Looking for a nickname, UND accepted suggestions from the public, and came up with a long list of nickname possibilities (more than 1,000), as well as a long list of suggestions that won’t be considered.
Many of the suggestions are great, but a few joke names (intended to raise the hackles of NDSU fans, poke fun at UND fans or perhaps somehow undermine the school) did get through, as far as I can tell.
Let me be clear here: I am not taking a position here on choosing a name. I’m not taking specific position on anything. Views expressed here are mine, not those of the Grand Forks Herald. I’m probably not even going to read the whole list. And you’re free to disagree with me in the comments, as long as you’re polite and civil, not vulgar and don’t make personal attacks.
Abdominal Snowmen: Assuming this person meant “abominable” instead of “abdominal,” this is a cool suggestion. Unfortunately, it’s not gender-neutral, so it probably wouldn’t work that well. If the person actually meant “abdominal snowmen,” maybe the idea was to intimidate the opponent with our amazing chiseled abs. That doesn’t work for me. I think I last saw my abs in 1988.
Aeronauts/Aeros: This suggestion pays tribute to UND’s aerospace program, which is nationally known. Some of the notes do connect “Aeros” with “arrows” and hearken back to the old nickname, but that’s a pretty big stretch. Aviators is a related possibility that seemed quite popular.
Auroras: Cool idea, but really hard to draw and even more difficult to make a mascot suit for. It puts me a bit in mind of the Quasars, the team name of Southwest Star Concept School before it went back to being Heron Lake-Okabena. The school had a mural of stars showing the name, and it was fairly unique – but a little odd, too.
Badlanders: Hearkens to the terrain in the west. At the same time, the Badlands National Park is in South Dakota, and this might confuse people.
Berserkers: A callback to North Dakota’s Norse heritage, as berserkers were known for frenzied fighting in Scandinavia. Modern people may not know of the berserkers’ supernatural traits – despite not wearing armor they couldn’t be hurt by edged weapons or fire, and they went into a kind of battle-trance before fights. Some could supposedly transform into animals, so this would also be a bit like calling ourselves the Werewolves.
Blizzard: While very “northy,” and certainly something one associates with North Dakota, this might be a little abstract and tricky to draw as well. Would our mascot be a snowball? A field of white? Three sparkly snowflakes with lots of glitter? A lot of people suggested this, though!
Bombers: Meant as a shoutout to UND’s aviation program, I’d really hesitate to recommend this. Void of context, “bombers” are generally known for attacking soft targets and killing civilians with explosives. Lately the primary association with the word “bombers” is probably terrorism. Probably best to pick something else.
Dragons: Everyone loves dragons. Some are good, some are evil, some warlike and some wise. They also seem to be enjoying a recent popularity surge thanks in part to “Game of Thrones.” You can make them cute, you can make them fearsome, and dragon suits are probably easy to purchase. Not seeing a downside here, but I’m extremely partial to dragons and have two on my desk at work, so I will freely admit some bias here.
Drillers: I see the Oil Patch connection, but evoking dentists probably isn’t a great idea, even if they are feared by many. And there are other negative connotations here as well.
Ermines: It might be best not to be named after a creature best known for being made into coats for wealthy people. But that’s just my opinion.
Eternal Flame: Meant to tie in with UND’s current logo. Those who aren’t religious may not know that this is the common name of the candle on many churches’ altars that never gets put out. And everyone can probably see there might be an issue with “flamers.”
Edit: Here are more suggestions, from F to M:
Fighting Anything: I don’t think this is a good idea, as it’s too close to the previous name, but that’s just my opinion. A few of these may even be attempts to squeeze the old logo back in, which seems to me to be a one-way ticket back to tedious and expensive litigation and ceaseless arguments. Let’s not go there.
Fire, Flames: Might sound a little too much like an unfortunate disaster has occurred on campus. “The UND Fire” sounds like a phrase that would be followed by “began at 3 a.m. last night,” or “claimed the lives of 17 students,” or “is suspected to be arson.” Flames, well, we already covered the reasons that might be problematic under “Eternal Flame.”
