USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘alcohol’
Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Liquor before beer and you’re in the clear – American Drinking Proverb

Main Piece:

“Liquor before beer and you’re in the clear, beer before liquor never been sicker.”

Context and Analysis:

My informant is a 19-year-old male. The informant claims he first heard this proverb when he was in ninth grade. It was one of the first times he was consuming alcohol and was not paying attention to the type of alcohol he was consuming. He was alternating between drinking beer and simultaneously taking shots of vodka. When one of his friends said to him the proverb. He disregarded the advice as it was too late, and continued to drink. The informant says he did not end the night feeling very well; however, he does not live by the proverb for in other situations when he has followed the proverb’s advice the night has still ended badly.

I have also heard this proverb before and know many people that do live by it. On many occasions, I have even heard it is bad to mix any type of alcohol. Often I do not hear this while I’m in a setting where alcohol is being consumed, but after. Most often it is during the day or after a night of alcohol consumption when someone will make a reference to the proverb, and claim the person who had a bad night was at fault because they did not follow the proverb’s advice. After looking further into this proverb, I found many sources claiming it was a myth. One of the most reputable sources I found was by CBS News, they claim “hangovers are more dependent on the total amount of alcohol consumed, rather than the order of drinking.” The rhyme of the proverb makes it catchy and easy to remember. I believe this is a significant factor in what makes this proverb so popular. Keeping in mind my informant’s age I also believe it is a proverb most often found in younger circles where there is less exposure to alcohol. Most teens are still in the experimental phase of alcohol consumption in their lives, and therefore are more susceptible to catchy phrases such as these that are not true.

https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/14-facts-about-drinking-are-you-misinformed/8/

Customs

Korean Customs with Employees and Employers

Main Piece: “In Korea if you work at a company and your team leader says you are going to drink tonight, you have to drink. It is is not acceptable to turn down the offer if it has been made for you. And ff you are either at a restaurant, a bar, or if you’re just sitting around with your boss and he is pouring you a glass of anything, you have to drink it. Guys are forced to drink, and if you are given a drink of any kind you have to drink the entire thing. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it or don’t want the drink, it is part of the culture and the expectancy to finish the drink your boss gives you.”

 

Background: WP grew up in South Korea, and this is his first time in America so he has spent nearly his entire life growing up with customs such as this. WP made it clear that this is not simply in companies that are for younger people, but that this is something that occurs in almost every major job. When thinking about it, WP seemed to believe that this custom was to reinforce the idea of respect and obedience to your superiors. If you don’t follow your boss it is considered being rude, and along with that if you don’t listen to them and go along with this custom, then you will hardly ever get a chance to be promoted. The main reasoning for this, according to WP, is that if you “disobey” your boss and do not drink with them, then you would be considered someone who goes against their words. WP said that drinking is part of the professionalism in South Korea, and as such it is not a good look for your professionalism if you do not comply.And if you don’t do all the elements of the “society,” then you are seen as less than and unworthy of higher positions in the workforce.

 

Context of Performance: WP told me about this while we were at my apartment. I was asking him about his time in South Korea, and wanted to know if there were any customs that he thought were much different from Korean to American culture. Having now worked in both countries, WP could definitively say that he thought the custom of having to drink with your bosses and your colleagues, was far more Korean than American. Because as he said that he still went out to drink with his colleagues here, it was by no means mandatory and even less so with your boss.

 

Analysis:  I found this piece to be incredibly interesting for a number of reasons. For starters, in America while it is certainly not uncommon to go out after work with your colleagues, it seems that going out with your boss is for very rare occasions. At least in my experience, there was always this worry from the boss that they would be showing favoritism or it wouldn’t be professional to go out and drink with their employees. The biggest concern for the higher ups was that they feared if their employees saw them as more of a friend than a boss, they would have a harder time controlling them. It would eliminate some of the fear involved with your boss, and thus the bosses would generally try to steer clear of being overly friendly outside of work with their employees. Additionally, in this era it would be very questionable if a boss was forcing their employees to drink. Especially with the debates about the pay gap between women and the problems associated with women in the workplace having less opportunities to advance, this custom would not be very acceptable in America. This would more than likely get bosses fired because especially after the Harvey Weinstein incident in Hollywood with Weinstein using his power to force women into doing things to advance their career, there is no way this would be allowed.

