Text: Something traditional you write or draw in a yearbook – “HAGS”

Informant: SK

Ethnicity: Indian

Primary Language: English

Age: 26

Residence: San Francisco


The phrase “HAGS” started being written in yearbooks when the informant was in elementary school and was commonly used until she graduated high school. It stands for “Have a Great Summer.” The informant recalled being confused when she first saw it, interpreting it literally until she questioned the friend who wrote it about the “insult” and was informed that it was actually an acronym with a positive message.


HAGS is a phrase that marks the transition from the school year to summer break. The word “hag” has negative connotations, being defined as a witch or ugly old woman; the phrase is therefore mischievous in nature, a gag joke meant to trick those who are unfamiliar with the acronym to interpret well-wishes as an insult. This reflects the shift in peer dynamics amongst children during the school year, which reflects a more serious and formal environment, to the summertime, which is more relaxed. Furthermore, social dynamics amongst children, who are still learning to process their emotions, often comes with well-meaning (sometimes mean) pranks and banter. Groups of children who know what the acronym stood for vs. those who do not create an inside joke, and the feeling of being “in on it” is often irresistible to young minds. Eventually, once the phrase became widespread enough, it became the embodiment of the yearly ritual of signing yearbooks, integrating itself into the “folklore” of primary education.