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Friday, April 6, 2012

Oikos University: What's in a Name?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2012 at 11:11 AM

click to enlarge The world's sad introduction to Oikos U. - ALBERT SAMAHA
  • Albert Samaha
  • The world's sad introduction to Oikos U.

For the vast majority of the news-consuming public, the first anyone heard of Oikos University is when seven people were slaughtered there in a shooting rampage purportedly undertaken by a disgruntled ex-student.

This is not a good introduction to the world at large. Outside the Bay Area, the term "Oikos" is most prevalently associated with the Dannon-produced Greek-style yogurt of the same name (which was advertised, obnoxiously, during the Super Bowl). It remains to be seen how marketing types will deal with the word now conjuring up nightmarish images of a deranged and, likely, misogynistic gunman. (Our calls to Dannon have not been returned).

It also spurs another question: Why name a school -- or a yogurt, or a sustainable construction site, or an academic journal -- "Oikos" in the first place?

"Oikos" is an ancient Greek word. It is the forerunner of the English words "ecology" and "economy" -- as noted by folks who'd want us to set up compostable toilet systems.

In ancient times, "oikos" could be used to refer to one's house, one's household goods, or one's family -- or all three simultaneously. Essentially, it meant "household," and it's a term that came up plenty in the New Testament. In the Bible, "oikos" is used to simply mean "house," or "household" -- but also has a connotation of the house of God and the household of God. This begins to explain why a Christian school -- or church -- would apply this name.

Our calls to the Oakland university were answered by people whose minds were on other things -- and who did not speak enough English to answer questions. Since Dannon didn't get back to us, we're going to assume the makers of the yogurt chose this name because it sounded Greek and was more pleasant to the ear than other Greek terms -- like "austerity," "default," and "currency crisis."

(Branding expert Rob Frankel, by the way, says Dannon needs to "go silent for a little while" and consumers won't make the association with mass-murder three months down the road. He does not believe Oikos yogurt will face the same fate as 1970s dietary candies Ayds -- which is pronounced "aids." The notion of "losing weight on the Ayds diet plan!" was not so desirable during the 1980s AIDS epidemic).

Incidentally, per Oikos University's doctrinal statement, the school's operating philosophy includes a belief in biblical infallibility; "the full historicity and perspicuity of the biblical record of the primeval history, including the literal existence of Adam and Eve as the progenitors of all people, the literal fall and resultant divine curse on the creation, the worldwide cataclysmic deluge, and the origin of nations and languages at the tower of Babel"; the biblical account of creation in "six literal days," and; "the existence of a personal, malevolent being called Satan who acts as tempter and accuser, for whom the place of eternal punishment was prepared, where all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity. He can be resisted by the believer through faith and reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit."

Sadly, it seems a personal, malevolent being of a more corporeal sort has introduced us to Oikos University.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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