Author Archives: William Anderson

Body painting at the fair

My informant is a regular attendant of the Oregon Country Fair. The Oregon Country Fair is an annual non-profit craft fair held in Eugine Oregon held on the second weekend of July. In its inception it was known as the Oregon Renaissance Faire,  however in 1977 it changed its name to better reflect what it represented. At the start of every day there is a booth of painters near the entrance of the fair who offer to pain the chests and faces of anyone who desires to have their body painted. While the face paints are just for fun, the body or chest painting serves a much more important purpose to regular attendants of the fair. According to my informant, serious female fairgoers are “almost expected to paint their chest.” This is not a mandatory thing for women who attend the fair to do, but it is a culturally accepted and encouraged action” and that “when you see a women walking around the figure 8 (the fairground) without a shirt and a painted chest you know that they are a part of the community.” The significance of the body paint, however, is much deeper than it may seem at first glance. It is much more than a simple declaration of your Oregon Country Fair experience. Rather, it is actually meant to be a metaphor for fertility. When I asked my informant on the meaning behind the painting he revealed that “while it doesn’t mean much to me, to the people who do the paintings, this ritual is a celebration of fertility. [The painters] sometimes get very particular about this and usually will not paint men or young girl’s bodies because, well they cannot [birth a child].” Because of this, the paintings are almost always some type of flower placed in a shape that “look a lot like ovaries.”

This ritual is interesting because it is both not mandatory and seemingly out of place in a summer modern American fair. Fertility rituals often are performed in the spring during religious events, but the Oregon Country Fair is a community run fair taking place in the middle of summer. I believe that this implies that this tradition was not inherent to the fair but rather was brought to it. This notion is reinforced by the fact that the body painting is a part of, but not a central event of the fair. Usually if there was a sort of fertility ritual at a community gathering, it would be integral to the experience, but at the Oregon Country Fair it seems to be a well respected afterthought. Furthermore, at least from what I gathered from my informant, the Oregon Country Fair is in no way advertised of or talked about as a fertility festival.  I think that this shows that at the Oregon Country Fair, people are free to bring and repeat traditions from other cultures even if they do not necessarily have anything to do with the fair itself. If I were to go to the fair, I would assume that this painting is just one example of many such rituals performed at, but not integral to, the Oregon Country Fair.

Feeling Salty

The competitive gaming community is the large community of people who play competitive games. This usually means that they either play MOBA (multilayer online battle arena) or fighting games online against other players. While this community has no physical location, they communicate and form their culture through online message boards and forums. Due to these forums, the competitive gaming community is able to foster a culture and communicate with one another without actually being in the same physical place. Some notable competitive gaming websites are,, and

In the competitive game community people often play against each other to compete and determine who is the better player. While this happens frequently at the larger level in the form of gaming tournaments it also happens in smaller groups of people who simply get together to play their game of choice for fun. While there does not have to be money on the line, all of these games foster a competitiveness that is integral to the experience. Because of this, players at any level often get very frustrated when the are not performing as well as they feel they should. However, losing in such a way is not solely a personal disappointment. My informant is a avid competitive game player and has been in this community for quite some time now. On this topic he said that “when you lose a match, especially one you feel like you should have won, it is impossible to hide it. Because of this the people you know and the people watching will always heckle you when you lose to someone much worse than you. When you see someone you know lose like this, you are almost obligated to call the losing player ‘salty’. This means that they are angry or frustrated with their performance.” He went on to talk about the various salt based phrases people will use to heckle the losing player or team. For example, he said that it was common to say “the salt is real” or “oh what delicious salt” when someone you particularly dislike loses in an embarrassing fashion. On the topic of the origin, he stated that he did not know where it comes from but he did know that the word “salt” was a reference to the salt in the losing player’s tears.

This is referenced in VGBootcamp’s “Salty Suite” which is a series of Super Smash Melee (a fighting game) matches where opponents who historically dislike losing to each other play a best of five to determine who is the better player and who is “just salty.”


This is very interesting as it is used to heckle friends and enemies alike. In this community, no matter your allegiance to the losing player, you are expected to call them out in this specific way after an embarrassing loss. This is likely used as a way to express that you are aware that they messed up or played poorly without having to specifically say what went wrong. By simply saying “I can feel the salt” or something along those lines you can heckle without getting too personal or offensive.

Inflection based folk speech

At the start of last year, the informant’s roommate came back from his hometown with a unique speech pattern the informant had not heard up until that point. According to the informant, his roommate picked it up from his friends in Peachtree City, Georgia, but the exact origin or cause of this speech pattern was unknown to him.

This speech is interesting in that it has absolutely nothing to do with the content of what the speaker is literally saying. Rather than emphasize the words said, when speaking in this way you emphasize the cadence or inflection of your sentence. Depending on what part of the sentence the speaker emphasizes, the sentence can have many different and specific meanings. The informant told me that “when we inflect the beginning of a sentence heavily it lets us know that we can disregard anything that is said after the first few words. This essentially allows us to say whatever we feel like while still communicating what we need to communicate. It allows us to show the essence of what we are trying to say without worrying about the details. For example if I were to say Don’t go over there I’m trilling out, my friends would not try to understand what ‘I’m trilling out’ means but would rather just accept not go go over there.” He went on to say that in a sense, using inflection over content allows him to be free in his speech while still being understood by his peers.

