Author Archive
Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Freshman-Senior Brawl

Piece:

Freshman-Senior brawl: at the end of each year, the senior boys and freshman boys gather in the schools old gym (this tradition is unknown by the school’s faculty) to have an unofficial freshman-senior brawl to celebrate the moving up of freshman to sophomores and the graduation of seniors moving on from the school. “I do this to you so you can do this to freshman some day.” The idea is that freshmen are hated for being new, young, and naïve and this is the last chance for them to be bullied before they are no longer freshmen. The seniors sort of intentionally go easy on the freshman because they’re 18, whereas the freshmen are 14.

Information & Context:

My informant for this piece is a student at the University of Southern California who graduated from the boarding school (Cate) from which this tradition originates. His knowledge of the tradition dates back between 3 and 11 years ago, though it is reasonable that it has existed for longer.

Thoughts:

It is curious to me that a ceremony of physical violence can be viewed as a positive thing. My informant explained to me that it was seen as a right of passage—after which, both parties move up in the world. I would point out that both parties would move up, regardless of the ceremony, but it is important to note that this is how the community reacts to such a passage. It becomes a “you get bullied now so you get the right to bully later” type of scenario.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Soul Pole

Piece:

It was this wooden stick–kind of like a paddle, kind of like a stick–whenever someone was out of line the prefect (a senior who had authority) would threaten to get the “Soul Pole” and beat them with it. This is no longer a tradition.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a student at the University of Southern California who graduated from the boarding school (Cate) from which this folk object originates. His knowledge of this phrase dates back between 3 and 11 years ago, though it is reasonable that it has existed for longer. He said that the use of the folk object had been discontinued after it was discovered by the schools faculty.

The object references social periods in which a room was occupied by seniors and underclassmen, in which the seniors had direct authority over their younger peers.

 Thoughts:

This is a folk tradition in which older students beat up younger students for disobedience. This was a sacred object used to conduct an act of hazing that could only occur at the school given the confinement into the school’s campus of the students and lack of adult supervision. The result of these circumstances was apparently the rise of a new hierarchy with a strict judicial system in the fashion of Lord of the Flies.

Game
Myths
Narrative

Dota Origins

Piece:

Legend about origin and Dota: Dota started as a warcraft 3 mod in 2004 ish made by a guy named Eul (A username the unnamed individual used on online message boards across the internet). Then it was developed by this guy named Guinsoo (another username). He sort of half quit and sort of half no one liked him and went on to make League of Legends. Then it was [finished by] Ice Frog who was an adamant fan. No one knows who Ice Frog is. There are conspiracy theories that he’s an alcoholic russian guy (the game has a large Russian community. PGG, an ex-pro Russian player was rumored to be Ice Frog since he always seemed to know and use new strategies involving new uses for spells or items that had not been detailed in the game’s patch notes) or he’s a middle eastern guy. He’s assumed to be male.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a member of the Dota community who has been active since approximately 2007. The game in question, Dota, has been retired by all save a small crowd of nostalgic games in exchange for one of it’s many successors: Dota 2, League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, and Smite.

Dota is an arena base defense game played online between two teams, each consisting of 5 players. The object of the game is to destroy the other teams base.

Thoughts:

Dota 2 is a game I am very familiar with and am fascinated by. Though I started playing in the second generation of the game, I am familiar with the fact that it has an unconventional origin. That is to say, it surfaced as a community mod to a specific level in Blizzard’s title, Warcraft III. I had heard the name Ice Frog referenced as the divine creator of the game during my time playing it and find it fascinating that they have not come forward to reveal their identity—since they are responsible for what has become the most popular genre in the history of video games in term of the sheer number of players.

Folk speech
Game

Hontrash

Piece:

“Hontrash”

Years ago (in 2007 ish) the Defense of the Ancients (Dota) community and Heroes of Newerth (HON) community were at odds because it’s essentially the same game. Players knew that one would eventually triumph over the other as the popular game of the genre and the loser would be discontinued—like a fight for survival. Dota eventually won and HON players switched over, so “hontrash” became an insult for people who switched over. Eventually the community moved on from insulting that group of players, and the phrase instead shifted its meaning to become an insult targeting anyone who demonstrated a clear lack of skill in the game.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a member of the Dota community who has been active since approximately 2007 during the time at which this phrase occurred. He was exposed to this folk speech in online matches in which players around him used the phrase to insult others.

Thoughts:

I became active in the Dota community around fall of 2012 and have never witnessed this insult in my time as part of the community. As a result, I would reason that the lifespan of this folk speech was a band of time in-between 2007 and 2012.

Insults in the online gaming community are quite common at the non-professional level. I would reason that this is an affordance of the nature of anonymity with the games—each player speaks from behind a computer screen.

Humor
Proverbs

And That’s Why the Bear Lost It’s Tail

Piece:

“Do you have any Romanian proverbs?”

Well there’s this Romanian story about how the bear lost it’s tail. I don’t remember how it goes, but I remember it, because every time I did something that disappoint my mom, she would look at me and go ‘And that’s why the bear lost its tail’

“Does it have an exact meaning”

It does in Romanian, but that’s how it’s translated–it doesn’t really make the same sense in English.

Informant & Context:

My informant is a student at the university of southern California, originally from Sammamish, Washington and of Romanian descent. She described her family as very Americanized. This proverb originates from a Romanian origin myth about why the bear has no tail.

Thoughts:

It’s interesting to me that the informant does not actually remember the story, but simply the title—which has become a proverb in her family (if it was not already one). Aside from that, it doesn’t really have a direct meaning, instead it is more a vague association with shame and disappointment. It sounded like the phrase was used to be comedic—as more of a punch line.

