Western Kentucky, I imagine you thought this was a cute and harmless social media gesture. Take your Red Grimace-with-a-Glasgow-smile mascot, humanize it a bit, move on to the next tweet about how prospective students can make their writing samples stand out.
But words matter, WKU, and I’m talking about one in particular: birthday. There are two general ways we use this word, depending on if it’s referencing something living or non-living. For a non-living thing, we all understand it to be a casual replacement for anniversary; nobody’s confused into thinking Costco or the iPod or Batman Returns were physically birthed into the world.
A living thing’s birthday — and I’ll allow that, though we usually only use the term for humans, it’s linguistically permissible for other animal life — is just that: the date of its birth. What usually precedes birth? Fertilization of an egg by sperm. And what are animals equipped with to facilitate that fertilization?
(Don’t even start with your asexual reproduction argument. Were that the case, we’d have been overrun by Big Reds long ago. You’re welcome to prove me wrong by chopping off one of its arms and seeing if it spontaneously regenerates into a second Big Red.)
Might be a cloaca. Might be a papilla. Might be something else science hasn’t ever seen before. But if Big Red was born, that means Big Red had two parents, and those parents sexually reproduced. With their genitals.
And sure, WKU, this applies to basically every other costumed mascot. Pistol Pete’s got genitals. Same with the HokieBird and Hairy Dawg. You will note that my favorite school employs a mascot that definitely does NOT have sex organs, and is therefore safe for children. (NOTE: Ok, fine, #botanytwitter informs me that the Tree has sex organs, but they’re the kind we decorate and put in bowls with potpourri. The point stands.)
So why am I giving you grief while admitting that, yes, Purdue Pete conceptually has a penis and it’s horrible and now your whole weekend is ruined because of this knowledge? Because it didn’t have to be this way, Western. You could have celebrated the day Big Red was created, a word which allows us to assume you’re talking about costume design. You could have said Big Red came here from another planet, arguably excluding it from our biological rubric. You could have said this was the anniversary of the day you pulled Big Red from the smoldering wreckage of a boat carrying nuclear waste and Jujubes.
But you didn’t. And know we all have to live with the knowledge that this...