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Offensive house names: When a humorous tradition is taken too far

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

Miami students and Oxford residents walking up Spring Street or cruising down Collins likely notice that many of the houses don't just have street numbers, they have names. Some, like "Tequila Mockingbird" or "The Great Fratsby," draw inspiration from famous literary works. Others play off their locations, like "Walking A Vine Line" and - our personal favorite - "At Church and Almost High." Not surprisingly, many of the most popular puns are related to alcohol - think "Whiskey Business," "Jager Stadium" and "Sex on the Beech." But there are plenty that shouldn't make you laugh.

At their best, names can give a house character and make it stand out. At their worst, they are demeaning, disturbing and flat out disgusting - crude jokes that highlight decades of racism and a lack of respect for women. The sign art for "Cherry Poppins," for example, is a sexual depiction of a woman's legs spread wide.

House names such as "Smack My Bishop" and "How I Met Your Daughter" hold the same sentiment. These house names are nothing more than an ever-present equal to the sexist and disrespectful banners that caused controversy at Ohio State University two weeks ago.

Many people claim the house names are "just a joke." This excuse begs the question: Where is the humor in degradation and narrow-mindedness?

Unless it's a punch line that went over our heads, calling a house "Plan B" is not funny. What message does that communicate to friends and visitors: "Come on in and have unprotected sex - we'll just fix it in the morning?" There's also something uncomfortable about people living in a house called "Smegma." Nothing screams welcome like the buildup of dead skin cells, oil and moisture that occur around genitalia.

Now, we don't want to come off as too uptight. We are students, too. We like a good joke.

And we will give credit where credit is due. For example, "Bored of Education" is a wonderful play on words. "Absinthe Minded" is quite clever. And the brightly colored "Sunny Delight" and "Orange Crush" are classics, as well.

But we are young adults. We have values. And we have parents, to whom we would rather not have to explain why our next-door neighbors christened their home "8 Out."

One of the most common defenses of these uncomfortable house names is that they are tradition - a part of Miami's history. However, not only are some of the house names new, but they seem to get worse as the years go by. It's as though there is an unspoken competition to out-do one another, to be more extreme and to edge closer to the line between clever and crude.

Other owners of offensively named abodes argue, "This is college, lighten up!" Yes, college is a time to enjoy ourselves and be a little irresponsible. But it is also a time to learn important lessons, one of which is to have respect for those around us. It's easy to think of Oxford as just a college town, but it's not. In reality, all kinds of people live here including older adults, young children and families. Chances are they don't appreciate placards like the one on "Liquor Box," intended to be pronounced "lick her box," which features a pair of lips and is a vulgar reference to oral sex.

The one house that stands at the pinnacle of obscenity is "Plantation," the large white colonial that bears an eerie resemblance to a slaveholder's mansion. This house name is blatantly and unforgivingly racist. As in the debate of the Confederate flag, arguing for the protection of "rich cultural heritage" is an evasion of the truth. This relic has gone from a celebrated symbol of Southern pride to an insensitive reminder of past injustices and a heritage of oppression. Above all else, this house name needs to be abolished.

Just like trash on a lawn or cracks in the sidewalk, a lewd house name can be an eyesore. In a town offering both historical and state-of-the-art architecture, an unmatched landscape and an intelligent student body, do we want to be remembered for our tasteless sense of humor? After all the work that has been put into beautifying Miami, it's a shame to let our own obnoxious artwork detract from our vaunted reputation.