Tag Archives: high school

Facebook Senior Names

Background: 

My informant, AK, is a 19 year old student at the University of Michigan. She was born and raised in Southern California and is studying engineering. While in high school, AK was an active member and team captain of her school’s swim team. She attended the school from kindergarten until she graduated and knew the place inside and out. (I’ll be referring to myself as SW in the actual performance).

Performance: 

AK: For as long as I can remember, it’s been tradition at our high school to make a fake name on facebook for senior year. Everyone would make a pun based off their name, referencing a movie or celebrity. When it first started, it was to protect people’s identities, so that of prospective colleges looked up students on facebook, they wouldn’t find their page. By the time we were seniors, there wasn’t really a need to do this because it was general knowledge that colleges didn’t really care, but our grade kept on with the tradition anyways.

Thoughts:

It’s interesting to understand where some aspect of folklore comes from, and to see how its meaning has changed over time. What started as a superstition morphed into a tradition that stood to be a rite of passage. Kids as early as freshman year would begin to think about their senior name, anxious to be done with high school and on their way to college. Senior names were a way of expressing yourself, while also engaging in a unifying experience across the grade.

Yearbooks as Folk Art

Main Piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between me (LT) and my informant (MS). 

MS: So, a yearbook is traditionally issued at the end of the school year when you’re in elementary school through high school… and they have pictures of everyone in the school taken throughout the year… and you’ll usually write messages in your friends’ books.

LT: But not all messages are equal (laughs). 

MS: Yeah, like in elementary school, everyone just wrote their names because we didn’t know how to write many things, but generally, in high school, it’s bad to just write “HAGS,” which means have a good summer… you want to write something more heartfelt because people often keep yearbooks and will want to be able to reminisce on memories and stuff in the future, so you need good messages. If someone writes “HAGS,” they probably don’t know you that well. 

Background: 

MS is one of my best friends, and she grew up in Los Angeles. She got her first yearbook when she was six years old, at the end of Kindergarten. She often jokes that she’s a “hoarder” because she keeps a lot of things for their sentimental value, including yearbooks. She actually just read through all of her old yearbooks the night before our interview since she “wasn’t doing anything better during quarantine.” Her favorite thing about yearbooks is reading the messages. She likes to think about who she’s still friends with and who she doesn’t stay in touch with. She also likes the messages that remind her of memories she wouldn’t have thought of on her own. 

Context:

MS and I normally see each other most days at USC, and we’ve been continuing to FaceTime often during this quarantine period. This piece was collected during a “Zoom Happy Hour” with our friend group. 

Thoughts:

In American culture, we often stress the importance of being “cool in high school.” Media often promotes the idea that an American teen’s self worth can be measured in how many friends they have. Yearbooks are a physical way we can quanitize that. I remember reading through my mom’s old yearbooks as a child, and I was so impressed by how many people had signed it. When I was in high school, I would actually get stressed and feel pressured to make sure every blank page in my book was covered with signatures. Now, as a college student, I don’t even know where most of my yearbooks are. In MS’s case, it’s nice to reminisce about the memories with dear, old friends. However, she doesn’t particularly care about the messages written by people she wasn’t close to. Yearbooks symbolize the things that felt so important as a teenager that don’t particularly matter later in life. Inherently, yearbooks are a really sweet tradition that should be treated more authentically. 

Term for Cheap Vodka

Main Piece:

In this conversation E.S represents myself, the collector.

Informant: “We would all drink Shitty K like it was nothing”

E.S: “We never had that”

Informant: “What? Shitty K was just like all that really gross vodka you could buy for cheap.”

Background:

The informant grew up in a large, suburban, middle-class town in central South Carolina. Underage drinking was very common.

Context:

I was hanging out with the informant, talking about the differences in our high school experiences. The informant brought up what people used to drink when they were underaged and we compared our towns.

Thoughts:

With underage drinking, there is a consistent level of secrecy that surrounds the activity. Many high schoolers consider drinking alcohol to be an adult activity and it makes them feel older. To describe cheap liquor as “Shitty K” is inherently a very childish thing. It also removes the word “vodka” from its title, adding to the secret facade high school kids try to keep up in front of parents. The creation of this term allows for kids to feel like an adult because they are consuming alcohol but emphasizes immaturity as it is an inappropriate name for the drink.

Derby Day

Main Piece:

The informant described to me a tradition at her all-girls, private high school known as Derby Day. It is a day at the very beginning of the year, reserved for just the high school aged girls because the school is for grades 5-12. The high school girls would not go to class in the morning and instead play games and have cheer contests. 

In the afternoon, each grade was required to bring a different product. Freshman always had to bring ice cream. Sophomores had to bring oreos and jell-o. Juniors had to bring chocolate syrup. Seniors had to bring whipped cream. After the morning activities, the student council would “dump all of these things into kiddie pools on the field. When the set-up was complete, the freshman and sophomores had to sit in big circles” said the informant. Then the seniors would dump all of the jell-o, oreos, ice cream, etc. on the freshman and the juniors would do the same to the sophomores. The informant explained it was sort of an affectionate thing, “if you were a freshman and had a senior friend you would just get disgusting but it was out of love”.

