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Idle American

Maximizing Mascot Mix-ups


The State of Texas is known far and wide for its citizens’ love of football. Taken a step further, names of school mascots can cause head-scratching and sometimes absolute disbelief when their plural names are discovered.

There are some “doozies.” I don’t know if Trivial Pursuit is often a game of choice these days, but Googling for what groups of creatures are called can help us understand why name foul-ups can produce heat when games--trivial or football--are taken seriously.

The public address announcer at a recent play-off football game in Crowley between Brownwood High School and Springtown High School learned quickly that fans of both schools want “plural” of their team mascots to be “done up right.” And, since football is a team sport, the guy at the microphone described multiple Lions and Porcupines numerous times.

It was brought to his attention that referencing Lions and Porcupines as being in packs or bunches simply wouldn’t get it done.

The poor announcer already had much on his plate, what with scheduling commercials, pronouncing players’ names correctly and discharging other verbal responsibilities. He may have been caught unawares. In previous games, he probably wasn’t challenged when referring to multiple players as being in packs or bunches.

He took correction well, however, and subsequent plural references were spot on. It’s not news to many folks that two or more lions constitute a pride, but I’m thinking one might need to be closely involved with Springtown athletics to know the plural of “porcupine.” So you’ll know in the future, when we’re talkin’ two or more porcupines, they are a “prickle of porcupines.” Now you know, and so does that public address announcer. (An aside: With Pickleball the new “semi-athletic” game rage, they’ll understandably come up with something called “Prickleball” in Springtown.)

Researching the subject of plural names for animals, birds and other creatures fascinates to the max. Often, two, three or even more names are deemed acceptable.

In the case of guinea fowls, plural names differ, depending on whether they are on the ground or in flight. On the ground, they are a gaggle.

Once in flight, they become a flock. (One of ‘em--waddling around on earth or flying alone in search of his or her flock--remains a goose.)

Remember, you read it here first….

Without leaving this general topic, let us segue to acronyms, some that are confounding and bitterly misunderstood. An example is the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport in California. When founded, it was called Fresno Air Terminal. Therein is the reason for its airport code: “FAT.”

One woman--unaccustomed to flying--was indignant at the luggage carousel, upset that “FAT” was printed in large letters on each bag tag.

“I’ll blame it on artificial intelligence this time,” she said. “But if I ever visit Fresno again, they’d better ‘smarten up.’ I don’t want to see anything about my weight, on luggage tags or otherwise.”

A former travel agent provided the previous account from her list of “you-ain’t-gonna-believe-this” memories.

She remembers one guy who had super-sensitive eyes that called for eyedrops multiple times daily. The travel agent learned this when she asked him if he preferred a window or an aisle seat.

“Oh, an aisle seat for sure,” he replied. “I have a terrible time if anything blows into my eyes; if I took a window seat, someone might open a window. No telling what might blow in at 35,000 feet.”

While on the topic of air travel, it seems there is a diminishing number of regional airlines. Though it slowly grew to major status, Texas International Airlines started out as Trans Texas Airways. It included service to smaller towns in Texas, some with population as small as 6,000.

It had numerous nicknames, including “Tree-Top Airways” and “Tinker Toy Airways.”

Some wag jokingly described Trans Texas Airways thusly: “Trick or Treat Airways,” adding, “a trick to get on and a treat to get off.”

Dr. Newbury, longtime university president, writes weekly and speaks throughout Texas. Contact by phone: 817-447-3872; email, newbury@speakerdoc.com.


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