Adulthood
Customs
general
Initiations
Kinesthetic

First drink at Stonewall

Main Piece: Many young LGBTQ+ individuals have their first legal or “official” drink at The Stonewall Inn when they turn 21.

Context: The informant is half Paraguayan and half American, and she speaks both Spanish and English. Her mother immigrated to the U.S. as a young adult, so the informant is first generation, but the rest of her mother’s side of the family resides in their home city – Caazapa, Paraguay – and are very well-known in their community. Her father’s side of the family are “classically Jewish” people from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York. Although she is not religious herself, her upbringing was culturally Jewish and Catholic. Our discussion took place in her home in Orlando, Florida while her mom made us tea and lunch in the background. The Stonewall Inn is a now-popularized gay bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, famous for being the site of the Stonewall riots of 1969. It is said that the bar served as a catalyst for many of the leaders and thinkers of the Stonewall riots, as they would gather there to discuss queer theory and modes of action. The informant, who identifies as lesbian and has heard of this custom through her other queer-identifying peers, believes that there is much power in “doing what they did.” In other words, they pay homage to trailblazers for gay liberation and the sacrifices that they made by saving their first legal drink for the bar that, in a way, is partially responsible for their current freedoms.

Personal thoughts: This tradition is a perfect example of how folklore is performative. By going back to a place that holds much historical and personal importance to many people, and re-enacting those who started the tradition, they are truly performing. Those in the LGBTQ+ community who go to the Stonewall Inn Bar are not just discussing what their trailblazers said and did, they are also, in some way, actively taking part in and adding to their own history. As new ideas are brought up by new generations visiting the bar, the tradition and ideas behind it will continue to evolve.

Customs
Foodways
Game

Oscar Watch Party

To provide context, the ‘awards season’ is a film industry term that refers to the months and awards shows leading up the final, and most historically prestigious show, the Academy Awards (also known as the Oscars). Held at the end of each year to recognize various achievements in filmmaking, the awards given in this show are considered the highest achievement in the entertainment world.

 

Despite being centered on a relatively small industry, the place of movies is highly visible in the eyes of the American public, given that they are seen by millions of people. Therefore, it becomes a popular group activity to try and predict the winners of the Academy Awards, given its competitive nature, the widely familiar subject matter and the ability of anyone to play.

 

The following situation illustrates an ‘Oscar watch party’ with a number of guests at the house of a friend during the airing of the 90th Academy Awards. It should be noted this took place in Los Angeles, the seat of the film industry and the location of nearly all the awards shows, with the hosting friend a prominent producer in said industry:

 

Invited guests arrived at the host’s home in the hours preceding the show, with a dinner of pasta and salad being prepared at the same time. A number of appetizing foods were laid out for the meantime- chips, salsa, queso, guacamole, and bottled beers, with the television switched to the channel that the show would soon air on.

 

The awards show itself is preceded by a ‘red carpet’ program where nominees and their guests, naturally forming a sizable body of famous celebrities and movie stars in a single location. The stars are documented arriving to the venue of the awards show, showcasing elaborate dresses and participating in interviews.

 

The presence of this program allows a pleasant occupation of time before the actual show begins, alongside the appetizers and friendly conversation. During this time, the host additionally distributed ballots with a complete list of nominees in each category for guests to fill out and make their respective predictions.

 

As the show began, dinner was served alongside more alcohol-heavy tequila margaritas, ballots were handed in, and guests took their seats before the television.

 

Loud cheers, boos, praises, and surprises filled the room as each winner was announced over the course of the three hours making up the show. All the while, guests checked off their ballots to see whether they were correct or not in their predictions.

 

By the show’s end, the person with the greatest amount of correct marks earned a moment of pride, along with a physical prize of the last margarita.

