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The Lick

This folk melody was performed by my friend while we ate dinner at a dining hall. He is a jazz major. The Lick is a short melody, popular in jazz improvisations, and is often treated as a joke when performed during a song. Short jazz melodies are often called licks, so this one’s name of ‘the Lick’ implies that it is somehow a more important lick than the others.


The friend sang this melody, using the scat-style lyrics:

“Babadooba ya boo da”

The melody follows this solfege:

Do re me fa re   te do


After he performed the Lick, I asked where he thought it came from.

“These are like, Charlie Parker licks, a lot of the time. Uh, there’s other famous ones, like: [vocalizes a different jazz lick]. Uh, [vocalizes The Lick] is probably Charlie Parker.”

I then asked when it evolved into the joke it often is now.

“It became a joke when it just kept happening. I still hear people play that. Unironically, yeah. Like I hear very legit people play that. And it’s like, it’s still cool if you mean it. But if you’re just playing it…that’s, that’s where the joke came from, is like, people would just play it. Like, you were like, ‘insert Lick here.’”

He added:

“There’s so many instances of that happening, so it’s like, it’s not a joke in its existence. But it’s more of, like, a comment on, like, people trying to turn jazz into math. Where it’s like, you play this, then you play a two-five-one [vocalizes another jazz lick].”

Two-five-one is a popular jazz chord progression that finishes a section or phrase.

Here is a popular mash-up of different uses of the Lick throughout the years:


Marshall Snakes

This USC-specific internet meme was described by a classmate after class had ended. It refers to students in the Marshall School of Business.

“Um, Marshall students are, like, known for being, like, snakes. And, I guess the snakes are supposed to be like, that they’re sneaky and like mean and bad, and like, um, cross you over. And so they get a lot of shit on the page for being, like, assholes really. And so like, there’s all these memes about, like, snakes, and how Marshall students are like snakes, and how it’s funny, and how everyone should hate them.”

This meme originated on the Facebook page, “USC Memes for Spoiled Pre-Teens.” She described this page to me as well:

“All of this information is…information can be found, basically like on this USC memes page, um, that a lot of USC students are on, um, or have gotten invited to, and add little posts to, and um, things that are basically just funny to the entire student generation. Or, yeah, student…not generation, I don’t even know what we’re called. Um, body, yeah that’s it.”

Daddy Nikias

This USC-specific internet meme was described by a friend after class. It refers to USC President C.L. Max Nikias.

“So, uh, there is this whole thing at USC, that like, uh, Nikias is kind of like the father figure, but also in kind of a kinky way? Uh, so people like to say he is, uh, ‘Daddy Nikias,’ um, which is of course a play on a very sexual way of uh, of uh, talking to someone. Um, you know? So, yeah, of course people are going to take this sort of older authoritarian figure and sort of bring him down to our level as college students and say, ‘Yes, let’s make him very kinky.’ So that’s ‘Daddy Nikias.’”

I thought his observation that the students were attempting to “bring him down to our level” was astute, as jokes like this can help to poke fun at authority figures. This joke originated, as far as either of us know, on the Facebook page “USC Memes for Spoiled Pre-Teens.”


This folk term refers to the “free Lyft” given by USC at certain hours. Lyft is a popular ride-sharing app, and USC partnered with them to give free rides to students to help prevent drunk driving. My friend and bandmate mentioned the term at a rehearsal. I asked her when she had first heard this word. ‘A’ refers to my friend, and ‘B’ refers to me.

A: Um, I started hearing it my first, like, week here at USC. As a young fresh. Um…

B: And it’s just USC campus that you…

A: Yeah. I’ve used it other places, and no one knows what I’m talking about. Or I’ll talk, like, “Oh yeah, I was at this party and then I Fryfted home.” And they’re all like, “What the hell…is a Fryft?”

This implies that the term is only used locally, by people who use USC’s free Lyft. Here is an article that uses this USC-centric slang:



This folk belief was described by a friend and bandmate as we were finishing a rehearsal. I asked her to tell what she knew of the origin of horoscopes. Horoscopes are the belief that one’s birth date associates them with certain stars and planets, and that personality traits are given through this connection.