Flickertails: People either love this nickname, which UND used in days gone by, or they hate it. It’s a ground squirrel sometimes called a gopher; the University of Minnesota’s mascots are the Golden Gophers, obviously. It could be worse, but I personally do feel that we could probably do a lot better than this. And I wonder how many of the people who submitted Flickertails were just trolling to try and force a U of M doppelganger on UND. They are awfully cute, though.
Flood: While this is incredibly relevant to the area, it brings up a lot of very bad memories for a lot of local people and might be a little bit insensitive. On the other hand, it does mark a time in which our community united to fight a destructive natural disaster.
Frackers: This may be an unwise choice in the long run. The oil boom may not last forever, and should it end a lot of people will be financially hung out to dry. Then the name would rub it in their faces. Additionally, there is major opposition to oil fracking all over the United States.
Frost Giants: I’ve already written a bit about the Frost Giants. I kinda like it, and because the Frost Giants aren’t properly gods, we aren’t running the risk of offending any modern pagans (yes, there are still people who worship the Norse pantheon).
Glaciers: Y’all do know that glaciers are incredibly slow, yes? They do crush everything in their paths, but at the same time, slowness is not generally a trait positively associated with most athletic endeavors.
Green Goblins: Come on, dude, we all saw Spider-Man. Even if we wanted to steal from good ole’ Stan Lee (which we shouldn’t, he seems like a nice man), I’m pretty sure Marvel’s lawyers would pound us into dust in that legal battle. (The Lawyers would be a great mascot, but everyone would be too terrified to speak the word aloud, Voldemort-style, because they’d sue.)
Green Machine: John Deere might not be amused. On the other hand, they might be so amused they’d sponsor the team, but that would be selling out. And International Harvester fans would not be happy with this choice at all.
Homesteaders: While this does seem like a good suggestion at first glance, it would probably be a better idea to avoid this period in the state’s history, which often saw white settlers pitted against Native Americans. This goes for Explorers as well, though at least that would include Native American explorers such as Sakakawea. If these were the only options they’d be worth considering, but we have a thousand others, so why risk a replay?
Imperials: Hearkening to imperialism is also probably a bad idea. Plus, it’s a kind of delicious cinnamon candy, which isn’t terribly intimidating, and they’re red candies to boot, meaning we wouldn’t be able to wear our old green gear anymore. That’s no good.
Legends: Ties in with the state’s “Legendary” marketing campaign, but it’s also super vague and there are a million ways to illustrate it. That might be too many. Also, a certain age group will probably automatically complete the phrase with “of the Fall.”
Meadowlarks: These are the state birds. They sound a little bit too cutesy to me, but people have managed to make blue jay mascots look threatening, so that probably shouldn’t rule them out.
Mountain Lions: I see a problem with any nickname that has “mount” in it. If you don’t, congratulations, you are probably more innocent-minded than I am. Never change.
Nighthawks: The name of a very famous painting by Edward Hopper, this nickname would strike fear into the hearts of abstract artists everywhere.
Nodaks: A lot of people like this one, but I’m not sure what a “Nodak” is, and having graduated from a college where we had to repeatedly explain our mascot to anyone who heard its name, I’m not a fan. (For those of you who don’t know, an Auggie is a baby eagle. And I graduated from Augsburg College.) It’s a little bland, too.
Norse: In English this word is often an adjective, not a noun, and would thus make for some unusual and awkward sentences later down the line. (It’s like naming your team “the Purple.” People would be continually asking “The Purple what?”) Norsemen might be easier, but that’s not gender-neutral, so I can’t really support that.
North Stars: This is literally the state motto of Minnesota, and may or may not have been an attempt to name UND’s team after one of their big rivals (and recall the NDSU color scheme, too). Or, people might just not realize that’s the Minnesota state motto, due to it normally being in French. Also, the Dallas Stars might send lawyers after us if we went this route.
Northern Lights: See Auroras.
Oil Anything: See Frackers.
Orangutans: Submitted with the text “Orangutans are awesome.” Everything is better with monkeys, right? Er… apes, in this case.
Phoenix: The coolest mythological bird (sorry, rocs), phoenixes rise from their own ashes and symbolize rebirth, the circle of life and all that jazz. People seem to have a real problem spelling “phoenix,” though, and even more problems spelling the plural, phoenixes. On the other hand, fire.