 

On a further explanatory note regarding the Academy Awards and the fervor that comes to surround its airing, the months preceding the Academy Awards are peppered with smaller, less prominent awards shows (Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globes, BAFTAs) most of whose voting members have great amounts of crossover with the voting body of the Academy. Altogether, the nominees and winners of these preceding awards illustrate candidates of favorability to eventually be nominated for an Academy Award. Once the nominees have actually been announced, the winners and nominees of the awards leading up to the final show helpfully contribute to an overall historical record of statistics that allow one to pinpoint the likely ultimate winners.

 

With so many factors and events that present an increasingly clearer picture of who might win an Oscar, competition can become understandably heated as to making accurate predictions. The most interesting contentions arise when viewers are attached to certain films, directors, actors, or other nominees and insist their likelihood to win despite statistics suggesting otherwise. Given that there have been plenty of surprises and snubs throughout its 90-year history, upsets are not out of the question.

 

Although bets are frequently placed on the winners, this was not the case in the matter of this watch party’s ballot. The non-necessity of betting likely suggests the reason why so many people participate in the guessing-game conversation regarding the Academy Awards, being that the only thing at stake for most participants is the pride lost from having made an incorrect prediction.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Game
Humor

Friendships Toast

The following is a toast collected from a group of five friends who recite a pledge aimed at their longstanding mutual friendship. The pledge is performed during communal games involving alcohol, particularly ‘beer pong’ which is played between teams of two along the ends of a tall rectangular table.

 

The rules and practice of said game do not apply to the situation of the toast besides the table on which the game is played, which plays an integral and symbolic part to the performance of the toast. Therefore, the rules of the game will not be explained further outside of any direct relation to the proceedings of the toast.

 

The context of the situation proceeds as such:

The five friends gather around a handmade table constructed from available and basic wood materials. The table itself is kept at the host participant’s home, whose name has been excluded. While the participant is not the exclusive host to every party, each use of the table and recital of the toast is reserved to his home.

 

While there is no designated time during these parties for the toast to occur, it often falls after a few rounds of initial play of any alcohol-centered games, where everyone will have had at least one turn playing and thus have ingested sufficient amounts of alcohol to be slightly intoxicated at the very least.

 

At this point, each member of the group gathers around the table. The toast itself goes as follows:

 

(recited altogether)

“There are good ships, there are wood ships. There are ships that sail the sea. But the best ships, are friendships. So here’s to you and me!”

 

Each member of the group then simultaneously taps their beer can on the table and raises it up to drink. While raising their drinks, everyone together says (with less intensity)

 

“Down with Hitler.”

 

Each member then drinks until satisfied.

 

The pledge itself is a cheerful acknowledgment of the mutual bonds of friendship between each participant, and for the group as a whole. The concluding mention of “Down with Hitler” serves as a humorous reference to the host participant’s Jewish heritage, serving as a sarcastic assurance of false machismo that underlines the lightheartedness of the toast itself.

 

The table on which the toast is centered is constructed with dimensions of around 8 feet-by-2 feet and standing at waist height. Its top is painted with horizontal stripes of blue, green, yellow, and red, giving it a vibrant and outstanding place in the room.

 

Written in permanent marker across the top of the table are the words to the toast itself, along with various doodles such as star-bound rockets and bizarre imaginary creatures.

 

The names of each participant, accompanied by self-applied nicknames (often overly elaborate and nonsensical, otherwise only a vague relation to a defining characteristic of each person) meant to be referenced in an exclusively ironic manner.

 

These nicknames include:

 

Dr. Dreidel

A play on the stage name of popular rapper Dr. Dre and a reference to the participant’s Jewish faith.

 

Dookie Prada-G

The second part of the name a reference towards rappers’ tendencies to reference high-end clothing brands in their music in public image, itself a play on the word ‘prodigy’ despite Trevor’s complete lack of a musical background.

 

The other names of MC Betty, The Mist, and Boogiewitz 3000 are intentionally nonsensical, unrelated to the participant’s real names in any way. Thus, their humor is derived from this very nature of having no connection whatsoever to their makers.