After all of the dumping was complete, there was a water slide the informant’s school would rent. This was the only way to get cleaned off but it was an unspoken rule that the seniors could skip anyone in line and the juniors could skip anyone but seniors. So the freshman would wait in line to get cleaned off but never could.

Background:

This occurred at the informant’s all-girls, private, Episcopalian high school in Memphis, Tennessee. It was an ongoing tradition that girls looked forward to every year.

Context:

The informant explained this tradition to me when they were reminiscing about their high school experience.

Thoughts:

This tradition acts as a way for the high school aged girls to feel as though they have really grown up at the start of the year. It is common for students to go through types of hazing as underclassmen and then transition into being the hazers. Being able to dump chocolate syrup on someone’s head is looked at like a rite of passage at this high school. As the informant explained it to me, she held the day in such reverence it clearly is an important memory to her. She included the feelings of being an underclassman and upperclassman, participating in this. This tradition emphasizes the changes to the high school classes, as newfound juniors those students can establish themselves as upperclassmen by getting the opportunity to dump oreos on the heads of their peers. It is a funny, but important way to demonstrate the girls have grown over the past year.

The Philly Cheesesteak Challenge

Main Piece:

This is a transcription of the informant explaining the Philly Cheesesteak Challenge. 

So basically it’s this tradition that you do during your second semester of your senior year of high school, it’s mostly people in the DMV you know D.C, Maryland, Virginia. The point of the challenge is you’ll meet up with friends at school at just a regular school day after you’ve gotten into college and your attendance doesn’t really matter any more. And you guys like get in the car together and then when the first bell rings of the school day you leave your school and you guys drive to phil and get a cheesesteak and take a picture of you doing it and document the whole journey, like vlog it or whatever and get a picture of you doing it. And then you have to drive back to your school with the cheesesteak before the last bell rings and have the evidence. It’s for bragging rights to give you something fun and stupid to do before college.” 

Background:

The informant went to a large public high school in Northern Virginia. This challenge was something he looked forward to starting as a freshman. 

Context:

The informant described this to me when we were comparing high school traditions and experiences. 

Thoughts:

The Philly Cheesesteak Challenge encapsulates a lot of common patterns that occur during liminal moments in people’s lives. The Challenge itself is inherently funny, there is no real prize, just an arbitrary goal to complete before graduation. It gives students a sense of responsibility and freedom before they are actually out in the real world. In the late spring of the year, seniors teeter between students and graduates. The Philly Cheesesteak Challenge allows them to break the rules and be “adults” or graduates for the day to then return to the school setting they have known for the past 12 years of their life. It also allows for friends to accomplish a goal together before they all part and go their separate ways, making the Challenge feel even more important.

The Frozen Fruit Cake

Main Piece:

Informant describing a tradition from the theater at his high school:

“At my high school during the fall play, there was this tradition of giving a frozen fruit cake to the favorite freshman by the senior class. The freshman was someone who was like really funny or helped out a lot or did stuff like that. Then that freshman would hold onto it until they were a senior and then gift it to a freshman and the pattern would continue over and over every year”

Background:

The informant went to a public high school in New Jersey with an active theater department. 

Context:

The fruit cake was gifted after closing night of the play each year. The informant told me about this when discussing traditions in his high school theater department. 

Thoughts:

This tradition mirrors a lot of experiences in an American high school. A lot of importance is put on certain things that in any other sense would not mean anything. This fruit cake is a symbol of honor and importance given by a senior, the most powerful type of person in the eyes of a high school freshman. Outside of high school, the senior/freshman dynamic does not mean anything. The continuation of fruit cakes being given and kept until senior year keeps the theater department connected year after year. It creates value and connection through a frozen dessert that otherwise would not hold weight.

Hell week

Transcribed straight from my informant:

Main piece:

So hell week is a time in the summer, like one of the last weeks before school starts. It’s when the fall sports teams basically have an intense week of working out and preparation for the upcoming season. In my experience, it was water polo, but people usually think of football.

Usually, its multiple hours–up to 5 or 6– of working out, in the pool for me or weight training. It’s just really intense, and they’re just testing out our skills, meaning there was nothing to lose if we were sore because there was no season yet. They have always been doing that, and it’s terrible and scary. It’s an entire week of five hours every day, I hate it.

Background/context:

My little brother told this to me as we sat together casually after I asked him about his folklore. He has been playing club water polo competitively for at least 4 years now, and he takes the sport very seriously. He is a jock. He is in an all-boy’s high school that is known nationwide for its excellence in sports.

Thoughts/analysis:

My school also had hell week, and I think it’s a pretty common concept for athletes, at least in American culture. I think the better you are at a sport, the more intense this becomes as it is also intended to pressure the athletes psychologically, bad as it sounds.

