Nicknames and mascots

The announcement for the 2013 Linguistic Institute, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, comes with this great graphic:

That’s a ferocious wolverine, the university’s mascot. Don’t mess with a wolverine.

On the wolverine, from Wikipedia:

The wolverine …, Gulo gulo (Gulo is Latin for “glutton”), also referred to as glutton, carcajou, skunk bear, or quickhatch, is the largest land-dwelling species of the family Mustelidae (weasels). It is a stocky and muscular carnivore, more closely resembling a small bear than other mustelids. The wolverine has a reputation for ferocity and strength out of proportion to its size, with the documented ability to kill prey many times its size.

The creature is closely related neither to wolves nor to bears, but to ferrets, weasels, otters, badgers, and stoats. You don’t want to run across it in an alley on a dark night.

Then on the Institute — see the website here — on “Universality and Variability”, June 24 to July 19, 2013:

No one theoretical perspective explains language in all of its complexity. This is why the 2013 LSA Institute at the University of Michigan brings together diverse areas of linguistics and integrates different approaches and methodologies. Courses and lectures capture cognitive, universalist, functionalist, socio-cultural and descriptive approaches to linguistics, as well as practical topics such as experimental, computational and mathematical methodologies.

Be stimulated by a diverse range of perspectives, explore new methodologies, be taught by prominent scholars and innovators and be part of emerging synergies in the field of linguistics.

After classes, enjoy the mild summer climate in a culturally vibrant Ann Arbor, featuring street festivals, music performances, markets, museums and restaurants.

The faculty includes the endowed institute professors:

Edward Sapir Professor: Janet Pierrehumbert, Northwestern University

Herman and Klara H. Collitz Professor: Lyle Campbell, University of Hawaii, Manoa

Ken Hale Professor: Keren Rice, University of Toronto

and the sponsored professors:

American Dialect Society Professor: Walt Wolfram, North Carolina State University

Dictionary Society of North America Professor: Orin Hargraves, independent scholar

plus two more Forum Lecturers (Noam Chomsky and Walt Wolfram) and a huge roster of instructors from around the world.

Now, the wolverine as the Michigan mascot. University sports nicknames/mascots tend to be ferocious animals — the Berkeley bear, the UCLA bruin, the Penn State lion, the Kentucky wildcat, the Ohio University bobcat — but there are other themes in mascot selection. American Indian themes used to be common; Stanford was the Indians, until that was abandoned in favor of the cardinal (the color; the on-field mascot is a tree, as in Palo Alto ‘tall tree’), and Illinois had Chief Illiniwek, until that too was abandoned in 2007 after rancorous debate.

Next door to Michigan, Wisconsin has the badger, which can be ferocious, and beyond that Minnesota has the gopher, a prairie animal but not especially fierce. To the south and going west, there are the Ohio State buckeyes (the hard nuts of the buckeye tree, related to chestnuts and horse chestnuts), the Indiana hoosiers, the Indiana State sycamores (the history is very complex), the Illinois still-to-be-named-mascot, the Illinois State redbirds, the Iowa hawk(eye)s, the Illinois State cardinals, the Nebraska (corn)huskers, and the Wyoming cowboys. Not fierce territory.

Going west from Minnesota, there are the University of South Dakota coyotes, the South Dakota State jackrabbits, the University of North Dakota teams, which were the (fighting) Sioux until this June (again, a complex history), counterposed to the North Dakota State bison, and the Montana grizzlies. Tougher territory.

(Then on the silly side there’s Evergreen State’s geoduck and UC Santa Cruz’s banana slug; see here.)

Most of these teams have named personified mascots: Michigan’s Biff the Wolverine, Wisconsin’s Bucky Badger, Ohio State’s Brutus Buckeye, Ohio University’s Rufus the Bobcat, Montana’s Monte (a grizzly), Wyoming’s Pistol Pete (a cowboy), Berkeley’s Oski (the bruin), Minnesota’s Goldy Gopher, Iowa’s Herky the Hawk, UCSC’s Sammy the Slug, and so on.

A final shot: a 10 Strangest College Mascots site, with the UCSC banana slug and the Stanford tree, plus:

Without a doubt, one of the strangest college sports mascots has to be Scrotie, the unofficial mascot of the Rhode Island School of Design.

The costume is unique and at the same time horrific, looking exactly like a giant penis wearing a red cape with the scrotum hanging beneath.

The school’s basketball team is known as the Balls, and their slogan is, “When the heat is on, the Balls stick together.” The hockey team is called the Nads, and their cheer is “Go Nads!” The cheerleaders for the Nads are commonly known as the “Jockstraps” (since they support the Nads). The yearly hockey game with rival college Cooper Union is known as the “Supportive Cup.”

Scrotie was created to cheer on the Nads in 2001. Despite his status as an unofficial mascot, he’s present at all the games and widely accepted by the student body. Of course, no self-respecting administration could actually approve such silliness.

Scrotie on the ice:

Oh my.

One Response to “Nicknames and mascots”

  1. Bryant Says:

    Go geoducks!

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