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    Harvard Band says they were just trying to spell ‘Pen ‘15’

    Leaders of Harvard’s band say people should get their heads out of the gutter: the word that musicians spelled out on the field during a recent game against the University of Pennsylvania wasn’t what it looked like.

    Jacob Adler, who attended Saturday’s Ivy league showdown at Harvard, shared a photo of the band’s formation during a half-time performance on Twitter. Adler, in a state of semi-disbelief, claimed that the band was spelling out an anatomical term that rhymes with “Venus.”

    The photo soon went viral, and was shared more than 600 times before it was later featured on several sports news websites.

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    “I don’t think that happens by accident,” Adler wrote, referring to the way the band was assembled.

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    But Paul Meosky, manager of the Harvard Band, said in an e-mailed statement that people were sorely mistaken.

    “We meant to spell ‘Pen ‘15’ with both a space and an apostrophe before the number,” Meosky clarified Monday.

    Founded in 1919, the Harvard Band is entirely student-run. Students write the half-time shows and arrange the music, according to the group’s website.

    Meosky said this week’s performance centered around a “fictitious romance between the Harvard Band and our close friends in the Penn Band.”

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    “Penn” is the common shorthand for the school’s name. But during the game, when the band assembled, that second “n” was nowhere in sight.

    Still, Meosky proclaimed the group’s innocence.

    “Our last formation spelled Pen ‘15. The formation may have appeared indistinct due to lower attendance than expected, however, we believe it still clearly spells Pen ‘15, as we intended,” he said.

    After the picture went viral, members of the Harvard Band also tweeted that the formation was simply “misread.”

    But even Meosky’s own brother seemed skeptical of the excuse.

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    “When your brother is in charge of the Harvard Band ... Apparently it said “PEN ‘15”... Right,” Joe Meosky said on Twitter.

    Undaunted by the insult, the University of Pennsylvania’s team put an end to Harvard football’s 22-game winning streak.

    Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.