USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘fraternity’
Customs
Initiations
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Fraternity Song

Informant: Jimmy Lonergan. 21 years old. From Chicago. Student at USC and member of a fraternity.

“When I joined a fraternity this song really spoke to the values I hope to live and abide by. When I came to USC, I really wanted to join a fraternity due to the powerful experience of brotherhood. I come from a big family—five siblings—and I really wanted to have brothers throughout my college career. We sing this song after Monday Dinner and during chapter, all the brothers stand in a circle, lock their arms together, and sing in unison while moving from side to side:

Our strong band can ne’er be broken

Formed in ole Phi Psi

Far surpassing wealth unspoken

Sealed by friendship’s tie

Chorus:

Amici, usque ad aras

(“Friendship, ongoing until death”)

Deep graven on each heart

Shall be found unwav’ring true

When we from life shall part

 

College life at best is passing

Gliding swiftly by

Let us pledge in word and action

Love for old Phi Psi”

 

Thoughts: The lyrics really emphasize the importance of friendship, pledging, brotherhood, and a sacred bond. Truly, a fraternity tries to emulate these values and as Jimmy said it is the brotherhood that drew him to the fraternity. This fraternity song reminds me of the Declaration of Independence. In the Declaration of Independence, it says: “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Fraternities are very old American organizations whose founders were inspired by the same values this country was founded upon. Truly, the song encapsulates a similar sentiment that is portrayed in the Declaration of Independence.

Customs

Biz- Fraternity Folklore

Informant: Jimmy Lonergan. 21 years old. From Chicago. Student at USC and member of a fraternity.

Informant:  “When I pledged a fraternity, we were told by the older members in the house we weren’t allowed to say the number ‘5.’  Instead of saying the number ‘5’ we had to say ‘Biz.’ For example: “It’s Biz o’clock, I have Biz siblings, etc. The origins of Biz is actually a very funny story. There is a popular drinking game called beer die. The game involves four people standing on opposite sides of the table. There are two beer cups at each corner and a player throws up a die in the air, attempting to hit the opponents side of the table. The die is supposed to bounce off and the opponent has to catch it. If the die does not leave the table, the die lands on a number. If it lands on 5 then the team who threw the die has to drink because in the game, the number 5 is forbidden so.

Collector: “So why BIZ?”

Informant: “So this alumnus from the fraternity whom I never met decided that because the number 5 is forbidden in the game, he would say ‘BIZ’ instead. I don’t remember why he chose BIZ specifically. Since then, it has become a part of my fraternity culture. In the fraternity, BIZ has become part of the everyday vocabulary. When someone forgets the rule, for example, people humorously scream BIZ at them!

Thoughts: This fraternity lore is very interesting. It is fairly recent and it is crazy that one individual literally created the custom of saying BIZ instead of 5. Since pledges follow most orders, it comes as no surprise that Biz would quickly replace 5 in their vocabulary.

Customs
Musical

Amici

 

  • Since joining Phi Kappa Psi in the fall of 2015, we sing this song every Monday night before we begin eating. We all stand up and form a big circle linking linking our shoulders, kind of like a big huddle that you would see at a football game or something. We do a little sway back and forth as we sing and then once we are done we can eat. This song is important to me because it signifies the long lasting friendships that I have formed in the fraternity. Singing this song makes me really feel like I am part of something bigger, because people in different Phi Psi chapters are singing it all over the country, and have been for years. I first had to  learn the song before I became an active member of the house. One of our house mottos is “continuing our friendships until death”, which is emphasized in the lyrics “Amici, usque ad aras” which means “Friendship ongoing until death”. I think it’s very interesting that if I were to meet other Phi Kappa Psi brothers from different schools, they know all the same stuff that has been passed down and we immediately share a bond. Knowing how strong my bond is with my friends that I have made here is truly inspiring and the elements of loyalty expressed in a song that we sing together weekly, lead me to believe that I really will be close with my brothers for the rest of my life. 
  • Lyrics to Amici
    (“Friendship”)
    Our strong band can ne’er be broken
    Formed in ole Phi Psi
    Far surpassing wealth unspoken
    Sealed by friendship’s tieChorus:
    Amici, usque ad aras
    (“Friendship, ongoing until death”)
    Deep graven on each heart
    Shall be found unwav’ring true
    When we from life shall partCollege life at best is passing
    Gliding swiftly by — Then
    Let us pledge in word and action
    Love for old Phi Psi
  • For more information see video of Brothers from California Gamma, California Beta and California Iota join one another to sing Amici.
    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWxWXQl16vo

