer a clear explanation of Nittany.

Just some things to think about while you watch the next round of games this weekend. I know I'll be looking forward to the
Badgers turning those pesky Gophers into roadkill.

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