He went on to explain different meanings that the inflection point of the sentence can have. For example by inflecting the last phrase of a sentence, it lets his friends know that he is making a self-aware joke about himself and not to take anything in the sentence literally. He expressed that because of his groups often random sense of humor that this use of their speech is critical as it instantly and definitively clears any confusion as to whether what was said is a joke or not.

As far as popularity of this speech pattern, my informant told me that “while [their folk speech] is not universal among college students, it is used somewhat frequently by members of the film school here and by members of the Peachtree City Community… assuming what [his roommate] told us is true.” At the very least he made it clear that his group of friends and acquaintances use this inflection based speech frequently. This is very interesting because the inflection based dialog, coupled with the fact that it can be (and was revealed to often be) used alongside humor suggests that the sense of humor among this group is at times so hard to follow that even the members themselves had to develop a new speech pattern to signify when something is or is not a joke. I have attached sound clips of these two types of inflections.

Sauna Singing

My informant is a regular attendant of the Oregon Country Fair. The Oregon Country Fair is an annual non-profit craft fair held in Eugine Oregon held on the second weekend of July. In its inception it was known as the Oregon Renaissance Faire,  however in 1977 it changed its name to better reflect what it represented. During this fair, there are a number of initiation rituals that the people who work at the fair go through when they first join the community. Most of these rituals happen at night after the fair is closed to the public so the workers can act as they please without having to worry about the fair attendants. One of the initiation rituals takes place in the communal sauna during the first night. According to my informant, around midnight of the first night “all the newcomers and whoever else wants to join head over to the sauna. Then they take off their close and start singing songs together.” Aside from being “a ton of fun for everyone” this ritual is used to initiate people into the community of the Oregon Country Fair workers. My informant said that the community there believes that “by getting all the new members to get naked with some of the older members of the community it shows that we are all naked and open with each other and that everyone is fine the way there is. It makes it clear that there is no reason to hide anything. Thats also why we sing. Of course a lot of us are terrible singers, but that is the point. By just doing something fun together, regardless of if anyone is actually good at it or not, the people start to come together.” After everyone has spent a sufficient amount of the time singing in the sauna, everyone runs out together across the cold fairground into the cold high pressure showers.  This signifies the end of the ritual and all the new members how participated are now treated as a “real part of the community”.

It seems that this ritual is a very integral part of the Oregon Country Fair experience. Until you physically remove anything hiding your body and show yourself completely to the community, you aren’t really considered one of them. This reveals a lot about the values of this unique community. For one, it shows that they prioritize openness over most everything. The ritual involves both embarrassing yourself (through the bad singing) and showing yourself in the most naked way possible. The openness of the community is only reinforced by having initiates and the initiates perform this ritual together. In a way, this implies that the ritual is used to introduce the new members of the community to the older members of the community. The social experience of running around the camp naked, in front of everyone, is what brings these people together; through this ritual the community hopes to learn as much about its new members as possible.

The Oregon Country Fair’s endless drumcircle.

My informant is a regular attendant of the Oregon Country Fair. The Oregon Country Fair is an annual non-profit craft fair held in Eugine Oregon held on the second weekend of July. In its inception it was known as the Oregon Renaissance Faire,  however in 1977 it changed its name to better reflect what it represented. One thing to know before reading this is that the fairground is in the shape of a large figure eight. At the center of this figure eight, where all the paths collide, there is always a drum circle going. This drum circle starts at the beginning of the fair and does not end until the fair is over. Even at night, when most people are sound asleep, a few designated people stay up to continue the drum circle. While there are a few people required to stay and keep the drum circle going at all times, it is generally an open communal experience. People are free to join (assuming they have a drum) and leave the circle whenever they please. My informant participated in this drum circle last year and was ecstatic to talk about how important it is to the Oregon Country Fair experience. The first thing he immediately mentioned when asked about the drum circle is that “it represents the heartbeat of the entire fair.” He said that because of its central location, “the drum circle is the central landmark of the fair. If you ever want to meet up with somebody but do not know where they are, you will meet up at the drum circle. It is easy to get find no matter where in the fair you are.”

When asked about what playing in the circle is like my informant revealed that “it really puts you in a trance. You suddenly feel like you are connected with everybody in the circle. And because so many people join and leave that circle you kind of get to know a little bit of everyone. At least rhythmically.” He went on to talk about how the drum circle was one of the most fun moments of his Oregon Country Fair experience last year and repeatedly stressed how integral it was to the experience. In many ways, this drum circle is very shamanistic and resembles how some people will beat a drum while performing rituals in order to enter a more trance-like state. The difference lies in the scale. Rather than an individual using a drum to help enter a trance-like state, the Oregon Country Fair has a drum circle to help the entire community enter a more trance like state. I’m sure that is why this specific tradition was so important to my informant. The drum circle existing at the center of the fair must be a powerful way to incorporate a trance state on a larger scale. If I were to go to the Oregon Country Fair to research this further I am sure that I would find many other attendants who feel as strongly about the importance of the drum circle as my informant.