Folk speech

#LCSBigPlays

Piece:

In the LCS (League of Legends Championship series) — it’s the biggest championship series– there are certain known playmaking character that are consistently super important to team fights. This commentator Phreak would sometimes comment “WOW big plays” whenever one of those pivotal moments occurred in a game. Thus started the hashtag #LCSBigPlays. Then it became a balance criticism after characters continually performed well in tournaments and it was theorized that Riot refused to balance these characters because they were exciting to watch in tournaments and the company didn’t want to take away from the spectacle (Specifically in reference to the character Ahri, who has been first-pick banned in tournaments for the last 2 years).

 Information & Context:

My informant for this piece is a student at the University of Southern California who has been involved in the League of Legends community for the past 5 years. He was exposed to this piece of folk Speech after watching the LCS one year in which Phreak commentated and witnessed the rise of the hash tag in online games in the following months.

 Thoughts:

I find it interesting that a lot of the folk speech insults in online games originate from an attempt to parody something in the community’s spotlight. This intrigues me because it indicates a role reversal—using something that has become overused in an attempt to highlight an idiosyncrasy in the game. This folk speech insult has become popular in an attempt to chastise the game’s creator for not providing more balance in the game to it’s players.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Sorority Hazing (Secret Code)

Piece:

There is a legend that an exclusive sorority at USC had developed a code to ensure that they only recruited girls that met their aesthetic standards (which were at odds with the recruitment plan of their organization as a whole at the national level). Girls that were nice and overall reasonable candidates for the sorority but did not meet the aesthetic standards of the current members would be described by the active members as “pretty, smart, nice” which was a code that they used to reject a reasonable applicant without having to make themselves culpable to their national board.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a member of a sorority at USC, though not the one that this legend is about. Both sororities will remain anonymous. My informant had heard other members of her sorority talking about this legend. There is no information to confirm or deny its verity. This is a modern legend that has existed for presumably upwards of the last five years.

Thoughts:

There are a lot of legends around sorority hazing and sorority recruitment. I believe that this one is an attempt to provide reasoning for the consistently similar aesthetic of the members of the sorority in question. Though, another reasoning may be that these legends are attempts by others to sabotage a reputation and are in fact fakelore. Regardless, I find these stories interesting because they are in effect, organizational gossip.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Sorority Hazing (Kappa Cow)

Piece:

There is a legend of hazing in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at USC in which all of the new members are weighed on a scale each week and the “fattest one” is called the Kappa Cow for the following week. The Kappa Cow story is an explanation as to why all of the girls in the sorority are “skinny”.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece is a member of a sorority at USC and heard this legend from another member of the Greek system here. She is not a member of the mentioned sorority and makes no claims as to the story’s authenticity—it is merely a story that has travelled around the USC campus over time. The specifics of my source remain anonymous. Other accounts of this story include public shaming in the form of Mooing at the selected individual and various other forms of body shaming.

Thoughts:

In recent years, Greek life on college campuses has been highlighted for hazing stories such as this, which have turned out to be true. I make no claims about the verity of this story. I believe that this story may be a piece of fakelore that has sprung out of the fairly popular notion on the USC campus that that the sorority is highly exclusive to “hot, rich snobs” (Urban Dictionary). I find stories around hazing in the Greek community on college campuses especially interesting because of my proximity to it as well as the social barrier to entry they create. Essentially, whether or not they are true, these stories dissuade many people from attempting to join Greek life in schools.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Sorority Hazing (Washing Machine)

Piece:

Regarding a particular legend surrounding sorority hazing: “you have girls sit on washing machines naked and girls circle parts on their body that jiggle.” The legend goes that all of the new (or potential) members of the sorority would go through this process and then be labeled as fat based on the circled (in marker) parts of their body. They would then be insulted and chastised to work out and eat healthier to get rid of those spots.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece heard this legend from another member of her sorority, though this story is not specifically linked to her sorority. Rather, this story is linked to sororities in general surrounding their practices from several decades ago.  Specific houses and people are not named to retain anonymity. The informant stated that there aren’t many more details because the story is “pretty dated” and this method of hazing is “not used anymore”.

 Thoughts:

I find that many of these dated hazing stories provide an interesting array of scare tactics that essentially equate to new members being asked to show how badly they want to be a member of this club; how much are they willing to endure. Stories such as this mostly date back to the 1960s-1980s which by all accounts that I’ve heard, sound like a really good time to have been involved in Greek life at USC. Essentially everything from that era seems to have been exaggerated: the parties were epic and the hazing was cruel. Though I cannot speak to the authenticity of any of these stories.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Sorority Hazing (Compton)

Piece:

In one sorority at USC a legend is told of an act of hazing in the mid 1960’s: the new initiates were dressed in all white—sororities were predominantly white at that time—so as to resemble members of the KKK, and then they were dropped of in Compton—a predominantly black neighborhood, and instructed to find their way home. Given the time period, the girl would not have had cellphones or other means of emergency communication.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this piece heard this legend from another member of her sorority—whose mother was supposedly in said sorority during that period of time. She asked that the names be removed in order to reduce liability.

Thoughts:

Hazing is a prevalent thorn in the rosebush that is college Greek life. The theory is that once new members are chosen based on certain demonstrated criteria, they will be broken down so that they can be rebuilt together in the image of the house—to best represent their letters. A common theory is that the individuals need to be retrained to serve so that service in all forms will become for them an instinct or habit rather than an active decision.

This story is relevant to members of that sorority now because it serves as a comparison to make any smaller scale hazing appear significantly more reasonable and lighthearted. It also serves the purpose of a ghost story—which they may tell to new members to scare them during their introductory period.

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