Playoff Haircuts

In high school sports, playoffs are consistently a big deal and represent a payoff for hard work and a good record during the sports season. This form folklore is both a folk practice and afterward, a folk object. The practice is giving certain haircuts during the time after the regular season but before playoffs begin. These are not normal haircuts but wild ones with different patterns and styles. Some of them include mohawks, bald heads, bowl cuts, words shaved into heads, monk haircuts, old man haircuts, and a plethora of others. They are not set haircuts but rather up to the imagination. This practice is similarly performed in other high schools across the United States, sometimes with other variations.

This folk practice is traditionally done by the upperclassmen within a team. The lowerclassmen get worse haircuts while the upperclassmen get better ones. In this way, it is a form of hazing. The informant said that the haircuts are typically shaved off or bettered once the playoff streak end because they are only to remain during the postseason. They learned it from the upperclassmen when they were younger and then performed this practice as an upperclassman. This is only typically done on varsity sports. The sports observed to do this include baseball, football, lacrosse, and some others. They remember it wholly fondly, even as a lower classman. It is not meant to be malicious but more a harmless rite of passage because it makes the kids feel like more of a coherent group. Another instance of this at different schools include bleaching the team’s hair during playoff time.

It seems to me that this sometimes is about a dynamic of power. Younger kids may be intimidated into doing this, but other kids may enjoy it because they are a part of a larger group and help self-identify with that. It is a physical way of making teammates more similar and improves as the kids get older, causing interest to do it for the first time.

Swim Team Shaving Party

Main Piece

Informant: When I was on the Dive and Swim team we would always grow out our body hair for prelims, which is the race that qualifies you for finals. So you would grow out our leg hair, arm hair, armpit hair haha. Sometimes boys did facial hair. But, if you made finals then we would have a shaving party. The finalists would have a shaving party, so you were seen as like a star if you were invited. It was an honor to go to this party, so everyone would help each other shave to get ready for finals. 

Interviewer: Where did you learn this from?

Informant: It has been going on at my high school for a very long time, probably decades before I went there. 

Interviewer: Why would your team this?

Informant: Shaving helps you swim faster, and I think it was a mini celebration that you made finals.

Interviewer: Did you ever get to go to one?

Informant: I did! At first I was a little weirded out, but when I went it was surprisingly fun. 

Background

My informant is a good friend and housemate of mine from USC and is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with a minor in Health Care Studies from San Dimas, CA. She says that a lot of her mannerisms and sayings come from growing up in San Dimas which she describes as being a very small town outside of Los Angeles that feels more midwest than the West coast. She attended summer camps throughout most of her life, starting as a camper and becoming a counselor in high school. 

Context

After willing to participate in an interview to collect folklore, the topic of sports came up with my informant and me. She disclosed that she was on the Swim and Dive Team and we began to talk about our experiences playing sports and how some of those celebrations and traditions of sports teams relate to folklore. This celebration got brought up in the interview and the informant gave me more details. 

Analysis

This folklore celebration is akin to rite of passages celebrations, as it is intended to congratulate and prepare the swimmers who qualified for the final races. In another sense, it also promotes unity and cooperation within the swimming team as they are doing something that has potential benefits for their results taking into account the belief that less hair on the body allows swimmers to swim faster. 

After some research, I discovered that many swim teams have similar shaving parties, and some have been documented online. One of these parties is mentioned and written about in the  following article:

Bara, Scotty, and Sapir Frozenfar. “Shaving In Sports.” The Viking Magazine, vikingsportsmag.com/features/2011/10/10/shaving-in-sports/.

“You shank it, you shag it.” Saying in soccer

Main Piece

Informant: “You shank it, you shag it.”

 It’s kinda like a motto you just say with friends when you are kicking the ball around. Whenever you are just messing around with friends, or at practice and you try and make a goal and you miss it, like completely,  you have to go get it. We are not there to shag balls for other people, especially if they missed super badly. So we just say it kinda as a rule.

Background

The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, who is currently a senior at USC studying Health and Human Sciences whose family is living in a town four hours outside of Denver, Colorado. Coming from a military family, the informant has lived in various areas, the most memorable for him was New Orleans. The informant is half Korean and half Caucasian, and is a sports fanatic having played soccer for most of his life. The informant is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to several festivals a year, originally beginning to attend in his senior year of high school. 

Context

While playing soccer for fun one day my informant taught me this quote that him and his friends from his soccer teams would frequently use. When he was willing to participate for an interview I brought it up and asked him to explain it to me. 

Analysis

This use of folk speech and proverb set general rules and boundaries while soccer players are kicking and shooting goals. Being used in high school, it could reflect the morals and values coaches want to pass down to their players as it encapsulates the general notion of accountability and responsibility in a very pithy way. The alliteration also might help people use it more as it is easy to remember and to say.