Thursday, October 21, 2010

Flags: State of Nevada

I'm in Reno for a conference, so this seems like an appropriate time to comment on Nevada's state flag. I like the choice of the cobalt blue field; it looks nice against the western sky and complements the national flag. In the corner is a logo (significantly, not the state seal, which is the vexillological kiss of death according to my state flag manifesto) with two sprigs of sagebrush (the state flower), a star, and a banner with the slogan, "Battle Born." The slogan is a reminder that Nevada joined the Union during the Civil War. The state's silver mines helped finance the Union Army. The flag loses some points by having the name of the state printed upon it - another state flag no-no - but overall I like it. It certainly looks like the flag of no other state.

The other symbols of the Silver State include some pretty awesome things. The state flower is sagebrush, as mentioned above, and its fragrance is unmistakable and delightfully refreshing.

Nevada has a remarkable state fossil: the ichthyosaur Shonisaurus, found near the ghost town of Berlin, was a 55-foot-long marine reptile from the late Triassic. This Mesozoic fish-eater is so totally sweet that it gave its name to a state park (Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park) and a beer (Ichthyosaur IPA, from the Great Basin Brewing Company in Sparks/Reno).

When it comes to extant things aquatic, the Silver State does not disappoint. The official state fish is the Lahontan cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarki henshawi, the largest subspecies of cutthroat trout. The Nevada Legislature describes its awesomeness and appropriateness:
The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, a native trout found in 14 of the state's 17 counties, is adapted to habitats ranging from high mountain creeks and alpine lakes to warm, intermittent lowland streams and alkaline lakes where no other trout can live.
The Lahontan cutthroat narrowly escaped extinction due to overfishing and competition with introduced rainbow and lake trout. A relict population was found high in the mountains; through hatcheries, this population has reintroduced the species to some of its old habitats.

The state mammal (though the Legislature mistakenly calls it "the state animal") is the desert bighorn sheep, Ovis canadensis nelsoni a handsome beast with a smaller stature but wider horns than its Rocky Mountain cousin, O. canadensis canadensis, which coincidentally is the state mammal of Colorado (likewise, another subspecies of cutthroat trout is the state fish of Colorado). The state reptiles is the desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, a long-lived shellback found in the southern part of the state.

There are many other awesome things about the Silver State that I plan to write about later, so I'll stop here. One final note, though: the accepted local pronunciation is "Nuh-VAD-uh", not "Nuh-VAW-duh". Nevadans have publicly booed a sitting President on at least one occasion for deviation from the accepted local pronunciation of the state's name.
A former state archivist wrote on a Nevada State Library & Archives site that
Folks east of the Rocky Mountains defend saying “Nuh-VAW-duh” by claiming it’s the proper Spanish pronunciation. So why don’t they pronounce Florida, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California by their Spanish pronunciations?
The state tourism office is so intent on settling this issue that they included pronunciation help on their promotional logo:

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