Author Archives: blosey

“Pride feels no pain”

Text: “Pride feels no pain.”

Minor Genre: Proverb


L explained, “This proverb came down from my great-grandmother on my mother’s side. It was a saying among Southern women, maybe just ladies in general. The context was that you had to put up with pain for beauty; your looks were associated with how proud you were and how you presented yourself.

“Every time my mother brushed my hair when I was little, there were always tangles, and she would say, ‘Be quiet. Pride feels no pain.’”


The proverb “pride feels no pain” has a fairly straightforward meaning regardless of context: it implies that behaving in a manner that fills you with pride is enough to overcome any discomfort you may feel as a result of such actions. It reminds me of the phrase “beauty is pain,” which more directly relates to the idea that discomfort is an inherent part of beauty –– and that pain is a worthy price to pay to feel beautiful. In comparing the two phrases, considering “beauty is pain” as perhaps the more modern counterpart to “pride feels no pain,” it is interesting to consider the implied difference between the words “pride” and “beauty.” The word “pride” carries a more negative connotation for the person it describes, hinting that it is hubris that really disguises pain, while the word “beauty” seems to be used as more of an attribute for a person, and it is the attainment of the attribute that can be a negative experience.

“Better than a punch in the nose!”

Text: “Better than a punch in the nose!”

Minor Genre: Folk Speech – Simile


M said, “My grandmother would always say that [proverb] whenever we would complain about something that we didn’t like. She lived through the Depression, and I think she grew up fairly poor. There are a lot of those proverbs and euphemisms about ‘hard work’ from her generation.”


This piece of folk speech reminds me of the saying, “I’ll give you something to cry about.” They both are used to shut down a complaint with the implication that the situation at hand could be made worse, and therefore it is not something to complain about. I think my father [M] is probably correct about its popularity within the generation that lived through the Depression; in trying to raise the subsequent generations who did not need to endure the same levels of hardship, it is likely that those who lived through the Depression shared a mindset that the newer generations didn’t have anything to complain about, as they had not experienced true struggle.

I heard this phrase a few times growing up from my grandmother (M’s dad). However, she would always use it in a comedic tone, getting people to laugh while accepting the situation at hand rather than interpreting the phrase as a true threat of physical abuse.

“The Virgin Vault”

Text: “The Virgin Vault” or “The Vault” at Vanderbilt University

Minor Genre: Folk Speech – Crude Stereotype


L explained that “The Virgin Vault,” or “The Vault,” was the unofficial name for an all-girls hall at Vanderbilt in which boys were not allowed. It was the fourth floor of the Dyer Observatory, and its reputation as “the living space for virgins” was well-known among the student body. L lived in “The Virgin Vault” in her freshman year of college, 1993. She explained that she was aware of the hall’s reputation before she moved in – and that the title was “not considered a compliment, but it did not bother me.” It was simply where she could get a room; she wanted to get out of a bad roommate situation, and the only room available was in “The Vault.”


“The Virgin Vault” as a community nickname for an all-girls floor makes for an interesting social analysis in two main ways: it makes gendered assumptions about sexual engagements and implies that it is a negative trait for a girl to be a virgin. While it is reasonable to consider that 1993 did not have the same level of LGBTQ inclusivity that is common today, this phrase and its context implies that sex can only happen between people of the opposite sex. It also raises the question: would an all-boys floor also have the potential to be called a Virgin Vault? The answer is no, at least for Vanderbilt. This is another aspect that creates gendered assumptions about sex and traditional roles: that it is the boy who would be visiting the girl, and not vice versa.

The second interesting implication of “The Virgin Vault” is the implied negative connotation of virginity. Socially, being a virgin is considered “bad” – but so is having “too much” experience. Another aspect to consider is that some girls, including my mother (L), did not consider being labelled as a resident of “The Virgin Vault” to be a bad thing. This indicates that such a charged phrase only achieves power when it is used by/on people who care about its negative (or positive) social implications.

R2D2 “Hack” at MIT

Text: In May 1999, MIT students pulled a prank that involved making a building resemble R2D2.

Minor Genre: Prank, Practical Joke


When the Phantom Menace opened in May of 1999, students on the MIT campus colored fabric panels to make a building resemble R2D2, a beloved droid from the Star Wars universe. According to L, who witnessed the building, “MIT is very proud of its prank culture.” Such pranks were common on campus and encouraged among students. They were dubbed “hacks” among those involved, and “hack culture” was widespread at MIT. Part of hack culture was to “do no damage,” which is a potential reason why the administration allowed for such a mischievous culture to thrive.

When the R2D2 “hack” took place, L described that “campus was buzzing. It was the kind of feeling like ‘it’s cool that I go to a school where people do stuff like this thing.’” The prank made national news because it happened at a time when “everyone was going crazy about the Phantom Menace.”


“Interesting Hacks To Fascinate People: The MIT Gallery of Hacks” is a website created by those involved in “hack culture” intended to document the history of pranks at MIT. The website describes the meaning of the word: “the word hack at MIT usually refers to a clever, benign, and ‘ethical’ prank or practical joke, which is both challenging for the perpetrators and amusing to the MIT community (and sometimes even the rest of the world!).” ( Although hacks are not officially sanctioned by the university, the culture built on clever practical jokes has had a significant impact on broader MIT student culture.

The R2D2 hack described by my mother is officially catalogued on the MIT Gallery of Hacks as the “Great Droid.” It stood in place from May 17th through the 18th in 1999 on the Great Dome building. The “Great Droid” is a prime example of how pranks can utilize popular culture to inspire excitement and a sense of unity within a community. It also provides insight into the values of MIT as a whole; due to its overall high level of safety, the hack received praise from an MIT security officer and the administration initially declared they would allow it to remain in place for three days. The MIT “hack culture,” therefore, was based on intellectual and thorough planning to create large-scale, harmless pranks.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?” … “Because it was stupid.”

Text: “Why did the chicken cross the road?” … “Because it was stupid.”

Minor Genre: Joke, Anti-Humor


M said, “When my oldest daughter B was three, she told this joke, and everyone thought it was hilarious. She was telling it to my dad and she was trying to tease him back for all of the teasing he was doing to her.”


Although I don’t remember my original telling of the joke, this joke has been repeated frequently over the years in my family, its hilarity stemming from the idea that someone – a three year old girl, no less – had finally put my joke-loving grandfather in his place. I grew up hearing jokes all of the time from my grandfather, who loves to tease people. This joke arose likely as a combination of frustration about hearing the same joke one too many times and a desire to make him laugh.

It is interesting to look at this joke outside of my familial context, as it serves as an example of “anti-humor.” Anti-humor is a branch of humor that relies on irony and reversals in order to create a surprise factor within an already-familiar joke. This is ironic, because the traditional form of the joke (“Why did the chicken cross the road?… To get to the other side.”) is already seen as an example of anti-humor. The listener expects a funny punchline, but instead receive a flat statement about what is logical. In turn, my family’s joke is an anti-anti-humor: the listener expects the traditional answer, “to get to the other side,” and instead receives an abrupt quip: “because it was stupid.”