What is a “Corsair”? The secret behind the name

Many of us have said it, we see it around campus, we hear it being yelled in the field and yet students of Santa Monica College are not aware of what our mascot is. We have all been in contact with the word, one way or another, but If someone asked you what it means, what would your answer be? “A flying thing?” Sandra Gutierrez said. “A guns aim sight,” said Atila Akar. “It’s a company that makes either hair dryers or memory sticks. Am I right?” said Jimmy Calderon.

A corsair, according to Miriam Webster Dictionary and Oxford Dictionary, is a pirate. Some SMC students answered correctly but were not 100 percent certain. “It’s a pirate thing, isn’t it?” said Luis Sanchez. “I think it’s a pirate, or something close. Let me confirm it real quick,” said Akram Abdu.

According to dictionaries, the word corsair comes from the French word corsaire, which derives from Latin cursus, meaning, “course.”

“The corsairs were privateers that were authorized by the French government to disrupt and raid ships on high sea that were against the French,” said Dr. Chui Tsang, President of Santa Monica College.

In France they were not considered pirates, they were men that defended the country of France from any outsiders. Foreign countries had a different view of the corsairs, they were pirates and would be hung if captured by an enemy country.

According to Tsang, The Corsair has been our mascot since SMC decided to become its own separate college and no longer was with the Santa Monica Unified District.

“I think the corsair is a good word because we’re close to the ocean and it’s closely tied with the community here,” Tsang said. But not even the president of our school is 100 percent sure of why we use the word corsair at SMC. “Santa Monica High School use the Vikings as their mascot and so I think that’s why. I have no evidence, but I suspect,” said Tsang.

“It makes sense to be a corsair. We’re close to the beach, where there are boats,” Gutierrez said.

Many guesses have been made, some good, some funny and some far off from the meaning. For now SMC alumni can bask in the presence of Pico The Corsair, the official campus mascot himself who appears at every home game to brandish a wooden sword before the roaring crowds. It is a fitting mascot considering the seaside history of California, especially in the colonial era.

At least now we know what a corsair is, although the reason why it’s associated with SMC remains a mystery. The Corsair will continue this investigation into the origins of our pirate-root name.