 

 

 

 

 

Festival
Foodways
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Boston University, Trash Can Punch

Title: Boston University, Trash Can Punch

Category: Recipe/Food

Informant: Julianna K. Keller

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 20

Occupation: Student

Residence: 325 West Adams Blvd./ Los Angeles, CA 90007

Date of Collection: 4/09/18

Description:

“Trash Can Punch” is a mixed alcoholic beverage made in the fraternity houses at Boston University. The trash cans used are the large grey janitorial trashcans that are often used in cafeterias and janitorial carts. The trashcans are bought or cleaned thoroughly before use (one can hope). “Trash Can Punch” has no real recipe but follows the same general guidelines. There is usually a strong fruity component or flavor, and then a variety of different forms of alcohol. Each fraternity or house serving “Trash Can Punch” will usually have its own recipe and sometimes color. All guests are welcome to drink it at the party and is served by the host or resident of the house throwing the party.

Context/Significance:

Ms. Keller visited Boston University her senior year of high school to catch up with a friend and gain firsthand insight about the university as she considered where she might study after graduation. Her visit just happened to fall over halloween weekend and her friend invited her to go out with a group of them for the occasion.

When they got to the party, held at a fraternity house, Julianna asked where she could find drinks being served. The girls hosting her visit pointed to the trash can in the corner where it was filled close to the top with a sweet orange alcoholic mixture. When she asked what was in the drink, no one was really abel to tell her an answer.

One of the girls said they were made from recipes. That each fraternity house had their own mixture and color and was only served at their house in particular. Another friend agreed and that the remaining contents from the party was poured into a bucket and saved in the fridge for use at the future party as a base to go off of (kind of like a rue for gumbo or starter for sour-dough bread.) A separate girl told her that ht house will only fill the trash can half way and then as party guests arrive they bring alcohol with them to add to the trash can so no one can ever really tell what’s inside.

Personal Thoughts:

Sounds dangerous to me, but who am I to judge? This seems like a form of half passive bearers of tradition, half active bearers of tradition. No one is explicitly taught how to make “Trash Can Punch,” but underclassman seem to hear these stories of how it’s made and perhaps learn them from fraternity histories during the pledging process. When these students reach the level of upperclassman, they then attempt to make these recipes themselves and alter them themselves in the process. The recipes have undoubtably changed over the years but remain somewhat iconic to each fraternity in some way.

Customs
Folk Beliefs

Eye Contact

Background:

My informant is a twenty-one-year-old college student in Boston, Massachusetts. She is studying to be a nurse and has worked in the emergency room at both Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Performance:

“I heard this when I was in Australia for the summer. It was just before junior year, I think…yeah, that sounds right, but anyway I was at a party kind of near Melbourne and these guys were pouring shots. So I took one and was about to take it and this one guy like grabbed my wrist and was like ‘Wait! Stop! We all need to make eye contact otherwise we’ll all have bad sex for seven years!’ Like that thing with breaking the mirror or something, you know? So we all made eye contact and took the shots and that was that. Weirdly I heard that a ton in Australia, like in Sydney and Cairns and all over. Not just from guys either, like from girls I made friends with and everything. It wasn’t just some gross dude…like, being gross, or whatever (laughter)  I’ve done it ever since. I mean, obviously it’s probably not a real thing, but like, why risk it? (laughter).”

Thoughts:

It seems appropriate that this superstition is prominent amongst young people, a demographic which in all likelihood sees a close connection between sex and alcohol. The ritual itself invokes a certain intimacy; one must look into their companion’s eyes, “the gateway to the soul” before consuming alcohol with them. Since the superstition is present amongst both groups of single-sex, heterosexual friends and mixed-gender social groups, it may not necessarily have much to do with sexual intercourse; the eye contact and intimacy may speak more to the idea that drinking is a social activity and means through which people can develop new relationships.

