When I was growing up, I learned that cows moo, dogs bark and cats meow. But it wasn’t until I transferred to UC Irvine that I found out that Anteaters, apparently, say ‘zot.’
The university’s choice of a mascot, and the mascot’s less-than-intimidating rally cry, is probably a mystery for a lot of the current student body.
A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting near a group of extremely vocal parents at a UCI women’s soccer game. For almost 90 minutes straight, this small gathering of rowdy middle-aged folks constantly heckled the referees. However, the referees got a quick break from the barrage of insults questioning their ability to watch a soccer match when the announcer cheered ‘Zot! Zot!’ near the end of the game.
For a few minutes, the parents substituted the announcer as their new object of scorn. As I observed this phenomenon, I asked myself, ‘How did my university end up with a mascot so ridiculous that uttering its cheer from a loudspeaker could cause someone to be mocked by unruly sports fans of the school?’
In a quick search for the history of the mascot from the school’s home page, it was revealed that Peter the Anteater was the mascot of choice by the original student body at UCI in 1965, thanks to heavy campaigning by Schuyler Hadley Basset III.
The anteater was modeled after a frequently appearing animal in the comic strip ‘B.C.’ ‘Zot’ is the sound that the anteater made as it sucked up ants.
Third-year information and computer science transfer student Ryan Barber was actually shocked when he initially learned that the mascot of his new university says ‘zot.’ This is because Barber hails from South Africa, where ‘zot’ is racial slur for native Africans, equivalent to our n-word. So remember, fellow Anteaters, check your school pride at the national border, or you may find yourself getting beat down at the hands of an angry African mob.
Besides the racial epithets, the anteater itself remains an unusual choice for a school mascot. It’s probably impossible to tell your friends at rival schools to fear the ferocious creature with a straight face.
But, as first-year chemistry major Chris Agee said, ‘At least it’s not a banana slug.’
The anteater is, in fact, a relative of the bear (the largest member of its species is known as the antbear), so it should feel a little more at home in the company of UCLA’s Bruins and UC Berkeley’s Golden Bears. Agee did not feel an increased sense of school pride upon learning this, however.
Hopefully, for better or for worse, the student body at Irvine will now be better informed of the story of its mascot. The next time you form the traditional metal-head hand sign for ‘Hail Satan,’ which here represents the head of an anteater, and shout ‘zot!’ as you cheer for your favorite team or pep squad, may you keep in mind the history of our noble Anteater.