When I sat down for this week’s Birkie countdown, I drew a blank. I know what I’m doing for next week, but for some reason “N” was cramping my mental game. In my pursuit of an “N,” I started wondering what exactly about N was giving me difficulty, if for no other reason than to procrastinate my actually coming up with a solution. And then I started thinking about where the letter “N” came from, which led me back to my 10th grade paper where I analyzed the names of characters from Homer’s Odyssey. Fast forward several brain synapses firing, and I found myself googling “etymology of Birkie.”
While I had trouble locating the exact etymology of Birkie (potentially drawn from the middle English word berken meaning to bark…gives the barkebirkie a whole new level of legitimacy!), I did stumble across a definition I had never heard before:
noun. A man, especially one who is spirited and energetic
adjective. Lively; spirited; cocky.
I’m not completely certain where (and really if) “cocky” fits into the Birkie mission, but the rest of the definition fits like a glove. Turns out names can actually help explain a lot about an event and it’s origins. This gem of a definition led me to googling all sorts of ski related etymologies. “Skiing” comes from old norse skith meaning “stick of wood, snowshoe,” and it wasn’t until the mid 18th century that skiing took on it’s current meaning. Klister (a wax I’ve been using for the past week despite Montana’s Mother Nature’s best efforts) is originally a Swedish word meaning “glue.” How fitting!
As if my mind hadn’t followed a crazy tangent to this point, I started thinking about the names of people who had won the Birkie. Through some very basic (and not altogether scientifically sound) statistics, I wanted to determine if there were any names that seemed predisposed to winning (or losing), dependent on first letters. If I wanted my daughter to be an eventual Birkie champion, I would make sure her first name starts with a “J” (7 victories are associated with that letter). Another viable option is “G,” but there has never been a woman Birkie champion whose name has started with an “I” (first or last). “F” isn’t a good option either (nor are the more predictable x, y, and z among others). On the men’s side if I wanted a Birkie champion I’d name my son something that begins with “M” (7 wins!). Other decent options include “A,” “O,” and “T.” Avoid “H” (looks like my little brother Henry is out of luck).
I’m currently in Spokane, Washington where my team spent the night on route to Rossland, Canada for some NorAm races. Next week I’ll be writing this from my house in Minnesota, where I’m excited to be spending two weeks for the holidays before heading to Houghton for nationals! Happy Wednesday, and if you find yourself with a snow dance to spare send it up to Rossland- our cross country ski race might be a roller one (…I think I’m kidding, but that might be a woefully true sentiment).