Pilots: I feel like this is a less cool alternative to Aeronauts/Aeros.
Polar Bears: These are the scariest bears around, and because they’re not acclimated to humans they have no fear of humans, either. You can draw them terrifying, or draw them cute and cuddly, and they have an undeniable tie to chilly snowy places. You could easily find a polar bear suit, too.
Predators: Um. In the modern world, the word “predators” is usually immediately preceded by “sexual,” which is definitely and absolutely not the image we want here. Prowlers could also qualify as objectionable.
Pride: One of the seven deadly sins, along with Wrath, Gluttony and Sloth, Pride is generally considered to be the worst of the lot. Sometimes it is even considered the Original Sin. I’m guessing a lot of religious people might object to being literally named after a sin, but maybe not.
Pronghorns: It might be easier not to be named anything with “horn” in it, as I’m sure it will be turned into “horny” by opponents fairly quickly. Cool animals, though.
Raptors: Could go one of two directions with this one, and use a fierce bird or the scariest dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. However, in real life, the dinosaurs may or may not have been covered in feathers, which would make them significantly less intimidating (albeit significantly fluffier).
Rattlers: Snakes generally have a negative connotation. While a lot of people are afraid of them, that fear often manifests less as “OH CRUD IT’S GOING TO KILL ME” and more as a “Icky creepy gross!”
Reapers: You want to be named after the bad guys from the extremely popular Mass Effect series of video games? The one that’s sold more than 14 million units? Not to mention the TV show Grimm. Maybe we should skip this one, even though the agricultural origin might have been cool.
Roughnecks, Rough Riders: However appropriate these names might have been in a more innocent time, it would take about 15 seconds to turn into bad jokes about “liking it rough.” Too many bad double entendres here that wouldn’t be suitable for a nice family hockey game. Alas.
Settlers, Sodbusters, Trailblazers: See Homesteaders.
Spirit: Super abstract and a little confusing. Would the mascot be a ghost? Are they just trying to get “Spirit Lake” into the mix without being obvious? I don’t know.
Stallions: This isn’t gender neutral, folks. The term refers to a very definitely male horse.
Storm: Interesting idea, but could potentially be difficult to find good artwork. Lightning bolt? Cloud and rain? Snowflakes? Thundersnow? Rats, now I wish I’d suggested Thundersnow.
Sundogs: Here’s another popular alternative a lot of people seem to like, but I’m not sure I quite understand the attraction. Literal sundogs are the pretty rainbow effect you get around the sun sometimes; metaphorically, maybe you could use a dog costume or something? I’m not fond of dog-related names even though my high school’s mascot was the Huskies. They can be potentially problematic for women’s teams. (Think about it.)
Swallows: More double entendres, huh? Did people really think it wouldn’t be obvious?
Trappers: Everyone who was a kid in the 1980s remembers trappers, right? Those nifty megafolders where we kept all our school stuff? They came in purple and pink and the virulent neon shades that were popular back then.
Tsunami: Yes, we did notice the first syllable is pronounced “Sioux.” Another attempt at an end run around the old nickname prohibition? Or just a lot of well-intentioned people who didn’t notice? I don’t know. It’s a shame, it would’ve been a cool name if it weren’t for the connection.
Valkyries: Also not gender neutral. Valkyries come in one gender, boys, and it is female.
Warriors: Another one that might be an attempt to run around the restriction against the old logo. If it’s not, it’s just too generic for my personal taste anyway.
Wind: It would give other schools the opportunity to plaster “Break the wind!” signs all over the place. Your mileage may vary on whether you think that’s a good thing or not, but I suspect it might not be funny after a while.
Yetis: This might be the holy grail of all nickname suggestions presented. They’re scary, they’re mythological, they’re known for being around ice and snow a lot, and they can be drawn as cute or terrifying as needs require. I do like this one.
That’s my rundown, A-Z.
What do you think?
Which of my picks do you hate? Which do you like?
If we have to pick a new name, what nickname do you want to go with? (And please don’t answer with either “none,” or any variant on the old nickname. It’s been said already lots of times and this post isn’t about that.)