After you arrive at Ohio University, you’ll soon notice a disparity between how this university is referred to by the administration and its communications and advancement staff on the one hand, and by nearly everybody else on the other.

The administration uses the stylized name “OHIO” when not using “Ohio University.”

Everyone else almost always uses “OU” in both spoken and written contexts when referring to this particular university.

You’ll never find any reference to “OU,” however, in any official Ohio University communications. Even in quoted statements in news releases, the university uses “OHIO,” which makes the reader wonder whether the speaker is SHOUTING.

The university, I have gathered over the years, seeks to separate itself as an institution from the University of Oklahoma. That august institution embraces its “OU” name, despite the fact that it’s backwards. Shouldn’t it be UO? Yet, the University of Oklahoma’s URL is, and its website has an “about OU” link. (FYI, the University of Oregon uses “” in its URL. If there are any other “O” states, I’m not aware of them.)

The Athens NEWS over the decades has stubbornly resisted surrendering to the “OHIO” movement, and as long as I’m still living and breathing (or more importantly, collecting a paycheck as editor), we’re sticking with “OU” after the first “Ohio University” reference in a story.

Our reasoning is two-fold:

1. Everybody who’s not affiliated with Ohio University administration, communications or marketing uses “OU” when referring to Ohio University in non-sports contexts. I do, you do, he does, she does, we all do.

2. In this state where we live, the risk of being misunderstood when saying “Ohio” in reference to Ohio University (one doesn’t speak in all-caps) is much greater than the risk of someone thinking you’re talking about the University of Oklahoma when you say “OU.” This is because we live in a state called Ohio. If you say, “I love Ohio” or “I hate Ohio,” most listeners will conclude you’re stating appreciation or detestation, respectively, for the Buckeye State, not the groovy college in Athens.

3. Using OHIO in written communications, unless you’re forced to do so by style and/or policy, looks self-conscious. It screams branding, in the same way that the execrable “The Ohio State University” does.” I don’t know about you, but it stops me momentarily while I grind my teeth.

Sports references are an exception, and that does make some sort of sense, since the University of Oklahoma/OU is much more widely known on the national collegiate sports stage than Ohio University/Ohio, especially in the biggest college sport, football. (Several years ago, while traveling through Oklahoma, I purchased a crimson & cream “OU” T-shirt. Occasionally, I’d wear it around uptown Athens just to confuse people. Alas, I grew out of it – not maturity wise but in terms of body size. ]-;)

In sports usage, as long as that context is present, using “Ohio” (not OHIO) in reference to the university’s sports teams is just fine.

On the other hand, as a new Ohio University Bobcat, you have the perfect right to call OU/OHIO/Ohio/The Ohio University any damn thing you want. Have at it.

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