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Silliman on Sports
By Stan Silliman

A Language Prof Deciphers OU-Texas Rivalry

“You needed to be there.  Orange shirts, red shirts, fans didn’t like other,” Davidoff Clarkinov tells me.  “Many had quite nasty things to say about the rival team.”

My Russian friend, Clarkinov, fluent in four languages, a professor of linguistics, loves tennis just came back from his first OU-Texas Red River Rivalry.  I was pretty sure the signs, T-shirts and the banter would catch his attention.  

“Oh, yeah,” I tell him. “When Sooner fans and Longhorn fans meet, there’s no civility. But I don’t think they’re particularly clever.”

“But they are! Many Oklahoma fans were wearing shirts with a longhorn steer turned upside-down.  Clever, right? They took their mascot – the steer – and turned him on his back.  And then, when a Texas fan walked by and held up his index and little finger, the OU fan took the same gesture and pointed it to the ground. It was amazing.”

“No, Davidoff,” I say. “Not exactly amazing, both fans have their gestures.  Did you happen to see any OU fans holding up only one finger?”

“Yes, I did,” says Clarkinov. “That gesture, my friend, is… universal.  Here’s one I don’t understand. A lot of Texas fans wore shirts reading FIRE CHARLIE STRONG.  That didn’t make sense. Another shirt I saw Texas fans wearing was Choklahoma.  What does that mean?  I understood OKLAHOMO, making a homosexual reference.  But Choklahoma?”

“It’s a play on the state name, emphasizing ‘choke’ as if they want to ‘choke’ the Sooners or maybe implying the OU team doesn’t come through in the clutch, seizes up (I grasp my neck in a chocking gesture).”I ask “Did you see any ‘Texas Sucks’ or ‘OU Sucks’ shirts?”

“Thousands of them.  I understood that one.  I saw a few reading ‘Tuck Fexas’ and that one took me a while. That was not nice.  I even saw a few Texas fans wearing a shirt reading ‘You Can’t Spell DOUCHEBAG without OU.’  That, I don’t get. Certainly you need the letters ‘o’ and ‘u’ to spell words that have the oo sound. You can’t spell ‘soup’ without ‘ou’ either.  Soup is good.”

“What else did you see?”

“I saw a few saying ‘MAKE TEXAS TOAST’ and then I saw more Sooner fans wearing Longhorn shirts except where the horns should be there were handcuffs with the words ‘BOOK ‘EM.’ I didn’t understand either of those shirts. I like Texas toast.” 

“Davidoff,” I explain, “those are tough ones. I like Texas toast, too, but in this case they’re using toast to mean ‘done’.  As in ‘he’s finished, he is TOAST.’  Clever… by half, right? The ‘BOOK ‘EM’ thing is a little harder to explain. Here it is. Texas fans love to say ‘Hook ‘em’ as if Bevo, their mascot has hooked his horns into somebody. Like if you’re a bull and you gore somebody, you’ve hooked ‘em.  But at the same time, an unusual amount of Texas players get arrested…”

“So they were being BOOKED at the police station,” Clarkinov’s eyes light up. “The word BOOK is a play on HOOK and the handcuffs symbolize the booking.  I get it. I still don’t get FIRE CHARLIE STRONG. So many shirts, what’s a Charlie Strong?”

“Are you kidding? You teach applied and historical linguistics? You speak Russian, English, French and Spanish… and you’ve never heard of a ‘Charlie Strong’?”

Clarkinov looks puzzled and then says “No. No, I can’t say I’ve ever…”

“Well, during the game, did you ever hear a cannon being fired… after a score?”
“I did. I do remember a cannon going off.”

A Language Prof Decifers OU-Texas Rivalry
by Stan Silliman humor sports comedy cartoons

“Clarkinov,” I say. “At football games, whenever someone scores, a cannon is fired. The cannon is a big gun and in Texas, it’s named after a famous Texas body builder with huge biceps -  Charlie Sampson aka Charlie Strong.”

“If it is so common at all games, why didn’t both teams wear FIRE CHARLIE STRONG shirts?”

“Because, my friend, OU likes to run their wagon after scoring. Texas likes to sing ‘Yellow Rose’, play their big drum and then fire off their Charlie Strong. It’s their big guns, which in body-building lingo is the biceps. Just ask any Texas fan. They love firing Charlie Strong.”

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