Guest Column
I humbly submit what would be the best name for TIA’s flamingo. (I won’t spell it out!) | Column
Of more than 60,000 names submitted, I picked the best one. Alas, I didn’t win.
The 21-foot floor to ceiling sculpture of a flamingo has been a popular stop for guest boarding and arriving into Tampa International Airport. And it now has a name.
The 21-foot floor to ceiling sculpture of a flamingo has been a popular stop for guest boarding and arriving into Tampa International Airport. And it now has a name. [ LUIS SANTANA | TIMES | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Jan. 14, 2023

Friends know two things about me. First, I am obnoxiously competitive. In all games and contests, I need to win. Second, I’m kind of a Mr. Know It All, just like my cartoon pal Bullwinkle J. Moose.

That is why I think I should have won the contest to name the splendid flamingo sculpture at Tampa International Airport.

More than 60,000 names were submitted. I entered one of them. There were so many entries that the selection process was extended. Finally, the name of the winner was recently this month.

For a while now, we have known the name of the three finalists: Cora, Finn and Phoebe. These would be, in my immodest opinion, wonderful names — if my wife were giving birth to triplets.

Wonderful names, but for a giant flamingo?

Let’s begin with Cora. I would think better of that name if it were Coral, a tribute to the color of the bird and to the protection of that part of the undersea ecosystem.

Then there is Finn. No, not unless it was a statue of a shark.

If I had been forced to vote for one of these three, I would have picked Phoebe. Alliteration — the repetition of initial consonants sounds — works well with names, and Phoebe the Flamingo has a rhythm the other two lack.

Phoebe turns out to be the winner. But I like my choice better.

I am not a sore loser. Well, maybe I am. I am not hating the namers, people, just the names. May the winner enjoy the spoils of victory along with bragging rights.

I have no right to criticize these names without having something better in mind. I assure you I do.

But the creative process takes time. I need, say, three names that don’t make the cut before a vision of glory appears in the sky.

I would never submit the obvious Pinky. But how about Pinkimus Maximus? OK, maybe not.

How about Shrimp? It would be ironic since the bird is so big, and appropriate as the flamingo’s color is influenced by its diet of those tasty crustaceans. Hmm. OK, no.

I looked up “flamingo” and it led me to the word “flamenco,” the Spanish style fiery dance, both derived from the word for “flame.” Ladies and gentleman, we are proud to introduce you to Flamenco the Flamingo. Cue the music. OK, cut.

This is the way the creative process goes. I needed something simpler, shorter and more memorable. I stared at the sign: Tampa International Airport. Maybe I could mix the letters around.

Then it hit me like a solution for Wordle in two tries.

Tampa International Airport. Those initials. T-I-A. OMG, TIA. Tia is a name! I searched on Facebook and found many prominent women from all fields of endeavor with the name Tia.

But wait, there’s more. “Tia” is the Spanish word for “Auntie,” a connotation that would honor Tampa’s Hispanic history.

Now it’s true that TIA is an abbreviation for a medical condition named Transient Ischemic Attack, a kind of mini-stroke.

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But that unfortunate association is redeemed when “TIA” is used in online messages for “Thanks In Advance.”

And get this. One dictionary defines the word as meaning not only aunt, but goddess:

“Having roots in Greek, this delightful name means ‘goddess,’ with many using Tia as a variation of Theia. The Greek goddess of sight and the blue sky was named Theia, who birthed the sun, moon, and dawn.” Tia, the goddess of blue sky! What could be better for an airport?

I’m ready to drop the mike, readers. But not before saying that, in spite of living in the land of the Big Lie, I do not believe the selection or election process was rigged. I accept Phoebe as the winner and concede with grace. But in my heart, she will always be Tia to me.

Roy Peter Clark is a contributing writer to the Tampa Bay Times. Contact him at