The blog goes on… from Tarheel to tartan


National Tartan Day starThe “Red Liner” name of this mostly archival blog refers to the subway I used to take between Cambridge and Boston, after moving north from Chapel Hill. But now I have to make sure no one from my new campus — Radford University — thinks I’m casting a partisan vote in favor of “Rowdy Red,” a sockpuppet excuse for a school mascot — once used as an alternative to Radford’s kilt-clad Scotsman called “The Highlander.”

“Radford” itself sounds a bit like a merger of Radcliffe and Harvard — or Hartford — but it lies six or seven hundred miles from those old post-Tarheel and pre-Tarheel stomping grounds of mine in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The university’s namesake, the city of Radford, fills a 10-square-mile bend in the New River in southwest Virginia, an area proud of its Scots-Irish heritage and its own Blue Ridge highlands. (The university itself has property on both sides of the river, and the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Pulaski County gives newcomers like me the impression that Radford City is larger than it is; my first draft of this post said the city “spans the river,” but it doesn’t. See Google Maps)

The university is part of the Virginia public higher education system, and just southwest of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. (Once upon a time, Radford College was for women and Virginia Tech was for men.)

To celebrate my arrival at a school whose teams are “The Highlanders,” I put a Scottish tartan behind my home page, as explained there. While that version of my grandmother’s family tartan is mostly green; Radford uses a more red and blue tartan in some of its publications.

I was disappointed to find that you can’t buy a kilt (or at least a plaid tie) at the campus bookstore — in fact, I get the feeling the simple-design-minded “college memorabilia” and “sports marketing” folks have pushed the university toward adopting a simpler solid school color or two.

Someone also has been promoting “RU” as a nickname for the school for sometime, which started to annoy me as soon as the “RU…?” puns stopped being cute. Why have a two-letter, two-syllable abbreviation for a school name that is already only two syllables?

There are plenty of schools that could call themselves “RU,” even if Radford does head the list. Google the word “Radford” and you find the university listed before the city name, unlike Boston and BU.

Maybe I can start a little business on the side with “Radford: Plaid and Proud” T-shirts. Hmm… Maybe in time for National Tartan Day next spring.

Note: Geographical update Dec. 16, 2015, to celebrate the appointment of a new president at Radford, and avoid misinforming him if he stops by this old essay.

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