On this Homecoming day I’m delighted to say
It’s a happy occasion, not solemn.
But when we all scream for our brave football team,
There’s the question of what we should call ‘em.
This puzzle becomes (for all Harding alums—
Whether city or country or rural—)
Is it the same if we roar for one Bison or four?
‘Cause our mascot is already plural.
We English professors have few bigger stressors
Than nitpicky questions of grammar;
The rules for the comma are loaded with trauma,
And pronouns can cause us to stammer.
Our school slogans read, “Go Bisons,” indeed,
And we’re all of us proud of the name.
But what do we do, since one Bison or two
Is supposed to be spelled just the same?
Though someone might guess that apostrophe S
Would neatly make Bison’s from Bison,
I say anyone who makes this grammar boo-boo
I will lock in a cage and put mice in.
And so my dear friends, a whole lot depends
On just how well we sort out this mess,
Since our trademark sports gear and each popular cheer
All contain a superfluous S.
I can’t stress enough that this choice is not fluff,
Not a bet that we just roll the dice on.
It is no piece of cake; there is too much at stake
With the pluralization of Bison.
Now let me explain, it won’t do to complain
That grammatical rules are obtuse.
There are quite a few words, whether singles or herds,
Spelled the same, such as deer, shrimp or moose.
It doesn’t make sense; it is crazy-intense
To have plurals confusing our chants.
Some words end in S, though their singular-ness
Is certain (like scissors and pants).
So clearly my dears when we yell out our
This is something we need much advice on.
I’ll admit it’s a fright; it just doesn’t sound right
To stand up and holler “Go Bison.”
Now I have been told, by a colleague of old
That my thinking is totally wrong.
My Bisonic quibble, he wrote with a scribble,
Is hardly grammatically strong.
Proper names, he explained, cannot be constrained,
By the same old persnickety rules.
And those who think twice on the “s” on our Bison
Are simply behaving like mules.
“For example,” he smiled, “Take a couple named Child.
They’re the Childs, not the Children, you see.”
And so went our riff, but according to Cliff,
On “Bisons” we all should agree.
And yet I do fear the traditional ear
Will find “Bisons” an awkward sensation.
Thus now you will see how much stress it can be
And so I come back with a plan of attack
To solve once and forever this crisis.
Please don’t be distressed if I deign to suggest,
Could the plural of Bison be Bises?
Whatever we do for one player or two
We certainly want to be wise.
So will it cause grief if we try to be brief
And shorten our nickname to Bise?
Of course we could try the process whereby
The plural of goose becomes geese.
But I’m fearful it may be quite awkward to say
That our mascot is Buff the Biseese.
Or how ‘bout this topic, and don’t be myopic
Retaining that plank in your own eye.
Since it would be cool as a technical rule
To call us the Fighting Bisoni.
Yes I realize it shocks to think outside the box,
But sometimes it can be a bonus.
So maybe we’ll dare try a slight Spanish flair
And greet our team “Hola Bisones!”
Now we could take a cue from a word in Hebrew,
When you take a sweet cherub and clone him—
As an angel to spare makes a cherubim pair,
Our players could be the Bisonim.
Now this one might fizzle, or perhaps truly sizzle,
The same way that piping hot grease does.
Will our foes quake in fear as they put on their gear
To confront the HU Bisonistas?
Now please do not pout, since we cannot rule out
“Go Buffalo”—won’t that be fun?
But this name will not do ‘cause that word’s plural, too,
Which brings us right back to square one.
We’re now losing ground; my head’s starting to pound.
It is something I must put some ice on,
I just cannot rest before solving this quest
To decide between Bisons and Bison.
I’ve got it! Look here for the ultimate cheer,
For the fans this will really entice ‘em.
If our voices do swell with the Latinate yell,
“Let’s go Harding! E Pluribus Bisum!”
This is an expanded version of a column that originally ran on November 5, 2010.