Adulthood
Customs
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Great Norwegian Graduation Rager

“So in Norway, when we graduate high school, we have this tradition that the two weeks leading up to our, um, independence day, um, we essentially do college in two weeks. And by that we, uh, everyone essentially has like a startup company where they fund, they get money and they work and they buy a bus. And this bus is to represent a group of people that have together to party on this bus for these two coming weeks. You build this bus to represent you as a group. So you paint it, you have your own song. They usually spend about twenty to forty thousand dollars on these buses. And they pay a couple to three thousand dollars per song or more. People live off this shit. They graduate high school and they just make music for these crazy graduating students. And they have a pretty decent life. Umm, so what you do is you do this and then you buy a suit, you buy like overalls that are completely red and covered in the Norwegian flag, and it’s got different colors. That’s the only time that you’ll ever see these colors in Norway which is why I find it so baffling that people in America keep wearing and wearing their flag everywhere. I guess it’s like weird, it’s like nationalism, which is bad, but for these two weeks in Norway: totally cool. So everyone gets drunk, everyone has sex with each other, there’s a bunch of STD things going on and like a lot of people take precautions so there’s just condoms everywhere in the capital for those two weeks, literally just so that teenagers can just grab them passing by. They’ll be in like metro stations, bus stops, random places there’ll just be like a little cup of condoms because people are just like doing things all the time. So there’s a lot of drugs, a lot of drinking, and you kinda like, you do all of those, you get all your immaturity out. That’s the whole point of it. So by the time you have your independence day, everyone’s so fucking exhausted that when you actually celebrate the day  that you celebrate Independence Day  and that you celebrate your graduation, then finals happen. Afterwards. So it’s a big thing in Norway where people have been trying to get the finals to happen before these two weeks. Because what happens is a lot of, like,  not a lot, but  maybe one out  of twenty people failed their finals because of this tradition. Every year. So they’re trying to change that now. I think it’s going to change this year, but the fact that the government, that all entire Norway works around this insane tradition: just get fucked up and have sex for two weeks? It’s fucking fantastic.”

 

The source definitely looked upon this tradition with a lot of happiness. It seemed to be one of his favorite parts of high school. He said it’s not a very long-standing tradition, but that it’s definitely been around as long as he’s been alive. He says it’s a way for them to release all the pent up stress from the year. It allows them to let loose and do crazy things that, under other circumstances, wouldn’t be allowed.

This tradition seems to come with its own sort of hall pass. It sounds like the kind of thing that these kids would never get away with if only there weren’t so many of them participating in it. That’s probably how it came about in the first place. Some group of kids wanted to let loose, but they knew they’d get in trouble, so they got a whole bunch of people together and went nuts. It probably didn’t fly as much back when it started, but now that it’s mainstream, the whole country probably knows to expect this debauchery and just lets it slide.

What also makes it interesting is that it involves a lot of responsibility. It’s almost like a rite of passage, really, because these kids have to work and save up money in order to be able to afford this massive, two-week rager. They also need to plan and organize it all themselves. Basically, they’re doing very adult things in order to be able to do some very not adult things. Quite the contrast.

Folk speech

Names

Collector: Oh! Do the story about why that guy got mad at you, or got mad at someone…

Informant: So, I don’t know if you’ve heard this story Maddie, um when I was in Spain, uh, so the word, like the colloquial term for blowjob is a person’s name in every city in Spain, and so, um, like in my friend’s town Toledo, Maria, and then in Granada it’s Victoria, um, so that’s just the context. So, I’m out with my friends—I was friends with this Spanish guy named Mario—and in Spain you go on dates, it’s like middle school style dating, so group dates. And so, um, Mario would ask me out and said invite some of your friends, so me and my two American friends were meeting up with his two friends, but then last minute his really good friend from where he’s from, Cordova, came to visit down in Granada, and so we were like—he was like “one more person” and I was like “oh my other friends are busy,” and he was like, “it’s fine, like [whatever his name is] will just come hang out”—I think his name was David. And so, we’re all at this bar hanging out, and then, um, we were doing like a pub crawl, and so we were supposed to head down to the next place, and so, um, his other friend, Luis, was like “oh guys we’re going to this next bar in 5 minutes, like finish your drinks,” and so like all the Spanish people are lightly sipping, and the Americans start to, like, you know, really try and down their drinks, and my friends, Claire and Diana, had like straws in their drinks and so they were trying to, kind of like, furiously sip.

Person: You have another friend named Diana?

Informant: Mhm

Person: Rude. Rude!

Informant: She looks nothing like you, so it’s okay.

Person: Sorry, continue.

