Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Strange Bird

Which of the following teams is not like the others?

• Arizona (NFL)
• St. Louis (MLB)
• Stanford University (NCAA)
• University of Louisville (NCAA)
• Ball State University (NCAA)

It’s Stanford, which for the second time in less than two months is the unwitting subject of a When Write Is Wrong post.

Arizona, St. Louis, Louisville and Ball State are, ahem, flock-ing similar because all share the same nickname: Cardinals.

While those teams take flight, however, Stanford must remain grounded, because the leading research university’s nickname refers to the deep shade of red, not the bird. Stanford’s nickname has no s at the end.

Stanford was without an official nickname in 1892 when, following a football victory over rival California, local newspapers used “Cardinal” references in headlines. The nickname stuck … for a while. Stanford adopted Indians as the official nickname in 1930, though it was dropped in 1972. For the next decade, Stanford’s official nickname was Cardinals, plural. In 1981, then president Donald Kennedy “colorfully” declared that Cardinal, in its singular form, would be the official nickname.

As strange as it may look or sound, Stanford’s nickname has no s. You can bet the Farm on it.

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