Zac VanderLey—Staff Writer
This past weekend at Late Night with the Defenders, the university’s new mascot premiered: Dash the Defender. Other than the fact that Dash’s get-up looked a little to similar to Walmart’s clearance section, I was pleased that Dordt added a mascot. The addition of Dash to the university’s iconography is something that students, recruits, and kids will enjoy.
But it just could be better.
The biggest, or should I say, quickest, problem is the name: Dash. It just doesn’t make any sense. Now, I’m not certain what the process of naming the mascot involved, but the word, on the surface, has little to do with a defender. Maybe Dordt is fully embracing the success of our cross country and track teams. But I (and virtually everyone who uses the word dash) associate dash with a smaller, less clunky, and somewhat quicker character—like Dash from the Incredibles, or a jackrabbit, or some mascot that connotes speed and agility.
Let’s go across town. Dash the Red Raider makes more sense, I’ll be honest.
Possibly, Dordt went for the Scandinavian origins of the word. In the 1300s, ‘dash’ implied a quick and violent strike. Maybe this explains Dash’s foam, Claymore-sized sword.
I’d like to think ‘dash’ is a play on the formal “dashing.” For example, a female character from a Jane Austen novel would tell her man he looks ‘dashing.’ But I wouldn’t characterize Dash the Defender as a knight in shining armor—he’s more like an unwanted Spirit Halloween costume.
A part of me hopes the squat mascot is an ironic critique of the tall, lumbering dutchmen of Dordt’s campus. Or it would be interesting if the name served as a critique of the slowness of fully armored knights. But sadly, it seems the university selected the name of “Dash” because it was catchy and alliterative.
However, it’s not even the best form of alliteration.
See, the short ‘a’ sound in ‘dash’ contrasts with the short ‘e’ sound in Defenders. Sure, they both start with the letter ‘d’, and Dash is a one syllable word, but there are names that would make more sense. Personally, I like Dex the Defender. It keeps the short ‘e’ sound through the name and is more of an Anglo-Saxon, guttural word than ‘dash.’
Recently, in one of my writing classes, we talked about the differences between Latinate and Anglo-Saxon words. Longer, more elegant words are classified under Latin origins—words such as think, pick, help, eat, and drink. The quicker, more guttural sounding words are Anglo-Saxon: imagine, select, assist, consume, and imbibe. While this also reflected the social class differences of the time, it has affected the way language developed, and specifically, how the English language was created.
All this to say, a mascot like a Defender should use a more Anglo-Saxon words for the sake of clarity and meaning. For example, Dirk, Diederik, Draiden, and Daan are all possibilities.
The mascot’s name also could have been an intriguing place to use a classic Dutch name. A title such as Dolf, Dries, or Duif would have characterized the mascot much better than the name of some small child’s new puppy.
Some people will say that the name doesn’t matter; it’s all just for fun, right?
Words matter. Names matter. As someone who loves philology, it’s integral that we as a people learn how to use words correctly based on their origins and current connotations. If I was writing a story from the perspective of a character in royalty, I would intentionally choose elegant and more Latinate words while saving the slang and other improper words for different characters.
We were all named for a reason, and Dash was probably named for a reason, but whatever the reason, the name is a bit off.
Words all hold some connotations for us, even if we don’t realize it. Some of these connotations exist in our personal experiences with the word: maybe our mom used to use it, or we had an elementary teacher misuse the word, or someone consistently mispronounced it. All these experiences shape the way we view and use a certain word. But, in words, there is a certain level of objective connotation. Dash, for example, connotes speed and agility. This will not change for some time. And Dash the Defender will never and should never exhibit these characteristics.
I’m certain Dash will be a fun addition to sporting events. Young kids will take pictures with the stumbling and bumbling but overall jolly Defender. But once these same kids learn what ‘to dash’ really means, they will be a bit disappointed in the name of one of their childhood superheroes.