“Like, okay, so once upon a time someone was like, ‘Yo, homie, isn’t it weird that all these people who are born at the same time, or like, in the same general time period, have very similar attributes about them?’ And his friend was like, ‘Dude, agreed. I’ve definitely noticed that.’ And so they went off the, the stars. There wasn’t much else to do back then. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh my god, Galileo is great,’ but what else did he have to do, besides look at the sky? Um, anyway, I digress. So, that happened. A few hundred years later, someone else was like, ‘Aw, shoot, we forgot one.’ So they added in another horoscope which threw off the entire thing, and I don’t know why everyone was just cool with that. ‘Cause that means a whole group of people weren’t the zodiac that they thought they were. So um, there’s that. Um, I’m an Aeries.”

It Makes Sense If You Don’t Think About It

“It makes sense if you don’t think about it.”

This folk phrase was said by a friend during class. This example is somewhat different from the others because the performer did not know it was folklore. He noted:

“I legitimately thought I made it up.”

“I mean, like, it’s probably from somewhere else, but just like subliminally messaged.”

Here is another example of this phrase, used ast the title of an article:’t_Think_About_It.htm

It is somewhat of a parody of a different common phrase: it makes sense if you think about it. This variation refers to things that only make sense in general terms, and stop making sense under scrutiny.

Failing to Prepare Is Preparing to Fail

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

This proverb was told by a classmate after our class had ended. I asked him to describe a proverb that he liked.

“Okay, so my proverb is, uh, ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail.’ Um, I use it a lot ‘cause I think preparation is key in order for you to succeed. And I think I apply that not, not only to work and school but also to sports, ‘cause the more we practice and the more we train, uh, the better will…the outcome will be.”


The folk term “dongle” requires a bit of history. When the iPhone 7 came out, Apple announced that they had removed the headphone jack from the bottom of the phone. To work around this, they sold adapters that would allow people to plug headphones into their new iPhones. The folkspeech that refers to these adapters was described to me by a friend outside of a party.

“A dongle now is, is referring to the dongle that allows you to listen to music with your regular, like, three, like your regular eighth inch adapter, your aux adapter into your iPhone, which doesn’t have that port anymore. And if it were called adapter, people would just, it would, it would sort of be a normal thing. But because it’s like, ‘Aw, man, I don’t have the dongle with me,’ or something, like, ‘I can’t listen to music now.’ It’s just like, I think it really is a derogatory – or at least it has a bad connotation to it.”

“The word ‘dongle’ to me has always been adapter. I don’t know when it started. Uh, I’d say that the connotation of dongle, as opposed to adapter, is negative, right? Like a dongle is sort of like something that is like unwieldy, that you don’t wanna be carrying around.”


The folk practice of homebrewing was described to me by a friend as we ate lunch in a dining hall. There is no official recipe for this practice, and my friend’s homebrewing was influenced by many sources, both official and unofficial. ‘A’ refers to my friend, and ‘B’ refers to me.

A: What I do is I make homemade uh, hard ginger ale. So, um, it’s a pretty interesting process that…I mean like, I kind of crafted this recipe from a bunch of different recipes. Um, I have no clue where these recipes came from, but…

B: Where did you find them?

A: Uh, online, word of mouth, uh, I have some homebrewing friends who sent me, you know, their family recipes and stuff. Uh, and so, yeah, I started taking bits and pieces from uh, those recipes and…made uh… It’s become, it’s become a hobby, you know? Like, like, I mean on one end, you know, it’s cool ‘cause, like, you get, you know, a good beverage. But on the other hand, it’s like, it’s this…thing that you piece together, uh, from multiple different sources and craft it into your own thing. And you get your own sort of take on all these other forms of this…the same drink, just different, you know, recipes.


Ghost Light

“The ghost light, oh. Honestly I don’t know a whole lot. I remember, I know…so what it looks like is, it’s this…it’s kind of like a stand that has wheels, with a light on top. Usually blue, I think. At least, the one I saw was blue. Um, and I believe it’s there…I know it’s there at the beginning of plays. Like, I think it’s to light up the stage so that there’s some sort of lighting so that people can see somewhat and don’t fall, ‘cause stages are dangerous.”

This folk object/tradition was described by a friend after class ended. She worked in theaters (where this tradition takes place) during high school, but she does not anymore.

I asked what she knew about the origin of the name:

“I haven’t really heard many stories about it that have to do with the name. Um, yeah, I don’t remember why it’s called ghost light. Maybe ‘cause it floats, and people are like, ‘Floating lights are ghosts!’ But I really don’t know.”