A College Football Rivalry Immortalized by Map Bunnies

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For some folks, this coming weekend is all about the leftovers and department store sales. For others, it’s unlimited time to sit back and watch one college football game after another. And a lot of people take their college ball very seriously. One long-standing rivalry was even the subject of two controversial map bunnies.

What are map bunnies, you ask? In the cartography business, it’s a small piece of erroneous information (the mapmaker’s initials as a bogus street name, for example) tucked away on a map on purpose. Why? If someone else copies and attempts to sell an existing map, it can be proven that the work has been plagiarized. While it may not necessarily be obvious to the casual observer, copyright lawyers know what to look for.

But map bunnies have also been used for other reasons. In 1978, Peter Fletcher, Chairman of the Michigan State Highway Commission, was taking considerable ribbing from his fellow University of Michigan alums for the colors chosen to paint the refurbished Mackinac Bridge (green and white, the colors of—gasp—Michigan State). That color scheme had been chosen to comply with federal highway regulations, he explained, but nevertheless he felt obligated to redeem himself. He ordered a state cartographer to insert bogus towns onto that year’s official state road map as proof of his loyalty to his alma mater. Eagle-eyed navigators subsequently were either delighted or aghast to find the tiny villages of “Goblu” (Go Blue) and “Beatosu” (Beat OSU) placed across the state line in Ohio.

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November 23, 2012 - 3:00am
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