What’s in a name?

I thought I was original.  Not quite, though.  On Saturday, the Boise State Broncos play the University of Connecticut Huskies at Albertson’s Stadium.  It’s a late game.  Kickoff isn’t until 8:15pm.

I generally refer to the team as “Connecticut”.  A lot of other people call it “UConn”.  I’m not a huge fan of nicknames, cliches or vague references, so I go with the name of the university.  I also say “Texas-El Paso” rather than “UTEP” (pronounced “you tep”), “Alabama-Birmingham” instead of “UAB”, “Central Florida” instead of “CFU” and “Washington State” instead of “Wazzu”.  I don’t think the graduates of Washington State particularly like that nickname anyway.  I could be wrong.

But getting back to the University of Connecticut, whenever I hear someone call it “UConn”, my mind immediately goes to “Yukon”, the territory in northern Canada.  Its official name is “Yukon Territory”, but it’s been universally referred to as “the Yukon” since at least the 1870’s.  That’s when European gold miners arrived in droves in an attempt to strike it rich.  Some did.  Most didn’t.  The most popular part of the Yukon is called “Klondike”, or “the Klondike”.  It was the site of a huge gold rush from 1897 to 1899, similar to the one in California in 1849.  That’s where we get the term “49ers”, as well as the name for the San Francisco football team.  As far as I know, where aren’t any football teams known as the “Klondikes”, which is probably for the best.  There is, however, an ice cream novelty treat made by the Breyer’s Good Humor Company (everyone merges eventually) called a “Klondike Bar”.  It’s essentially an Eskimo Pie without a stick, and for years its advertising campaign asked the question, “What would you do for a Klondike Bar?”  My personal answer was invariably “Ask my mom for money”.

Much like the Klondike Bar, the Yukon is cold.  Extremely cold.  Sub-Arctic cold.  Lambeau Field in Green Bay was nicknamed “the frozen tundra” by Ed Sabol of NFL Films years ago, but parts of the Yukon are actually frozen tundra.  Yukon Territory is the least populated of all the Canadian provinces and territories.  Only about 35,000 people live there, and most of them are the scions of families who have existed there for hundreds of years.  In the United States, we would refer to them as “”Native Americans” or “American Indians” and to their groups as “tribes”.  In Canada the tribes are called “First Nations”, and the inhabitants are “First Peoples”.  There are reservations in Canada, but they’re called “First Nations Reserves”.  You can get reservations in Yukon Territory, but only at lodges and motels, and based upon the climate, I would have reservations about doing so.

Here’s why I thought I was original.  I’m guessing pretty much everyone has seen “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, the 1964 TV Christmas special with stop-motion animation by Rankin-Bass.  There are a lot of confusing characters in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, including reindeer bullies, a lion that can fly and talk, a Charlie-in-the-Box, an elf that wants to be a dentist, a snowman that looks and sounds like Big Daddy from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, a yeti roughly the size of King Kong, and one tall elf that looks suspiciously like Dave Brubeck.  To me, however, the oddest character in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is a gold miner called “Yukon Cornelius”.  He’s odd because he licks his pickaxe to check for gold residue and because at some point in the show, he describes himself and the giant yeti as “bumbles”.  There is no explanation for this, and no other reference to it in the show except for at the end, when Yukon Cornelius and the yeti (actually the abominable snowman) appear at Santa’s workshop after having been apparently killed falling off a cliff while fighting.  Yukon Cornelius’ explanation for this is “bumbles bounce”.  It’s cute, but after 54 consecutive Christmas showings (of which I was alive for 53), it’s still confusing to me.

But getting back to Connecticut, their team name or mascot is, as previously mentioned, “Huskies”.  I find this interesting because huskies are sled dogs, and “Yukon Huskies” would make perfect sense.  And for years, I’ve thought it would be funny if the team’s official mascot, like Boise State’s “Buster Bronco”, was named “UConn Cornelius”.  Its actual name is “Jonathan the Husky”, which is either stupid or way over my head.

The reason I know I’m not original in this thought is that I did a quick Google search and found two interesting entries.  There is someone on Twitter known as UConn Cornelius, and there is actually a professor of constitutional law at the University of Connecticut named Cornelius O’Leary.  After reading a bit on the Internet, I know two things about Cornelius O’Leary.  One, he hasn’t appeared on TV at all during the Mueller Investigation (possibly the only professor of constitutional law who hasn’t), and his biography doesn’t indicate that he’s ever been known as “UConn Cornelius”.  I call that a giant yeti-sized missed opportunity.

In conclusion, I have figured out a few things in general about people from Connecticut.  They seem to play decent football, they clearly play excellent basketball, and it’s possible that none of them are funny.  Just a guess.

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