‘Hayseed” and other put-down terms generally get showered on rural folk by us urbanites. We’ve looked at people from neighboring towns as rustics, while we, in the big city of Las Vegas, are urban sophisticates.
Basketball teams arriving from any of the small schools that once dotted northern New Mexico in the ‘50s had funny ways of handling the ball, or cheering. Our teams, on the other hand, the epitome of sauvity, knew all the LeBron James moves, even before LeBron was conceived (of).
Listening to high school sports on radio makes me wonder how and why particular nomenclature evolved. Specifically, how and why do teams have their nicknames?
But let’s start on the farm in the mid-‘60s:
Never one to miss a chance to get work out of a city-slicker, my father-in-law tried to make me useful at his place in Springer. Once he invited/ ordered me to “go to the corral and check out the ‘male cow.’“
What a strange contradiction of terms! I thought, yet half expecting to see a milk-producing bull, or a cow that could gore matadors, or a stocky, beefy Bessie. Well, what we saw was an ordinary bull. And why had S.E. Coppock called it a male cow? Seems that his rural, Victorian, ministerial ancestors just couldn’t bring themselves to using “bull.”
A male cow is just a bull, but we can’t use the b- word in polite company. Some agrarians even eschewed the “leg” or “breast” in reference to poultry, preferring “light meat” and “dark meat.”
Members of the animal kingdom, particularly on farms, usually are differentiated by sex. Thus, a boar is a male hog; a sow is female. A bull is male; a cow is female. A ram is male; the ewe is female. Ewe get the picture?
There’s a movie, “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez,” filmed partially on our Old Town Plaza, in which a man got the noose because law enforcement officials thought he was being untruthful.
In broken Spanish, the sheriff asks a man, who speaks no English, about a stolen horse. The lawman uses “caballo,” in the sense of male horse.
The Spanish speaker replies that he never saw the horse; instead he saw “una yegua,” which means mare. Well, he got into trouble for failing to decipher the lawman’s spurious, hasty translation.
Now back to the classifications:
Most professional athletic teams choose living animals as their mascot. There are birds (Eagles, Cardinals, Seahawks), fish (Sting Rays, Dolphins, Marlins), jungle, forest and farm creatures (Bears, Cougars, Panthers), and people (Raiders, Yankees, Patriots).
Some teams have no human or animal traits, as in Jazz, Blues, Sting, Hurricane. These teams usually don’t pluralize their names, so it’s one Sting but two or more Sting.
Before Title IX, there were few girls’ and women’s teams, and accordingly, nicknames weren’t a factor. Once females began dribbling, kicking and batting balls, for the most part, they simply tagged the word “Lady” to a boys’ or men’s team whose mascot was clearly already masculine.
Listening to Manny Lucero broadcast state tournament games last week, I wondered what a Lady Ram would look like. Is that different from a Male Cow? Remember, a ram is male, a ewe is female. Why can’t they be the Portales Ewes?
Another case: If the boys’ team is called the St. Michael’s Horsemen, then the female counterparts ought to be Horsewomen, right?
Wrong! Some genius came up with Lady Horsemen. Or the Northern Arizona University team, known as the Lumberjacks, has a counterpart that someone suggested naming the Lumberjills. But no, let’s go for Lady Lumberjacks instead. Isn’t a lumberjack a male anyway?
Some schools with girls’ teams have converted the male mascot to the female equivalent, as has Carlsbad High School, whose teams are the Cavemen and the Cavegirls. And the NMHU women’s teams are the Cowgirls, not the Cowboy Girls.
Fortunately, some teams have nicknames that can apply to either sex. There are Cardinals, Colts, Brewers, Celtics, Blue Devils. When we were growing up, our Immaculate Conception Colts took on the Mora Rangers (a unisex name) and the St. Gertrude’s Rockets (the first inanimate name in memory).
If girls sports had been the rage back then and sports for males had come much later, would we simply adopt whatever nickname the females had? Men’s teams might be thus called something like the Male Hens or the Boy Does or Doe Boys.
One of the most insightful letters to the editor appeared in the Daily Optic a few years ago. The writer took issue with the moniker “Lady Dons,” to identify girls who play sports at West Las Vegas. The writer said, “A ‘Don’ is a gentleman or ‘caballero.’ Thus, when we say ‘Lady Dons’ we are basically calling them ‘Lady Gentlemen,’ which can be a bit confusing.”
The writer suggested calling them “Ladies” or “Damas,” as correct translations of Dons. Even “Doñas” would be good.
“Don,” a title of respect for a Spanish gentleman, precedes a person’s Christian name, as In Don Diego de Vargas. But what if the man already is named Don? Does he become Don Don Diego?
Meanwhile, back at the ranch ... I’ve helped my father-in-law de-horn and brand cattle and attach rings to the snouts of boars. Never did he invite/order me to turn a young bull into a steer. And to the bovine population, becoming a steer is no great honor.
And while steering in that direction, did you know that Steers is the nickname for Magdalena High School athletic teams? Their website shows the small school near Socorro also has a girls’ hoop team.
I wonder what they’re called.
Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.