USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘nudity’
general

The Ledyard Challenge

Main Piece
The Ledyard Challenge
L-e-d-y-a-r-d. So, like, stripping your clothes is illegal in Vermont, but public nudity is illegal in New Hampshire, so there is this bridge that goes over the Connecticut river, which is the border of Vermont and New Hampshire, and Dartmouth is just on the New Hampshire side, so you can walk across the bridge and go into Vermont. So what a lot of students do is you strip your clothes on the New Hampshire side, and then swim across to Vermont, where it is legal to be naked but can’t take your clothes off, and then get out of the water and run the bridge to New Hampshire. We would do it at night.

Background
The informant attended Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where this tradition takes place. Although completely unofficial and unsponsored by the university, this tradition is passed down by students, to students. The informant took part in this tradition during her time in college.

Context
The informant is a 23-year-old woman, born and raised in Southern California. She attended Dartmouth College from 2014-2018. This information was provided to me outside her family home in Palm Springs, California on April 20th, 2019.

Analysis
I think this tradition is hilarious, and would have loved to take part in it if I attended Dartmouth College. While my familial relation to the informant is slightly unnerving, I still find the story, and the tradition, to be really fun. I wonder if the laws behind the “challenge” are true, and also how much the school knows about the tradition. If the school is trying to stop other traditions, would they try to stop this one as well? I bet this is a really fun way for students to do something “crazy” and bond with each other. Taking part in this tradition must help the students feel really part of the school – its past, the present, and its future. Through the tradition, the students are really validating their place as students in the school, taking part of the specifically Dartmouth culture.

Folk speech
general

Folk Speech

What should I wear to the meeting? You should go in your “birthday suit.”

Lillian told her friend to wear her “birthday suit” to the meeting as a joke.   She learned this from high school when another friend said it to her.  She said that to go in a birthday suit means to go naked.  She accepts this speech and does not know where it could have come from.

Although this is a simple phrase, it can be interpreted in many ways.  First off, teenagers constantly joke about nudity, especially with the media encouraging sexual references.  This folk speech could refer to one’s birthday, when one is the center of attention.  A person could “wear her birthday suit” for somebody else, which would be a satisfying present.

Folklore is commonly spread in many ways, whether it is a couple words or a long story.  In this case, simple phrases with sexual connotations are very common and easy to spread.  By having words that refer to a completely different idea, people can have inside jokes with whoever knows the folk speech.  Thus, there is an inside group who is familiar with the phrase, making it folklore.

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