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Naked truth in naming

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On Friday, I was on my way to work by bus when a woman approached me and asked if I would be going to Teaser's that night. Teaser's, for those of you whose concept of culture is so impoverished as to be confined to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Art Gallery, is a burlesque bar in St. Boniface.

Last month it hosted the Miss Nude Winnipeg contest, which was a huge success, a woman at the hotel told me when I called there. This week they have been conducting a search for the Queen of Winnipeg's Exotic Dancers, which, the woman said, has been kind of wild and crazy and another great success -- Contemporary Dancers should engender such enthusiasm -- which is why my bus buddy, with whom I've spoken several times before in our travels, wondered if I would be attending.

It seems that she has a daughter who was one of the contestants. Earlier this week, the semifinals were held. Her daughter was the last contestant of the night. She came out on the stage wearing a Winnipeg Jets jersey, with a pair of skates hanging from a hockey stick over her shoulder.

The crowd went crazy, according to Mom, banging on the tables and yelling "Go, Jets, go!" until all the Jets paraphernalia and everything else had tantalizingly disappeared. That show left the dancing daughter pretty much the front-runner to win the crown as queen of Winnipeg's exotic dancers, at least in the eyes of a proud mother, but the competition is reportedly pretty tough and the final results weren't in by press time Friday night.

It was an example, perhaps, of how nothing exists in isolation. At Teaser's Burlesque Cabaret that night, professional art and professional sport became as one -- the chant "Go, Jets, go!" echoes through the several worlds of Winnipeg.

That should send a clear message to Mark Chipman and the management of Winnipeg's new professional hockey team, which is taking longer to name than the last living male heir to the Hapsburg dynasty.

Why this should be so is a bit of a mystery. Almost the entire city, or at least almost everyone in the city who cares, wants the team to be named the Jets and is going to be really disappointed and disillusioned if it is not. Even Andrew Ladd, who was captain of the team when it was the Atlanta Thrashers and who may or not be coming to Winnipeg with the franchise, wants the name.

Still, the owners hesitate. Is it the merchandising? Is it hubris -- they want this child to be entirely their town? Or is it just procrastination?

We can only hope that it's the last, but in case it's not, we should examine some of other proposed names. The Winnipeg Falcons is one candidate and it works in every way except that the Falcons won Olympic gold in 1920 and their name should be left to history. Some of the others don't work so well at all, particularly in the context of "Go, Jets, go!" The name needs to lend itself to that chant.

The Whiteout has been suggested because the Jets' fans -- there's that name again -- initiated the name for the phenomenon. In terms of political correctness, however "Go, Whiteys, go!" doesn't work. Hockey games, particularly during a whiteout, would look and sound like Ku Klux Klan conventions.

All kinds of names have been suggested -- among them Mosquitoes, Woodticks, Weasels, and, perhaps worst of all, Polar Bears. We can only pray that Chipman et al, don't settle on Polar Bears. You can't chant "Go, Polar Bears, go!" If you try "Go, Bears, go!" it sounds like you're sitting in a Chicago football stadium and "Go, Polars, go" sounds like you're hawking ice cream treats.

My daughter has a friend whose nickname is Pooh-Bear, after Winnie the Pooh. That's too long a name to bother with for a generation of people who have reduced the English language to a code of digital abbreviations like LOL and BFF, so her friends actually call her "Poobie."

Poobie is a very nice young woman, but her name doesn't bode well for a team called the Winnipeg Polar Bears. It doesn't make much sense to shout "Go, Poles, go!" at a hockey team that doesn't have any Polish players on it and that only leaves one diminutive for fans to chant for a team unlucky enough to be cursed with the name Polar Bears.

All that's left, God help us, is "Go, Poobies, go!" Somehow, it's hard to imagine that bringing down the rafters at the MTS Centre as it is chanted out by 15,000 red-faced fans all dressed in virginal white with the rest of the hockey world watching on TV. The most you're likely get out them is a choked whisper.

Perhaps Chipman needs to spend a night at Teaser's or anywhere else in one of Winnipeg's real worlds. Then he can come back and tell the city that it's "Go, Jets, go!" -- now and forever.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 11, 2011 A19

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