Nevada has been punctuated.
It comes with the new advertising campaign, "Wide Open," initiated this week by the Tourism Commission.
It looks like this:
I don't know what to call it. It's the cup-shaped symbol for a short-vowel sound - a little 'u' over the 'a' intended to help people like President Bush and John Kerry understand how to pronounce the name of our state.
As an added benefit, it creates a happy little smile as part of the logo.
Or maybe it's a pair of horns, like on a bull.
I have to tell the Tourism Commission, though, that not everybody is going to like it. One of my correspondents passed this along:
"As you are probably well aware today is the day Nevada begins its big ad campaign across the country. I had a look at it this morning on their Web site and it's not pretty. Nevada with a curlicue is not gonna cut it.
"Of all the 50 states we will be the only one with a curlicue. We will be the laughingstock of the country. I tell you this is not right, and someone should bring the hammer down on the people who came up with this. Not hard, you understand, but a nice rap upside the head to get their attention.
"Nothing as big as a sledgehammer, of course, but maybe a ballpeen-sized instrument might suffice for the first go around. Hopefully they will get the message."
Well, that's one way to look at it.
I prefer to think of it as the little cup being half-full, rather than half-empty.
Because no other state in the union has a curlicue, Nevada must be on the cutting edge of tourism marketing logos.
Lord knows we're not trend-setters on the same order as California, where Hollywood sets the cultural pace for the rest of the world. Right now I suspect France and China, for example, are holding high-level meetings to determine why they've fallen so far behind in the production of reality TV shows.
Texas has obviously taken the lead in Super Bowl half-time entertainment, but I think Las Vegas is by far the leader in lap-dancing ... oh, excuse me, "gentlemen's clubs." Wait 'til Omaha catches that wave.
Anyway, back to the curlicue.
Nevadans may have a bit of a chip on our shoulder about pronunciation, but other states could use a little help translating for outsiders too. So if the Nevada curlicue campaign catches on, we can look forward to:
n Mizzurah - the "We'll Show You State."
n Loozyana - Even if you missed Mahdi Grah, there's still plenty going on in Nawlins.
n Wa(r)shington - No extra consonants needed.
n Illinoy - Where the 's' is silent
n Uta - Where the 'h' is silent.
n New Hampshur - Right next to Vurmont.
n New Yawk - If you don't like it, we don't care.
n MinnesOta - The next best thing to Canada.
n Hawaya - Just fine, thanks
I couldn't really come up with a campaign for all of California. But I have noticed that people in the Los Angeles area sometimes refer to themselves as being from SoCal. I think that creates an opportunity for the other end of the state to begin referring to itself as NoCal, which would appeal to dieters.
Another opportunity created by the Nevada Tourism Commission's campaign is to straighten out not only the pronunciation of the state but also many of the places in it.
Wouldn't it be helpful for newcomers to know how to pronounce GenOa, so they don't get it confused with that place in Switzerland?
How about Elee? Gerlock? PeeOsh? Lawflin?
I still can't pronounce Beowawe, so I'm no help there.
Too many people want to put a "ph" at the end of Pahrump. I don't know what to tell them, except perhaps to get rid of that extra 'h' in the beginning. I think that's what's confusing people.
Of course, now that Nevada has added a letter - or something - to its name, it could start confusing people.
"What's that thing above the 'a'?" they'll ask. "Were they having a sale on obscure punctuation and Nevada couldn't afford an umlaut or a tilde? Is that the petroglyph spelling of Nevada?"
Judging by most people's impression of our state, the thing could represent a tiny spaceship landing on Nevada.
Frankly, I think the Tourism Commission is setting people up for the next campaign, when they remove the little curlicue. Then the slogan will be: Nevada. The only thing missing is 'u.'
Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal. If there is a name for the symbol for a short-vowel sound, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1221.