ANALYSIS:

Being a part of a the greek community myself, i share the feeling of belonging and community that comes along with learning a song that is special to your chapter yet has been passed down within the house for many many years.

general
Musical

Amici-Fraternity Song

Information on the Informant: The informant, Cameron Borch, is one of my good friends who is in the same fraternity as I am at USC. He is 19 years old and is originally from Saratoga, California. He played Water polo and swam while in high school as well as participated in Crossfit. He has two older brothers, whom he looks up to and sees as his best friends. Cameron grew up in a very “masculine” environment and values brotherhood more than anything because of his family situation. Being the youngest child, he always respected and emulated his brothers actions. In fact, both his brothers attend USC as well so it follows plan that he decided to attend USC as well. In the Fall of 2015, Borch decided to join a fraternity and on the way, learned this traditional fraternity song that he shared with me.

“Our strong band can ne’er be broken
Formed in ole Phi Psi
Far surpassing wealth unspoken
Sealed by friendship’s tie

Chorus:
Amici, usque ad aras
(“Friendship, ongoing until death”)
Deep graven on each heart
Shall be found unwav’ring true
When we from life shall part

College life at best is passing
Gliding swiftly by — Then
Let us pledge in word and action
Love for old Phi Psi

When we sing our life’s last measure
Sweetest then shall be
Strains recalling every treasure
Of fraternity”

Analysis: This song displays a lot of the qualities that many fraternities pride themselves on. The song begins with emphasizing the fact that their bond can never be broken, that their brotherhood within the fraternity will withstand any obstacles that are thrown at them in life. It goes on to say that something like material wealth will never trump the bond that was developed in Phi Psi (the fraternity whose song this is). Additionally, what is cool about this song is that it is unique to this certain fraternity and it is known by every member who has ever joined the house, regardless of the school. Furthermore, there lies latin words within the song–the chorus and the title of the song (Amici) are latin. This corresponds with the fact that Fraternities are based on a “Greek System” of classifying houses.

 

Folk speech
general
Initiations

Phi Alpha

The informant, a 22-year-old college student, is a member of a PanHellenic sorority. The informant is my sister, and while chatting at home over spring break I asked her if she would be willing to tell me any of the rituals that were performed at her sorority events. She refused to tell on the grounds that they are all highly confidential and she has been sworn to secrecy. After a moment of silence, she said that she would be willing to describe a secret tradition of her ex-boyfriend’s fraternity, because she felt no obligation to keep it secret for him any longer.

“He’s in SAE, and they have this saying that all of the brothers constantly use in secret. It’s ‘Phi Alpha,’ and it means ‘Brighter from Obscurity.’ Usually they just say it means ‘Under the Sun’ because that’s easier to understand. It has something to do with being close to God. Members of the fraternity say it to one another under their breath as a greeting or when saying goodbye. Sometimes they also say it in place of ‘I’m serious’ or ‘this is actually true.’ Like, if one guy is telling a story and his brothers don’t believe him, he’ll say ‘Phi alpha’ so that they do. Only brothers are supposed to know what it is, I was just around so much that they accidentally said it in front of me and [my ex-boyfriend] told me what it means.”

This Greek phrase intended to be shared among fraternity members in secret serves to place emphasis on the deep-rooted connection that is meant to be formed between two men as a result of their shared Greek affiliation. I asked the informant whether pledges—new members of the fraternity who had not yet been initiated—knew of the phrase and she said that they don’t. Therefore, acquiring knowledge of what the phrase is, when to use it, and what it means is a part of one’s initiation into the fraternity. It is a special privilege granted only to those who have endured several months of probationary membership, and serves as a way of asserting one’s status within the fraternity. I asked the informant what the significance of being close to God is for the members, and she replied that there really was none. The fraternity has no religious affiliation, but rather the idea of being close to God serves more as a way of encouraging members of the fraternity to take responsibility for their actions, by implying that some greater power is watching over them and ensuring that they represent the fraternity appropriately. I have always heard that a plethora of secret handshakes, rituals, and traditions exist within Greek organizations, and the depth of meaning associated with the simple saying “Phi Alpha” makes me wonder just how intricate many of these other forms of folklore are that I am unaware of.

