February 13, 2014 by libroshombre
I’m a word nerd, so I enjoy David Malki’s erudite Wondermark, a favorite online comic. Malki’s also one of the hipper grammarians around, serving as such on panels, contests, and in other semi-official capacities. So when he extolled the virtues of celebrating the National Verb Council’s National Verb Day, I thought hewasn’t fooling. His being a comic strip author should have tipped me off, that and the fact Verb Day’s observed on March 4th, “the only day of the year that’s a verb.”
Suspicious curiosity’s another personal trait, and when Google didn’t settle Verb Day’s validity, I flexed the mighty intellectual muscle we all share: the public library reference desk. I called 459-1046 and asked them to check their eminently reputable reference resources. A few minutes later the librarian called with the sad news that Chase’s Calendar of Annual Events contains no Verb Days, and no National Verb Council exists in the Encyclopedia of Associations.
Knowledge is power, yet it’s a bummer to not anticipate celebrating verbs by “engaging in active pursuits, such as running, dancing, or juggling,” and participating in “the ceremonial invention of new verbs.” However, I understand that might be of limited appeal. “Different strokes,” as they used to say, “for different folks.” The purpose of organized cheering for sporting events, for instance, is lost on some of us, but moves heaven for others. Come to think of it, “cheer” is a good action verb.
The origins of cheerleading are somewhat mixed, according to http://www.varsity.com. The first organized cheers were shouted by the all-male members of collegiate “pep clubs” supporting their football teams. Princeton University’s often cited as having one of the first pep clubs starting around 1880. A Princeton student named Thomas Peebles introduced the pep club concept to the University of Minnesota in 1884, where two school rugby players wrote a cheer that began “Ski-U-Mah,” and incorporated the rhyming words “rah-rah-rah” and Minnesota. All the cheers were yelled only from the stands, though.
It wasn’t until 1898, with the Minnesota team suffering a three-game losing skid, that the concerned pep squad elected a group of “yell leaders” to coordinate their shouting. When one yell leader actually ran onto the field with a megaphone to exhort everyone during the game, the crowd went wild, and the team rallied and won. Soon every school had cheerleaders, but they were all men until 1923, and girl cheerleaders didn’t catch on until the male student shortage of the 1940s.
Many friends and supporters of our wonderful public libraries are cheering the progress of the new North Pole Branch Library. The beautiful, efficient, and functional facility’s on schedule for opening this summer, and it’s being built almost entirely with funds from a state grant and a private bequest from the Bentley family. However, the last $500,000 needed to complete the funding is being obtained from a Rasmuson Foundation grant, if a $100,000 matching grant is obtained through local contributions. You can help by contacting the Fairbanks Library Foundation Board President Kathy Alton at Kalton60@gmail.com
Cartoonist Walt Kelly, creator of Pogo and the immortal line, “we have met the enemy, and he is us,” is also one of my favorite wordsmiths. His “Pogo Romances Recaptured” resides on my bedside table for eliciting a happy bedtime frame of mind. It contains the full panoply of Kelly’s innovative strip, including a series of his wacky song lyrics and creative expletives. A series of the latter are rolled out by Miz Groun’ Squirrel, an earthy “widder woman” with a temper who spouts expressions like “dag-rabble,” “tarblinkin’ bazzfazz,” and “double-dang-blotted, wagglasted, pigsteepled men.”
Kelly called it “[i]nserting bounces into already formed speech,” in a 1963 Atlantic Monthly essay. “The Pogo speech pattern is full of noises signifying nothing more than the grunts of a determined grandfather eating corn.”
As a fitting example of his songs, Kelly’s cast of characters included an oversized cheerleading hen named Sis Boombah who sings, “Oh roar a roar for Nora,/ Nora Alice in the night,/ For she has seen the Aurora/ Borealis burning bright./ A furore for our Nora!/ And applaud Aurora seen!/ Where throughout the summer has our Aurora been?” Auroras and libraries are certainly worth cheering for.