USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘reading’
Game
general

Road Sign Game

“So like if you’re driving in a car for like a long period of time, and you’re like with a friend or something, you’re not gonna do it by yourself, and you’re not the driver, you look out the window and you have to, in order of the alphabet, find a sign on the side of the road that starts with the, um, the first letter is in the alphabet, so like, say I was looking for an ‘A,’ if I found an Applebee’s I’d yell out ‘Applebee’s’ and then, like, the next sign you saw that started with a ‘B,’ like um, Ben and Jerry’s, or something, somebody would yell it out. So it wasn’t necessarily like a competitive game, it was just like the whole car was trying to get the alphabet, or the signs in order of the alphabet before they arrived at their destination. It was just a way to stay busy . . . It’s more challenging if it’s a shorter distance, obviously. But instead of sleeping in the car, that’s what we would do.”

 

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 the informant where she learned this game, she said, “I think from like traveling to dance competitions a lot and, um, I mean I know we didn’t just make it up, but I think it kind of derived from the license plate game, where it’s like you look at a license place and you try to find the alphabet in each license plate almost. But we made it signs, probably a little easier.” She said it was her mother who would take her to dance competitions and would sometimes participate in the game.

 

When I asked her what she thought this meant, she said, “It was a good way to bond with my other teammates and my brothers and avoid fighting because it’s not competitive.”
This game was interesting because it was one that the informant assumed everyone knew about. It was so entrenched in her childhood experience that she could not imagine anyone else growing up and not playing it. While this game most likely did not originate with the informant’s family, it is probably prevalent in families and groups of people that spend a lot of time on the road. I agree with the informant that the primary purpose behind this game is to distract children (or anyone bored on a drive) and keep them from fighting with one another. It also helps them familiarize themselves with their surroundings, take an interest in the world for a specific purpose, and practice their reading skills. It is also interesting that this game is not competitive in the usual sense, i.e. the participants are not playing against each other. This helps teach the participants to complete a task quickly and work together.

Folk speech
Humor

Reading

About the Interviewed: Davey is a student at the George Washington University double-majoring in English and LGBT Studies. His ethnic background hails from Spain. At the time of this interview, he was currently on leave at his home in Southern California. He is biologically male, but he identifies as gender-queer. Nonetheless, he prefers male pronouns. He is 20 years old.

Davey: “Because reading is what? Fundamental, darling.”

I have just opened up a can of worms. I have asked Davey Gonzalez about the LGBT art of ‘reading’, which is not the same thing as reading books.

Davey: “Okay, before we begin, we have to address these issues from a herstorical standpoint.”

We laugh; Davey and I both like to say ‘Herstory’ instead of ‘History’ when addressing LGBT issues. It’s something of an inside joke. 

Davey: “Reading is an art of poetic insult. When you read someone, you go into them, and you scoop out all of their flashy insecurities. You are reading people like a book. Gay people had it first. They used it as a way to be expressive. It was a way that we all got along. We just read the shit out of each other. This was before your time, or my time.”

I asked him to “read” me. For scientific purposes.

Davey: “I can’t read you David, you’re too nice. …Aw, I’m just kidding, you fickle bitch.”

We laugh.

Davey: “I mean seriously, you come to my place, my home, dressed like you’re going motha-fuckin swimming. [I was wearing a tank top and shorts] You came here to record me? To ask me questions? With my beautiful voice? I don’t think so! Make up your mind, darling!”

I’m in hysterics at this point. I ask him if he thinks that people sometimes take reading the wrong way.

Davey: “Well, there’s a difference between giving a read and being a bitch. When you read, it’s collaborative. Both people are in on it [the act]. Now if I called you a fat slut, that wouldn’t be a read, that would just be true.”

I hit him jokingly with my sandal. Hard.

Summary:

The term “reading” in LGBT culture, refers to the spoken act of pointing out flaws in others for comedic or dramatic effect. Davey wanted me to envision it as the more artistic form of a “diss”.

“Reading” has seen a resurgence among people like Davey in circles of the LGBT community. The popularity of shows like “The New Normal” and “Rupaul’s Drag Race”, have made popular certain elements of LGBT culture that have existed since as far back as the 1970’s. 

 

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