general
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Alpha Phi Omega Initiation

“I don’t know how long it’s been in practice, but like every time like we wear pins, like a pledge pin on the right side [of your chest] when you’re pledging and then you put it on the left when you have been initiated. So, ‘cause the left side is your heart, so like the service pin is more on your heart like, you’re like in. Um, and then during the initiation ceremony we like light candles for each, kind of characteristic we talk about, um, and then we also, when people are ushered in to the initiation ceremony they’re, they have to close their eyes and not look and they get in a line with hand on shoulder, like in lines of maybe ten people and then someone leads them who’s an active member already to lead them to the place of the initiation. And then once they’re all there, um, they can open their eyes and then they, everybody says their name in order and they say the oath repeating after the person leading the ceremony. Um, let’s see. That happens once when you find out you’re gonna become a pledge and that happens another time when you’re initiated to become an active member. The pledging period is, like, a semester long, basically . . . It just seems like it’s always been done that way and so, when I experienced it as a pledge, it’s how I also experienced it as an active, like it, it feels like it’s always been that way.”

 

The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who studies biology and is currently applying to medical schools. This interview took place in the new Annenberg building when I was having a conversation with another friend about superstition and the informant started to volunteer information about the rituals that have taken place in her life. She is a part of the campus service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, or APO and has been for all four years she has been at USC. APO is co-ed and is somewhat culturally removed from USC’s other Greek life. It states its principle values are “leadership, friendship, and service” and the members of this service fraternity are supposed to embody those values in their everyday lives.

 

This ceremony is clearly a liminal moment that has been ritualized. It is a way for new members to join the fraternity on a consistent basis while knowing that they have the approval of the active members. Essentially, it is a way of very clearly establishing who is a part of the frat, who is not, and who is in the process of joining. I thought it was interesting that the informant interpreted the movement of the service pin from the right side to the left side as having to do with the left side being where your heart is. Part of me believes this interpretation is influenced by her studying biology and the human anatomy currently being the most important area of study in her life, while the other part thinks this is probably the original symbolic meaning of the movement. Having the pin on the right side of your chest makes it merely a form of decoration, at most an acknowledgment that you are interested in being a part of this organization. However, as soon as you move it to the left side of your chest, it is a statement that the organization is a big part of your life as it is next to one of your most vital organs.

 

The repetition of the initiation ceremony is important, as it gives the active members and pledges a period to adjust to the change in the community. It is noteworthy that the active members light a candle for each “characteristic” that an APO member should embody, i.e. leadership, friendship, and service, as this means three candles are lit and three is an important symbolic number in American culture. I think the reasoning behind making the pledges close their eyes when they are led to the ceremony has more to do with symbolism than it does with keeping the location of the ceremony a secret. The pledges are going to find out where the ceremony is as soon as they open their eyes, so there is really no reason to think that keeping the location a secret is an important part of the ritual. Rather, I think it has to do with the fact that when the pledges close their eyes they are in a location that represents their lives before APO, and when they open them they are somewhere that represents the their new lives with this fraternity. This action also increases the suspense and sacredness of this ritual. That an active member leads the lines of pledges into the ceremony shows the approval of the existing members of APO and is an important step in making this outgroup a part of the in-group.

Game

“Rage Cage” – Drinking Game

Informant: I learned Rage Cage from [older sorority sister], actually! Yeah, she taught it to me at [fraternity]. We were over there one night, and she was like, “[informant], why aren’t you drunk yet? You gotta get on my level!” So she got some of the guys in a circle around the table—the beer pong table—and put a bunch of red cups in the middle of the table, and we filled them all with a little bit of beer. And then she took two empty cups and uh, gave them to two of the guys. And they each had one ping pong ball, and they had to bounce the ping pong balls into their cup. And when the guy on the left of the other guy got his in, he’d pass the cup and the ball clockwise. If the guy on the right got his ball into the cup before the other guy, he got to stack his cup in the other guy’s cup, and then he’d pass the stacked cups to the next person in the circle. The guy who lost—who didn’t get his ball in and got another cup stacked in his—has to drink one of the cups of beer in the middle of the table. Then he can use that empty cup and try to bounce the ping pong ball into that. He passes the cup clockwise when he gets it in.

Me: So you just keep passing the cups clockwise in the circle?