Informant: She’s Italian and from upstate New York. Um, and so, we—but I had a beer, and so I needed to like, chug it, so I just, you know, like, I’m an adult and a frat star, I chug my beer. And I look, everyone’s kind of staring at me, because in Europe you don’t have to, like, chug your drinks because you’re an adult, um and you can drink it slow and be a normal person. Um, and so I’m like, whatever, I did it, it’s done, don’t make fun of me. And, um, I look up, and David is like smirking, and he says, “Aye que buenas Mayas,” and in Granada, at least in Spain, mallas, I’ve always been taught that means leggings, so it’s M-A-L-L-A-S, leggings, like, you know, like, the pants, so, um, I was like “what?” because I was wearing jeans, so I was like, maybe he thinks these are like, jeggings, okay whatever. And, like, I look over at Mario, and Mario looks furious. And I’m like, okay. And he said something really fast to David in Cordovan slang, and—Cordovian—and like, I don’t know what it means, and I, but I can tell he’s really pissed, but I’m like, I don’t know why you’re angry, okay. And so we start walking to the next bar, and I’m like holding hands with Mario, and I’m like, “Why were you so upset?” And he was like, “Oh, I don’t want to talk about it.” And I’m like, “No, I don’t understand, I didn’t really get the joke, so like what did that mean?” Because like Mario speaks English and Spanish, and so in Spanish I’m asking this, but like, “Can you explain it in English because I don’t get it.” And he was like, in English, “No we’re not going to talk about it.” And I was, he never speaks to me in English unless I ask him to, so I was like, “No, just, just, tell me.” And he like, will not say it, and I’m like, I’m the worst, when I want to know something, I will, I will force you to tell me, and so eventually he’s like, “He was saying, you know like how here Victoria means, like, blowjob?” I was like, “yeah.” He was like, “Well, in like, our town, outside of Cordova, like, Mayas are like blowjobs.” And I was like, “Wait what?” And he was like “Cause, you know, you chugged your drink, so you have to like open your throat, just kind of pour it…” And I was like, “Oh, Bueno, Bueno, [what sounds like "tamos"] a qui…” I switched right back to Spanish, because I was like I don’t want to talk about this hmmmm. So, that’s the end of that story.

 

Informant is a junior at the University of Southern California. She is studying communications here. She is from Boston, Massachusetts. She spent a while in the southern part of Spain, and speaks fluent Spanish. I spoke to her while we were eating lunch at my sorority house one day. We were sitting together with some of my other informants. Much of what she told me was learned from her own experiences.

 

I had recalled her telling this story, and thought that it was interesting and a new part of a culture I wasn’t very familiar with. As we were sitting at lunch discussing folklore, I remembered that she had told me this before, and asked her to tell it again. I haven’t heard of any other culture that does this to so much of an extent. It seems that every place, or so it’s suggested, uses some woman’s name for blowjob. It’s also interesting to see the difference in cultures having to do with the consumption of alcohol. It seems that a stereotype perpetuated by the party culture of many large and small universities is so different than the way the majority of the world consumes alcohol.

Game
general

King’s Cup

“You have like a big, giant cup or pitcher, typically in the middle of a circle at a party and everybody who sits around has their own drink, and you take a deck of cards that are mixed up in the center of the table around the pitcher and you go around the circle, one by one, and you pick up a card and depending on what card you choose will depend on what you have to do with your drink. So if you draw an ace, like that means that you drink, just you. If you draw a two, that means you get to choose someone to drink with you. If you draw a three, then you choose someone to drink. If you draw like a four, like you can come up with like the different rules, but the way I’ve played it like a four . . . all the women drink. If it’s a five, all the men drink. If it’s a six, you do categories, so somebody, like the person who pulls the card would say, ‘Animals’ and then you have to go around in a circle and at like a really quick speed name an animal off the top of your head and when someone pauses or can’t come up with one, they have to drink. Um, and after they drink they pour a little bit in the middle. And then if you pull . . . it goes on, till the end, but if you pull a king, you just have to pour in the middle pitcher.”

