Yesterday's Light

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What’s a “Nittany”?

Yellow Wall (310, EM5)

“What’s a ‘Nittany'”?

So much for the nice, quiet Saturday afternoon of college football.  The last day of meteorological summer.  The first full day of the new season.  Just sitting there switching back and forth between the Syracuse – Penn State game and the Temple – Notre Dame contest.  Even if it was still warm and muggy outside, Fall was upon us.  Or soon would be.  Life is good.

And then she asks, “What’s a ‘Nittany'”?

My wife was asking, of course, about the Penn State football team.  They’re called the Nittany Lions.  Always have been, I think.  Like the Syracuse Orange or the Temple Owls or the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  Or any other team.  It’s their name.  I’ve been watching college football since I was a kid and they’ve always been the Nittany Lions.  I’ve never been a Penn State fan, but I kind of liked the name.  It has a sense of nobility to it.  Or at least it did before the big scandal hit.

“But what’s a ‘Nittany'”?

So I had to admit it.  Big fan that I am of college football, I had no idea.  Not a clue.  And after all these years the question had never occurred to me.  What the hell is a “Nittany”?

Off to the computer and Google I went.  I type in “Nittany Lions” and hit the Return key.  Thank heaven for Wikipedia.  Seems there’s a small mountain near Happy Valley called – you guessed it – Mount Nittany.  And way back when there were mountain lions that lived on this little mountain (at least according to Wikipedia).  So when Penn State came along (1855) someone decided that the sports teams should be dubbed the Nittany Lions (although that was probably a bit later than 1855).

No more mystery.  I now have another piece of data to stuff into my memory cells.  “Nittany” is the name of a hill near State College, Pa.  A place where lions (or more precisely, cougars) used to roam around.

Most likely, a useless bit of trivia.  A piece of information that, at best, you can use to stump a friend over a glass of beer.  Yet it’s still troubling.  Why did I never wonder the same thing?  How many times have I heard an announcer on TV use the term “Nittany Lions”?  And never once ask what it meant.

It makes me wonder what else I’m missing.  Come to think of it, what the heck is a “Crimson Tide”?

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6 Responses to “What’s a “Nittany”?”

  1. Cedric Canard

    I had to smile after reading your post. This is a good example of the kind of awareness I was talking about in my post on frugal photography. “What am I missing” is a question I ask myself often.

    At least now, I finally know all about Crimson Tide. Yes, I had to look it up despite hearing the term many times without ever wondering what it was. 😉

    Reply
    • Paul Maxim

      Yes, I was absolutely thinking about your recent post when I wrote this. I think the “what am I missing” question will become my new mantra as I head west (again) this week………..

      The “Crimson Tide” explanation is another good piece of trivia, huh? If you’ve ever seen Alabama after a heavy rain, it will make perfect sense.

      Reply
  2. Paul

    So, the question is, did you then share the information with your wife? 🙂 Thanks for the info, too. I’m glad that she asked because I had no idea what Nittany was, either!

    Reply
    • Paul Maxim

      Oh, she was the first to know! I learned long ago to never withhold critical information from your better half. Bad things can happen if you do……….

      Reply
  3. John

    Is it Syracuse Orange or Orangemen? I could look it up, but right now I’m busy not looking it up! Amusing post, thanks for the distraction.

    Reply
    • Paul Maxim

      Don’t know if you’ve looked it up yet, John, but it’s the Syracuse Orange. Unofficially, it used to be the Syracuse Orangemen and the women’s teams were called the Syracuse Orangewomen. I’m not sure exactly when, but it was changed to Syracuse Orange so that it would be gender neutral. So now all Syracuse teams have the same name, regardless of gender.

      Just another piece of useless (but interesting) trivia………..

      Reply

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