Author Archives: Amanda Suarez

Sexy Expulsion at USC

Informant: You might not be able to use this, but there’s like this—it’s not like an urban legend—but there are these two people having sex on a roof at USC and they got expelled. I’ve heard it from a few people.

Collector: Do you know what roof it was?!

Informant: I think it was one of the ones by where they had welcome week, back by the music buildings.

Collector: That’s crazy!

Collector’s Notes: This seemed more like an urban legend for the USC community.  It’s interesting that it was a story about sex, an inappropriate or taboo thing to talk about, and it was a story where the consequence of this taboo action was expulsion from school, a very severe and serious price to pay.  There were interesting and raised stakes because the sex was in a public place, and at school, where something adult like sex is even more inappropriate.  It seems that students at this age in their life are getting used to combining school life and adult life, because they’re on their own with responsibilities for the first time.  Addressing this in a funny way is a way of easing the tension of that reality.


Turdy Tomfoolery

Informant: So for April Fool’s I saw on Instagram this woman, she’s an artist in New Orleans and she’s crazy! You take a toilet paper roll and you make it all wet, then you rip it up and clump it together and it looks like a poop!

Collector: Oh my God!

Informant: Then you can like, put it somewhere! And the person’s like, “Turd! There’s a turd in the bed!”

Collector’s Notes: I think this has a lot to do with things that we as a Western society view as “taboo.”  It’s very taboo to talk about feces, pr to even talk about going to the bathroom at all!  We tend to pretend like these things don’t exist, like the popular joke and saying that appeared was that “girls don’t poop.”  Well, of course they do.  Everyone and most living things on Earth do.  It’s just the human body doing what it’s supposed to do.  We, however, have developed this weird relationship with going to the bathroom.  It’s seen as a very dirty thing in a world that we like to keep very clean.  We call it “going to the restroom” or “bathroom” when we are neither resting or bathing.  So, for practical jokes, people like to make light of these “taboo” topics and turn them into something funny.  Putting fake poo in places that one wouldn’t expect it is both shocking and bringing the “off-limits” to the forefront.  This joke is definitely one for the books.


Clothes-less Curtain Call

Collector: Are there any opening night traditions that you guys do in theatre?

Informant: Um, we had a closing night tradition at my high school. I went to an all girls high school and we would have to borrow boys from the boys’ schools to play the male roles in our shows. And on the last day of the performance, the crew, while they were taking the bow at the end, the costume crew would come and hide the boys’ clothes backstage.

Collector: Oh my. That’s funny!

Informant: Yeah, then they would have to, obviously, walk past all the girls ashamedly in their boxers. I always felt kind of bad about it, because I knew I would hate it if I was doing a show at a boys’ school and they did that, but… I mean it was a tradition!

Collector’s Notes: I think “hazing” would be a strong word for this, but it’s definitely an initiation tactic.  I think a lot of it has to do with gender roles and divides that exist between boys and girls, especially at the really liminal age that kids are at in high school.  These girls were accepting these boys into their community, and in order to make themselves more comfortable, they took the boys’ comfort away.  It also sort of makes light of the obvious tension that usually goes on around boys and girls when they’re involved in things like theatre where everyone is changing backstage and might accidentally catch a glimpse of someone else.  This makes those sorts of taboo situations easier to talk about and manage because it’s done with humor instead of seriousness.  And I think it may have been a way to show a little bit of dominance to the male visitors: Because girls are territorial when it comes to their school, and boys naturally try to take charge of situations that they’re put into.  The act of taking someone’s clothes in our culture is sort of bringing them to a baseline humility, and would make it clear that the girls were in charge.

Candelight Ceremony and Ring Day at Saint Martin’s

Collector: So you’re originally from Louisiana, right?

Informant: Yep!

Collector: In your high school, were there ever some traditions for seniors?

Informant: Oh, there was! There was a ceremony called the Candlelight Ceremony. And the seniors at the time had, like, a lit candle and the juniors would have a non-lit candle, and the seniors would take their lit candle and light the juniors’ non-lit candle.

Collector: Oh that’s cool!

Informant: Yeah, and Ring Day.

Collector: What’s Ring Day?

Informant: Ring Day was when a senior at the time got their senior ring and put it around their neck, then took the ring and put it on a junior’s neck.

Collector: Do you know how that got started?

Informant: Um, I think they were just looking for a creative way to give people their senior rings.


Collector’s notes: I’ve seen the act of giving class rings in a couple of different situations.  A few decades ago, I know that boyfriends would give their girlfriends their class rings as a sort of symbol of their relationship.  It linked the two people together and I think this is sort of like that.  Similarly with the Candelight Ceremony, the “light” has always been a reputation of love and unity (Stritof). In some ways, this ceremony was a way of the senior passing on their love and approval to the juniors, and they were uniting them as “rising juniors” and “graduating seniors.”  It’s as if they belong in the same community for a short while; both considered seniors-but-not-quite.

Because this was a Catholic school, however, the light may have had a simultaneous but different symbol.  In the history of the church, fire and the candle have represented Christ, otherwise known as “The True Light” (Horvat).  Being given a candle at a baptism, for example, is considered “receiving the light of Christ.”  This light is supposed to accompany and strengthen the baby at this liminal point in their life.  At baptism, a newborn or convert becomes a member of the church community.

In a more basic way, fire carries its own representation altogether.  It can, in some ways, represent the three stages of thought and enlightenment (Horvat).  This would be very appropriate in a school setting, especially being given to rising juniors, who are about to start the final year of their child lives. It takes hard work and dedication to create and care for a fire.  The long burning wick of the students’ lives is beginning, and the leaving seniors are sharing their knowledge, or “light” with the new senior class.


REFERENCES : Stritof, Sheri. “Candle Symbolism — Candles Represent Love For Many.”, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.

Horvat, Marian T., Ph. D. “Symbolism of Candles, Fire by Marian Horvat.”Tradition in Action. Tradition in Action, Inc.,  n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.

Knock Knocks and Armless Timmy

Informant: Why did Timmy fall off the swing?

Collector: Why?

Informant: Because he had no arms.

Collector: Oh and then the “Knock knock. Who’s there? Not Timmy!”

Informant: Yeah! Also, say “knock knock.”

Collector: Knock knock.

Informant: Who’s there?

Collector: Who? Oh wait, what? Oh!

Informant: Yeah! That one’s just awkward.

Collector’s Notes: In class, we learned about the growing popularity of anti-jokes, and I think is probably the most common one I’ve heard.  It was cool how the Informant and I were able to add to the joke together and make it a two-sided joke.  It’s interesting that this particular joke, always a swing and always Timmy, is also almost always followed up with the knock-knock anti-joke.  It’s like it’s two-parted.  A young child with no arms is not funny at all, but I think it is a way that we address serious things with humor.  The fact that someone without arms can’t do all of the everyday things that we do is really sad and hard for some people to talk about without it becoming awkward.  This jokes eases some of that tension.

A type of riddle we talked about in class was the “catch” riddle, in which you trick someone into saying the wrong thing.  Most times, it’s supposed to insinuate something inappropriate.  An example that I know off-hand is “What’s brown and sticky?” which makes it seem like the person is supposed to say “Poop,” when actually, the answer is “a stick.”  The Informant’s second joke reminded me of that.  It tricks the person being told to joke into saying something that they’re not supposed to say, therefore putting them in the awkward position of suddenly becoming the joke-teller instead of receiver.