Washington University: We’re Bland and That’s Okay
Washington University is a boring name for a 12th-ranked institution of higher learning. Why couldn’t the board of trustees think of a more creative name for our school? We used to be Eliot Seminary back in 1853, but the name was changed a few years later after objections from a blushing William Greenleaf Eliot who said, “Aw, shucks, I’m flattered you named the school after me, but please, wait until I’m dead. Then I’ll give you permission to bestow my name unto a high-rise student dormitory with unreliable and poorly ventilated elevators.” When the board questioned him about this dormitory from the future, Eliot replied, “I have said too much,” and dashed out of the room.
In 1857, the board of trustees named the school Washington University after George Washington, because nobody would ever think to name a school after a man with wooden teeth. How wrong they were! To date, there are approximately one bazillion universities, high schools, and elementary schools with the name “Washington.” Washington is the most common street name in the U.S. I bet somewhere there is an intersection of Washington & Washington that completely baffles MapQuest. Our school’s board of trustees made a grievous error in naming our school after a man who butchered cherry trees in his naâ€¹ve youth.
But perhaps our university’s name is not as bland as we think. I’m two courses away from completing a minor in linguistics, so let’s dissect the name Washington into its three parts (wash-ing-ton) and discover its true meaning. First, ‘wash’ meaning ‘to cleanse with soap and bubbles.’ Then, ‘ing’ which is the common suffix used to form a present participle. Finally, ‘ton’ meaning 2000 lbs. When these three parts are reassembled, the name Washington means “cleansing with 2000 pounds of soap and bubbles.” What the hell? That makes absolutely no sense. Linguistics sucks.
I’m not saying I hate our university’s name. All I’m saying is that we deserve something with more pizzazz, more spunk, more joie de vivre, as the French would say, followed shortly by hohn, hohn, hohn! which is French for “ha, ha, ha!” Sure, there are lots of universities with bland names, but at least they are unique in their blandness. Northwestern University: it was in the Northwest Territory when it was founded in 1851, but western expansion has since made its name seem endearingly foolish. Did all the great minds who founded that school not consider that we’d keep moving west and that perhaps Northwestern would no longer be northwestern? Duh. Locally, there’s St. Louis University: not exciting, but their acronym is SLU, as in, “Sloooooo!” something you would yodel while falling off a cliff. Webster University: commonly thought to be named after Webster Groves by a bunch of nuns, it is kept hush-hush that the school is actually named after the 80s sitcom Webster.
So let’s celebrate what makes us unique. First, our mascot, the Bears. Wait, bad example. The bear is one of the most popular school mascots in the nation, beaten only by the eagle. Southern Illinois University-Carbondale had the right idea to adopt the Saluki as a mascot, a stupid-looking dog that strikes fear in the hearts of absolutely no one, but at least it’s unique. We used to be unique. Our mascot used to be The Pikers, a name that now only lives on through a testosterone-saturated a capella group. What is a Piker, you ask? During the 1904 World’s Fair, “The Pike” was the amusement section of the fair that ran along Lindell Blvd between DeBaliviere and Skinker, so the proximity of the Hilltop campus to The Pike lent us the nickname. In 1925, The Piker was changed to The Battling Bear, represented by a cartoon of a scowling bear wearing a sailor cap. The reason the bear is wearing a sailor cap is because humans are wired in their fight-or-flight response to flee from animals wearing Navy regalia. In 1995, we dropped our aggressive adjective and became, simply, The Bears.
So we’re a blandly-named university with a bland mascot, but that’s okay because everybody thinks we’re located in Washington State anyway. I have a few suggestions for a new university name, but after the board’s unanimous rejection of my idea to change the name of the Psychology Building to Monkeybutt Hall, I was placed on the university’s official “full of shit” list. Despite that, I do think we should change our mascot from the Bears to the Donald Ducks; there’s nothing more intimidating than a pants-less duck wearing a sailor suit top and hoisting a bazooka over one shoulder-oh, the bazooka is my personal touch. Now that’s a mascot fit for a 12th-ranked university!
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