Teenagers find ways to mock any opposing school’s mascot, but Farmington resident Kyle Fraughton said the proposed symbol for a new high school in Davis County makes it too easy for would-be hecklers.
Fraughton launched an online petition Friday asking Davis School District to rethink its choice of “The Phoenix” as the mascot for Farmington High School.
When pluralized, Fraughton said, the mascot would sound like “penises” and invite mockery of the school’s students.
“I looked on Google and a couple hits down I saw that the plural of phoenix was either phoenixes or phoenices,” Fraughton said. “I have no interest in my daughter or my son playing sports and getting referred to as something like a penis.”
Davis School District announced the mascot choice earlier this month. The high school is under construction and expected to open in fall 2018. Spokesman Chris Williams said the phoenix mascot was selected by prospective students, and was the decisive winner ahead of runners-up “farmers” and “eagles.”
The district’s announcement appeared to anticipate some confusion over how the mascot would be applied to a large student body. In a prepared statement, Farmington High School Principal Richard Swanson says the word would remain singular and not pluralized.
“We are one,” Swanson said. “We are The Phoenix.”
But Fraughton said the school's official stance on a singular phoenix will mean little to rival students at athletics events.
He said he spoke to some of his neighbors about the issue, and they quickly devised crude cheers that could be employed at the expense of Farmington High School students.
“We’re a bunch of grown adults sitting around talking about phoenices and how funny that is,” Fraughton said.
Fraughton said he met with district administrators and believes it was a simple oversight that led to the mascot’s selection. The petition, he said, was a means to demonstrate to the district that he was not alone in his concerns.
“I sent the petition to five people and by end of day Friday it had 1,000 signatures,” he said.
As of Monday afternoon, more than 2,600 people had added their signatures to the petition online.
"With this scenario playing out, there will be a never-ending barrage of references to male anatomy directed at our children as they participate in any kind of sports against other schools,” the petition states. “In an effort to be funny and get under the player’s skin, opposing student bodies will most certainly chant things such as, ‘Go Phoenices!’ That will just be the beginning as it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out how vulgar this could get.“
Aaron Kaplan, an assistant professor in the University of Utah’s Department of Linguistics, said there is no generally agreed-upon plural of phoenix.
The word is likely borrowed from Latin, he said, and Latin conventions would make the plural “phoenices” (pronounced fee-nuh-sees) similar to how the plural form of matrix is matrices.
But there is precedent for words to be anglicized when they are borrowed from other languages, Kaplan said. In that scenario, phoenix could be its own plural — like elk or sheep — or the traditional “es” could be added to make the word phoenixes, he said, like boxes and foxes.
“I would say it is entirely up to the school to decide what the plural is,” Kaplan said. “There’s no right answer to the question of what the plural of phoenix is. It’s whatever the speakers of Englsh settle on.”
But included among the speakers of English would be the fans of a school’s opposing team. Kaplan said it’s fair to assume that no matter what Farmington High School administrators settle on, teenagers will continue to take some license in referring to the school’s students and athletes.
“That doesn't stop fans from other schools of inventing their own plurals in making fun of them,” Kaplan said. “But as far as the school’s official position, they could pick from a variety of options and they’d all be correct.”
Williams said the district reached out to administrators at five U.S. schools with phoenix mascots, all of whom reportedly use the singular phoenix in lieu of a plural and with no evidence of excessive vulgarity.
“He’s entitled to his opinion,” Williams said of Fraughton’s petition. “We don’t agree with it at all.”
Williams said it would be the prerogative of the Davis Board of Education to review the school’s mascot, if they chose to do so, but that there are currently no plans to switch the phoenix for another symbol.