 

Interviewer: “What are the other cards?”
“I don’t know all of them off the top of my head, but I know you can, like, there’s one that’s like . . . a rhyme and so like you can say, ‘fish’ and the person next to you has to rhyme with it and say like, ‘dish’ and then it goes around in a circle and if you can’t come up with a word, or can’t come up with a word that rhymes, you have to drink and then pour some in. And so at the end, the point is basically whoever draws the last king of the whole game has to drink the pitcher in the middle and it’s really disgusting because there’s usually like different alcohols involved so it’ll be like a mixture of like whiskey, and like tequila, and beer, and something that’s not tasty . . . There’s [a card] where like if you start to drink the person next to you has to start to drink and when you stop, they can stop, but it goes around like consecutively in the circle, um, so the last person can’t stop until everyone else has stopped in the circle, if that makes sense . . . I wanna say like ten, like the card ten, you drink for ten seconds. Um, I think seven rhymes with ‘heaven’ and I think we all drink. And then one card you have to do, like, ‘Never Have I Ever.” So like you put up five fingers and you say, ‘Never have I ever . . . kissed a girl’ and then anyone who’s kissed a girl, despite your gender, um, has to drink. And you do it, you have, um, you do it until your five fingers are down. And that’s King’s Cup.”

 

The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who studies communication and minors in dance and is a part of a prominent sorority on campus. She grew up in a relatively small town in southern California and was the captain of a prominent sports organization. She has danced for her entire life and, when she was growing up, would often drive for long stretches of time with her family to dance competitions. This interview took place late one night in my apartment’s living room when I began asking her about different games she knew. When I asked her where she learned “King’s Cup,” she said, “I couldn’t tell you who specifically, like a name, but, um, at my first party that I went to in high school, um, it was a game that was very often played and it’s typically more fun with the more people who play it, and so I was kind of like forced into playing it. And so I was forced into like learning the rules and for like my 21st birthday was when I played it with my closest friends and like my mom and we were all playing it. And we kind of just like took the rules that I knew and like would put a twist on it. So like we would change the card numbers, so instead of, I think the typical is like an ace being you drink, we would say like that would be the rhyme one. Like we’d confuse which ones were which, but we would write it down so we knew which card we drew.”

 

When asked why she practices it, she said, “It’s fun and it’s like a social atmosphere and it’s supposed to be funny to like . . . ‘Cause you could be the one who pours in a ton of alcohol and be like, ‘Somebody’s getting fucked up tonight! . . . I mean, screwed up tonight,’ and then, um, you end up screwing yourself over because you’re the one who ends up drawing the last king so then you have to drink the pitcher which is you pouring your whole entire drink basically in there trying to screw someone else over. So it’s supposed to be like funny and it’s like a game of fate, you kind of just, you don’t want to pick the wrong card, but there’s no one to blame but yourself if you do. I don’t know, I feel like people aren’t super serious about drinking the pitcher at the end because everyone kind of knows that if we’re all drinking different drinks it’s probably not gonna actually happen. But also like, people get sketched out, like they don’t want to pour all their drink in knowing the last king’s still out there, you know?”

I asked her what she thinks it means, and she said, “We’re all alcoholics! No, uh, I think it’s uh, I think it means . . . instead of standing around and drinking and talking or like forcing conversation, it’s like an excuse to be in a group and drink whether you know the person across from you or not, it’s just  like a group game and you don’t have to know everyone in the game to play it.”

 

Looking at King’s Cup in particular is really interesting to me because it is an extremely popular drinking game within parts of my generation, yet I have never met two people who play it the same way. Despite the fact that the informant is sure there are some official rules somewhere that would be the “correct” way to play, she does not know what these are and it does not seem to matter. What matters is that there are specific rules and actions associated with every card that someone pulls, and that these are strictly followed once the game begins. In addition to this game being entertaining and a reason for a group of people to get drunk together, it also acts as a way of dividing up the group and defining the people playing it. Many of the cards pulled mean only a part of the group drinks, e.g. the men or the women present, and this draws a subtle, but perceptible line between the people playing. The frequent involvement of other games such as “Never Have I Ever” occurs to reveal embarrassing or “secret” information about the participants to the rest of the group, thereby bonding them to one another or singling out someone at whom everyone else can laugh.

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