The Short Humour Site

Home : Writers' Showcase : Submission Guidelines : A Man of a Few More Words : Links

Writers' Showcase

Symbol Envy
by Walt Giersbach

Early this year, we learned that Utah was considering a bill to name a Browning pistol its official state firearm. Yes! Utah now has an official state gun. It beat out Arizona, which this week bestowed its honor on the Colt Single-Action Army pistol.
–Gail Collins, The New York Times

Symbols are powerful things.

Ms. Collins further reflected on Connecticut’s fight over naming an official state mammal, in which the whale vied with the deer. The whale won, which must have elated homeowners who have never once woken up to discover a whale had eaten their vegetable garden. In their quest for symbols, Connecticut has also elected the Corsair F4U as its state aircraft.

American politicians find thing-naming warrants serious deliberation. This discussion may keep them from dabbling in more alarming matters, like further reducing taxes of the wealthy, sending non-English-speakers back to their home countries, and protecting corporate profits.

Today, every state lines up some flora and fauna as symbols of their bragging rights. Florida’s unofficial state animal, the alligator, may be held in greater awe by tourists than by its governor. Gov. Rick Scott recently remarked he would be “receptive” to putting bullets in a gator if it would help promote the state’s tourism. Mr. Scott gets close to alligators only when he wears his gold-embossed, custom-made “governor” boots made of alligator skin.

New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the U.S., is commonly known as The Garden State. In 2004 it named the high bush blueberry as its official fruit, beating out the lowly cranberry. Wags have also joked that the state tree might realistically be changed from the red oak to the cell phone tower. This would be in keeping with frigid North Dakota, where the telephone pole has been suggested as the state tree.

Contrary to Wisconsin’s reputation for beer drinking, its official beverage is … milk, sharing this innocuous beverage with Maryland and North Dakota. As outraged Wisconsin citizens petition to recall Republican conservatives, the Dairy State might consider naming Gov. Scott Walker a piece of overripe cheese.

Startlingly, Texas even has a state cooking implement — the Dutch oven, that pot pioneers hung over campfires. Perhaps one would cook the state pastry — the sopaipilla honey cake—in it. And nibble on the state snack, the tortilla chip.

California’s contribution to ecology has the grizzly bear in the center of its flag, adopted in 1911. Grizzly bears, unfortunately, are now extinct there, replaced by swimming pools and freeways. It’s rumored that choosing the bear was in error. The original symbol was supposed to be the pear, but a poor telephone connection resulted in the more masculine ursinus horribilis. Imagine that conversation: “Can you hear me now? I said put a pear on the flag!”

All of these things — being “official” — make them just so much more respectable. And perhaps Arizona will consider the recent mayhem of Tucson residents and wounding of a U.S. Congresswoman its official massacre.