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Silliman on Sports
By Stan Silliman

Hokie, Hoos, Hoya. Three mascots to make you go “Who?” All located within a hundred mile radius.

Let me repeat. Here are three major college mascots or school nicknames most of us wonder about.  Didn’t you ever ask what’s a Hokie, or who’s a Hoos, or what the heck is a Hoya? Today, Silliman on Sports will attempt to satisfy your “H” letter mascot curiosity.

What is a Hokie? Someone who is inauthentic about being from Oklahoma? No. Jack Okie’s hooker sister? No. Well then, how about a turkey? No, says Virginia Tech. They tell us it is not a turkey. A guy named O.M. Stull created a new college cheer song in 1896 to replace their old one and for his effort, he was awarded $ 5.  That’s right, kiddos. Five dollars for this ditty:

“Hoki, Hoki, Hoki, Hi
Techs, Techs, V.P.I.
Sola-Rex, Sola-Rah
Polytechs… Vir-gin-ia
Rae, Ri, V.P.I.”

See, there’s no mention of an Oklahoman, or a streetwalker pushing chicken-fried steaks. It’s a cheer sounding much like the Georgia Tech “Rambling Wrecks” song. It even highlights liquor, as Georgia Tech does when it splits the word “Virginia” with an accent on “gin.” So, thanks to a $ 5 contest, and a bunch of gobbledygook (turkey reference, possibly), V.P.I. became known as the Hokies.

Hoos. Down the road from Virginia Tech is another head-scratcher, the Hoos, at Virginia, also known as the Cavaliers. Hoos is short for wahoos, a derisive term coined when 1890s Washington and Lee baseball fans called Virginia fans “a bunch of rowdy wahoos.” Let’s chuckle at this one. On the one hand Virginia has the hoity-toity nickname – Cavalier – but when they wish to exploit their rowdiness, they claim the “Hoos” – a derisive, possibly racist name – Wahoos - made even more derogatory by shortening. Virginia students adapted the phrase “Wa-Hoo-Wah” (stolen from Dartmouth) and put it in their school chant revising it to “Wa-Hoo-Wah,  you-vee-ay.” 

Hoyas.  When you watch Georgetown play, you see a guy in a bulldog suit. That guy symbolizes “Jack the Bulldog” their animal mascot through the seventies. But Georgetown is not the Georgetown Jacks or the Georgetown Bulldogs. They’re the Hoyas. The origin of the name is convoluted and somewhat rocky.
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Here’s the story. Long ago when all Georgetown students were required to study Greek and Latin their team was nicknamed “The Stonewalls.” We’re not sure if this was named after Stonewall Jackson or due to all the stone walls around campus. In any case one of these Latin and Greek scholars started a cheer “Hoya Saxa!” which translates to “What Rocks!”  And it stuck.

We’re not sure how to interpret this.  Did the Latin student really mean rocks like in their walls or was the meaning more testicular like the Georgetown team is really macho, with courage and big stones? For mirth purposes, we prefer the latter proving big prestigious universities can be subject to surprises when adapting mascot names based on dead languages. In fact, all three names – Hokies, Hoos and Hoyas – might well be joke names with the originators giggling in their graves.

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