Lincicome: What's all The fuss with the largest university in Ohio?

  • The Ohio State University marching band might need more tuba players when it comes to spelling the name of the school during formation on the football field.

    The Ohio State University marching band might need more tuba players when it comes to spelling the name of the school during formation on the football field. Associated Press

Updated 7/1/2022 12:39 PM

I have never been confused about whether my old school was "the" Ohio State University or if it was just "an" Ohio State University, there being some 111 of them in Ohio which might challenge it.

Of course, it was "The" university. It was the largest, most prominent and easiest to find no matter where you were coming from, right there in the middle of the state, the bellybutton of Ohio. It had the state nut as a symbol, a famous football team and a catchy fight song.


When matters such as what school was where might be brought up, which almost never occurred, nothing more was needed than "OSU "or "State" or just a general shoulder shrug in the direction of Columbus.

I think of all the times I have had to list my education credentials for employment or credit and never once has anyone asked me, "Ohio State? Is that the one in Oregon?"

I was never in doubt about what the single "O" stood for on Woody Hayes' black ball cap, not Oberlin nor Otterbein, two other very good Ohio schools, so it is said.

Nor did Woody's "O" represent Ohio University, tucked down there in the Hocking hills amid the coal mines and two-lane roads when historically, as the first college in the Northwest Territory, it could easily claim to be "the" one.

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By the way, I still have one of those old Woody caps somewhere, probably in an unopened moving box gathering dust in storage.

Those are things you put behind you as you move on in life. You may retain the line from Carmen Ohio, "the seasons pass, the years my roll ..." -- still the loveliest alma mater of them all -- until you find yourself one day getting irritated by the emphasis on "The" whenever your school is referred to.

What? Entirely unnecessary. And what's more, pretentious, obnoxious and, let's be honest, pusillanimous. I learned all those words on campus, just to illustrate that my time there was not just hanging out at Heidelberg North, though I preferred South.

Buckeye athletes insufferably emphasize "The" when introduced on TV so that no one thinks they could possibly have become mesomorphs at Bowling Green or Miami, which stills needs an "O" in parentheses to distinguish itself from Miami (Fla.), while Miami (Fla.) simply calls itself "U."

Nevertheless, after a three-year campaign to certify the unnecessary, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office agreed with the timid burghers at 15th and High that the elimination of confusion was vital to the prestige of a school so uncertain that it had to ask in the first place.


I assume that the semaphoric little dance from fans that spells out "Ohio" must now include "The," which not only makes it more insufferable but increases the chances of misspelling, a genuine concern.

And I wonder when the famous Script Ohio is spelled out by the marching band that it must now have a defining article added in front, all of which would mean more tuba players, never a good thing.

Yet again, just as when they hire a new football coach, my old school did not call to get my opinion on copyrighting the most common word in the English language, to take "The" as its own and to incur sneers from all corners, most cleverly from the school up north that wondered if it should now copyright the preposition "of" in University of Michigan.

And this brings me to why The Ohio State is no longer legally and conventionally good enough to be, merely Ohio State. Inferiority. Lack of confidence. Low self-esteem.

It pains me to admit this and it is no judgment on all the prominent graduates nor on the achievements resulting from a perfectly adequate education, but distinctiveness is for others to determine. You do not shout "I am the greatest," unless you are Muhammad Ali and you are still going to get an argument.

In any ranking of Big 10 schools, The Ohio State comes no better than fifth and usually worse, Michigan or Northwestern leading the way with Wisconsin and Illinois ahead of Purdue and Penn State, a place confident enough in itself to not impinge on the hard fought battle for the single syllable of distinction to become "The Penn State," when everyone knows the real one is in Philadelphia.

Silly? Yes. Embarrassing? Absolutely. Harmless? We'll see.

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