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Missouri Administrators Find Trouble After Requesting Names for Gym

Hickman High School administrators in Columbia, Mo., inadvertently added to their troubles when they asked for suggestions to name the school gym.

First, an unsolicited opinion: If your high school's teams are called the "Kewpies," you already have a problem.

But the folks at Hickman High School in Columbia, Mo., inadvertently added to their troubles when they asked for suggestions for a new name for the school gym. According to published reports, a marketing class at the school spent two years trying to come up with a moniker that would "spark school spirit."

The name the students settled on - "The Crib" - makes literal sense, as junior Rebecca Turner, a member of the class, wrote in an e-mail to a reporter for the Columbia Daily Tribune. "Our mascot is, essentially, a baby," Turner wrote. "Where do babies sleep? In a crib." The name - Turner likened it to "The Cave," rival Rock Bridge High School's gym - was sufficiently uncontroversial that signs reading "The Crib" were hung outside the Hickman gym in anticipation of its official unveiling during a planned Nov. 27 news conference.

But members of older generations - namely, Hickman alumni and parents - weren't, shall we say, down with the name. As Charley Blackmore, a 1963 Hickman graduate who manages an alumni web site, told the paper, "What do you want to say? The gym is where babies sleep? Where Kewpies sleep? If you put 'crib' to today's language, the term is used to describe a ghetto house, a drug house or a saloon."

That is, countered Turner, a misconception. "Yes, the word 'crib' is a slang word for our generation, but it is essentially a 'home' or a place of rest," her e-mail continued. "The target market was high school kids to encourage them to attend more games, not to make our school seem?'ghetto.' "

Lexicographers and experts on slang side with the younger generation (members of which presumably are more familiar with "MTV Cribs," the Gen-X version of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous"). Accepted definitions range from the equally innocuous "home" or "house" to "domicile" or "dwelling," and the oldest reference to the noun in English usage is as a substitution for "manger" - specifically, the one in which the baby Jesus was laid.

Blackmore wants the gym to be named for past Hickman athletes or coaches, such as "Jim McLeod Gym" in honor of the coach who led the basketball team to the state championship in 1962, or "Michael Richardson Gym" for one of the team's first black stars after the integration of Columbia schools.

As for Hickman athletic director Doug Mirts, using "The Crib" to denote a portion of the gym - as "The Zou Crew" refers to the student section at University of Missouri games - is fine with him. "If they want to call that 'The Crib,' where the pep squad hangs out, that's fine," Mirts told the paper. "But the gym is a building and should be named for something very significant."

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