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Mr. M. Alice:

One of my co-workers insists the Nike "swoosh" is an ancient, maybe Mesopotamian sign of Satan. He also says the goddess Nike is the daughter of the titan warrior-god Pallas and the river Styx, the river of the underworld. The dickens you say? Is all this true? And if it is, that old devil sure is one good marketer.

-- Lucy Fir, the net

So what's your friend's point? Like, your basketball shoes are the footwear of the damned? They'll suddenly burst into flames or cause you to rob a bank or run into freeway traffic? They're made by indentured, devil-worshiping five-year-olds from some desperate Third World country? When you see him tomorrow, ask him, if you wear a pair of Nikes backwards, do you hear them saying, "Jordan's dead! Jordan's dead!"?

Not a lot of swooshing in Mesopotamia, far as I can tell. Now, wings? Wings they had. Very big on wings. One of the best known images from that part of the ancient world is a figure called a lamassu-- body of a lion, head of a man, big old wings running the full length of the figure. Swoosh-ish, I guess, in most photos of the statues. Lamassus guarded the entrance to a temple but weren't particularly evil forces. Well, no more evil than any other bouncer. They do not wear shoes, by the way. Just funny hats.

As for Nike herself, she's the Greek goddess of victory, depicted as a winged figure. Hence the brand name for sports gear, and hence the swoosh. Greek gods' family trees are a free-wheeling kind of genealogy. There's often more than one story about who begat whom. But the main rumor about Nike is that she's the offspring of Pallas and Styx. Styx was a nymph, the daughter of Oceanus and the personification of one of the rivers to be crossed in passing on to the world beyond the living.

As urban legends go, this is a relatively uncirculated one. Did your friend cook this up himself? In general, the pieces of the story are correct. Can't say I see the satanic connection, but I haven't put in the hours your cubemate has, sweating over ancient tomes and shoe store ads, rooting out evil. And please don't write in when he moves on to Louis Vuitton or the Trilateral Commission.

Hi Matt:

In further interest of the Nike "swoosh"�is it true a poor graphic art student was paid only $30 for the now world-famous, multi-billion-dollar design?

-- Nicole, La Jolla

Heck, no. She got $35. Carolyn Davidson, grad student, Portland (OR) State, 1972. She worked occasionally for accounting professor Phillip Knight, who was hatching the idea for Nike at the time. He needed a logo ASAP. He didn't like the swoosh much, but there was no time to redesign it. He had an investors' meeting the next day.

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