Informant: Yeah. Well, unless someone gets the ball into the “chasing” cup—the cup that isn’t stacked—on their first try. Then they can pass it to whoever they want.

Me: Is there, like, someone you want to pass to in particular?

Informant: You want to pass it to the person to the right of whoever has the stacked cups. It’s easier to get them, then.

Me: How does the game end?

Informant: When all the cups are stacked. But [older sorority sister] plays it so, like, the last person to lose—to get a cup stacked in theirs—has to chug a whole drink.

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She is a member of a sorority, and was born and raised in Chicago, IL.

The informant told me she has played Rage Cage at numerous fraternity parties since learning it during her sophomore year at USC. The game is usually played in mixed-gender groups of five or more players (up to as many as can fit around the table, although a group larger than twelve may have trouble keeping the attention of players stuck on the opposite side of the circle from the action) and takes place at fraternity houses or otherwise private location where those who are not yet of the legal drinking age can participate.

This drinking game is typically played early in the evening as a way for men and women to loosen up around one another. Since fraternity party culture at USC revolves around partygoers being intoxicated, Rage Cage is often used as a comfortable and fun way for participants to ease into drinking for the night. The competitive “stacking” element of the game also allows for participants to gang up on certain members of the group who they believe should drink more.

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pint Night

As far as traditions stuff goes, for the frat (preferred anonymity), every winter… I think the first Saturday night after classes, we do Pint Night, which is like our version of Secret Santa. And you get assigned them and you get them a pint of alcohol…but actually it’s a half-pint. So like 5 or 6 shots.

And you can be nice to them and you request what you want so you could be nice and get them what they want.

But the tradition is if you say “fireball”, that’s the bitch move. So then your person is definitely not going to get you that. Freshman year, I didn’t know that, so I put it and then I got gin.

And then this year I put soko, but I guess they misinterpreted and thought that was a bitch move, and they gave me scotch.

So what happens… an alum, dressed as Santa, comes and picks 2 people, you got 2 at a time, he calls you up and you have to race the person you’re against. 3, 2, 1, start drinking and then when you’re done you slam the bottle in the trash can right after.

And the matchups are not random, someone picks who you’re racing against. The best one was our president at the time was against the hind tit of our pledge class.

What is the hind tit?

Oh, hind tit is the worst pledge. So they’re initiated last. Actually the worst pledge is second to last, the hind tit is more like a joke in their pledge class. Like one kid shit himself while the pledge master was carrying him home, so that kid became the hind tit.

But like President vs Vice President and stuff like that is a good matchup. And you tally who wins for each family. So the families are named by different colors. So this year my family, pink family, and my pledge class both won. It’s all just bragging rights. Everyone forgets about it in like a week.

How did you learn this tradition?

Well you kind of just get thrown into it your first time. If you’re a fall pledge, it’s your very first semester in it. And then spring pledges, not til the end of the next fall.

How long have you been doing it?

Long before I got here. Uh, for probably since our refounding or close to that. Everyone gets really fucked up. I think I peed myself that night.

Wow. I’m definitely putting that in the archives.

Just put “anonymous fraternity at USC”.

 

 

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Jiggle on the Washing Machine

“Apparently at Kappa, to haze you, they take all of the pledges [new sorority members] and sit them on top of running washing machines. Then they bring in some guys from different frats on the row and give them markers. It’s so fucked! They get these frat stars drunk and make them circle all of the parts of the pledges’ bodies that jiggle with the markers they give them.”

This account depends entirely on hearsay, making it all the more interesting. As the informant is a member of a rivaling sorority, it is possible that the story was invented slanderously. However, this particular hazing practice corroborates that image of Kappa Kappa Gamma, as an aggressively looks-oriented sorority, that seems to pervade USC. As with most hazing practices, this ritual promotes unhealthy body image, but reaffirms the dominance of older member of the sorority over the new members. Such practices are allegedly “team-building” and “character building,” at which I roll my eyes.

Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

SigEp Gold Shorts and Vest

Every pledge class president of Sigma Phi Epsilon must wear gold shorts and an American flag vest during their live-in week of their pledge semester. Live-in week is the last week of pledging where you essentially live in the house and become everyone’s bitch for a week. You stay in the house on the floor with your whole pledge class, and you only leave to go to class.”

The informant was unclear as to whether or not this hazing ritual was a national tradition. However, he was certain that it was the case at USC, given that he was forced to do it, as pledge class president.

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