Go Cougars! Wait…

January 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

In communication studies, there is inevitably going to be talk about Saussure and his concepts the sign, the signifier, and the signified. Now, before I lose anyone, just think in terms of a word or object and the different connotations that might be associated with it. A recent example in class was the swastika. While by itself it doesn’t necessarily mean anything (it’s just an image/sign), it has come to connote images and thoughts associated with Hitler, Nazi Germany, concentration camps, etc. In fact, the same image was used in many cultures before it was appropriated by Hitler’s regime and came to possess its current/popular meaning.

I bring this all up, because of a recent event in Draper, UT regarding a type of “sign.” The city of Draper (about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City), is building a new high school, and was trying to decide on a mascot. They ended up deciding on the Chargers, despite the popularity of the Cougars as a mascot. The reason they gave for not choosing the Cougars? The connotation of the word “cougar” in popular culture referring “to women in their 40s who have sex with younger men” (read the whole article here). I couldn’t believe they were serious, especially since one of the major universities in the area, and one of the most conservative in the United States, Brigham Young University, has the cougar as its mascot.

As seemingly ridiculous as this situation is, it created a great opportunity for me to talk about some good ol’ communication theory on my blog. And hopefully you learned something you might be able to use as trivia later, or as a funny story for family, friends and coworkers.

(As a way to show I am in no way becoming a BYU fan, despite what the visual aspect of this post might imply, I am inserting a U of U logo.)

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