In the great mockumentary “Best in Show,” when Harlan Pepper isn’t doing what he does best — raising bloodhounds — he’s naming nuts.
Peanuts. Hazelnuts. Cashew nuts. Macadamia nuts.
“It used to drive my mother crazy because she used to say, ‘Harlan Pepper, if you don’t stop naming nuts …,’” Pepper recalled in the movie.
Here in Kentucky, when the General Assembly isn’t doing what it does best — passing bad legislation — it’s naming state symbols.
Cardinal. Honeybee. Brachiopod. Viceroy butterfly.
You have to think by now, old Harlan’s mama would pipe up and say, “Kentucky General Assembly, if you don’t stop naming state symbols ….”
I know it’s driving me crazy.
Appalachian dulcimer. Gray squirrel. Ale-8-One. Thoroughbred horse.
I’ve never understood why states have so many symbols. It gets to the point where we don’t even know they exist. And yet we keep adding more.
In 1984, we named Shakespeare in Central Park the official state Shakespeare festival.
In 2014, state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian wanted to name the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, which produces Shakespeare in Central Park, as the official state outdoor drama. That bill failed.
I went to Kentucky Shake- speare’s website, and it claims there to be the offi- cial Shakespeare company of the commonwealth “as designated by the Kentucky Legislature.” I can’t find that in the law.
Doth I protest too much? I don’t think so.
Tulip poplar (formerly Kentucky Coffee Tree). My Old Kentucky Home. Blue Moon of Kentucky. Clogging.
We have a state symbol for everything.
Our state music is Bluegrass. (Shouldn’t that be our state grass as well.) Our state gun is the Kentucky Long Rifle. Our state fish is the spotted bass.
We have a state theater pipe organ.
This year, Rep. David Hale, R-Wellington, wants to make sweet sorghum molasses the official syrup of Kentucky. Silly me, I always thought the official syrup of Kentucky was bourbon.
One can only assume that Hale was doing that for Townsend Sorgham Mill, a business in Hale’s district. Danny Townsend, who runs the family company, didn’t respond to an email.
State Rep. Matthew Koch, a Paris Republican, wants the Springseat Saddle named the official saddle of Kentucky. Likely because the late Eugene Minihan developed the saddle in his shop in Owingsville, which is in Koch’s district.
Blackberries. Goldenrod. Fresh-water pearl. Crider soil series.
Yes. We have an official soil series in Kentucky. I don’t know what a soil series is, let alone why we would have an official one.
Last year, state Rep. Steven Rudy, of Paducah, tried for a second time to make the Mallard the official state waterfowl of Kentucky. He failed. Instead, they ought to bestow that honor on the American Coot, which Ducks Unlimited calls the “Rodney Dangerfield of the waterfowling world.”
Since 1994, the Kentucky state aboretum has been the Bernheim Aboretum and Research Forest. So in 2000, when the University of Kentucky-Fayette County wanted an official state designation, they had to settle for the official state botanical garden.
When the Louisville Waterfront Botanical Gardens opens later this year, I guess they’ll have to settle for the “official Kentucky place where plant thingies grow.”
We’ve got our regular motto, which is “United we stand — Divided we fall.” And we’ve got our official Latin motto, which is “Deo gratiam habeamus,” which loosely translated means, “We snuck the word ‘God’ into state law by putting it in a dead language.”
We have an official state honey festival. And an official state science center — which is rich since so many of our leaders reject science these days.
We’ve got an official center for the celebration of African-American heritage and an official African- American history museum.
The Corvette, which few people in Kentucky can afford, is our official state sports car. We have an official silverware pattern: Old Kentucky Bluegrass — the Georgetown Pattern. And we have an official steam locomotive, ol’ #152.
And the Fordsville Tugof War is our official state tug-of-war.
At the risk of giving the General Assembly a very bad idea, the only thing we don’t have is a state nut.
Some of these make no sense at all.
In 2005, Milk became the official drink of Kentucky. I’d drink Tennessee Whiskey before I tossed back a glass of milk.
Where was the bourbon lobby?
Our official state mineral is coal.
Only problem is, coal isn’t a mineral. It’s an organic sedimentary rock.
And our official rock is Kentucky agate.
Only problem is, agate isn’t a rock. It’s a mineral.
There’s a bill to fix that this year by swapping coal for agate in state law.
We can probably all get behind this piece of legislation just to keep our whole state from looking like geological nincompoops.
But after that passes, let’s listen to Harlan Pepper’s mother and stop naming nuts — er … stop naming state symbols. We got enough of them.
Joseph Gerth is a political columnist for the Courier Journal newspaper of Louisville.