All Those Team Nicknames

Think about all the team nicknames in sports. This post examines nicknames and attempts to look at them from a different perspective: taxonomy (classification).

To simplify things, I concentrated on pro and college teams; which are enough because high schools take nicknames to a whole new level. But still, high schools names fit into this scheme as well. Instead of listing all the examples of each category, I’ll include an example or two most of the time.

Nicknames can be grouped into 4 kingdoms: Biology, People, Culture, and (in honor of Jeopardy) Potpourri.

The Biology Kingdom provides Arachnids (Spiders), Aquatic (Seawolves), Birds (Peacocks, Chanticleers), Canines (Salukis), Dog Relatives (Lobos), Den Dwellers (Grizzlies), Equines (Colts, Broncos), Felines (Catamounts), Horned Animals (Stags), Insects (Bollweevils), Reptiles (Terrapins, Rattlers), Ungulates (Longhorns, Bulls, Camels), Trees (Sycamores, Buckeyes, Oaks), Vegetables (Fighting Artichokes, Fighting Okra {an unofficial nickname}), and hordes of other animals as Jackrabbits, Razorbacks, Anteaters, Wombats, and Predators.

The People Kingdom brings us Fighting Groups (Leathernecks, Musketeers), The Daring (Flyers, Racers, Trail Blazers, Claim Jumpers), Government Officials (Presidents, Governors, Statesmen, Senators, Diplomats), Organized Groups (Volunteers, Patriots), Heritage Groups (Ragin’ Cajuns, Nanooks, Flying Dutchmen, Cossacks), Hispanic Themed (Gauchos, Matadors, Toreros), The Influential (Dukes, Barons, Lords), Military (Generals, Colonels, Paladins), Native Americans (a controversy I won’t address), Number-based Groups (49’ners, 76’ers), Occupations (Boilermakers, Brewers, Truckers, Hatters, Poets), Villains (Vandals, Marauders, Privateers), and the Western Frontier (Spurs, Cowboys, Gauchos).

The Culture Kingdom provides many other looks at life as Man-Made Objects (Jets, Hatchets, Wooden Shoes), Music (Blues, Jazz), Mythical (Billikens, Wizards, Titans), Regional Features (Hokies, Hilltoppers, Twins), Religion (Battling Bishops, Quakers, Padres), and Themselves (Phillies and yes, the Smithies from Smithville).

The Potpourri Kingdom gives us a wild assortment of goodies as Colors (Orange, Crimson, Mean Green), Inanimate Objects (Golden Flashes, Pride, Heat, Magic, Zips, Blue Steaks, Chargers), Space (Astros, Stars), Water (Waves, Tides), and Weather (Thunder, Lightning, Tornadoes).

But even with this classification, there still so much more to discover.

  • Knights is not enough: let there be Black Knights, White Knights, Golden Knights, Scarlet Knights
  • Colors aren’t enough either; thus Golden Eagles, Golden Knights, Golden Falcons, Golden Bears, and the Golden Hurricane
  • Hawks aren’t enough; so bring us Blackhawks, Redhawks, Warharks, Skyhawks, Seahawks, and even Hawkeyes
  • Spelling matters: Bearcats and Bearkats
  • Plurality matters: Hurricane or Hurricanes
  • Pronunciation matters: Rough Riders and Roughriders
  • Gender matters: Lumberjacks and Lumberjills

Minor league baseball has opened up another level of creativity and political correctness with Biscuits, Chukars, Rascals, and Defenders to name a few. But these baseball organizations can’t match the assortment of nicknames our nation’s high schools provide.

Whether the Fighting Porcupines, Winged Beavers, Purple Pounders, Lava Bears or the Skeeters, high schools top them all. High schools include my longtime, all-time personal favorite: Poca Dots (high school in Poca, WV).

It would be fun to examine what names don’t exist; but knowing that the Banana Slugs exist, why wouldn’t anything else. For those who want more about team nicknames, see these links.