King’s cup

Background on informant: Informant is a senior at USC, studying philosophy, politics and law. He is from New York City.

Informant: I learned how to play it when I was in high school from my friend Andrew. We all used to play King’s Cup with a deck of cards in the dorm room. We would get a deck of cards and you put the deck of cards in a circle. Each person picks a card and depending on what each card is you have to do a certain thing:

If I pick up a three that means you have to drink.

If I pick up a two that means I have to drink.


I didn’t have any special codes with my friends that I know of. It’s just one of those things that gets passed along by word of mouth. I don’t know where Andrew heard it, but I assume he heard it from someone else. I don’t think he went out of the way to find this drinking game. Someone must have told him.

Analysis: This was interesting because the informant had such a strong memory of how this folklore was first performed, remembering who exactly had taught it to him and in what setting. That suggests that folklore serves a larger communal purpose that goes beyond the game as a leisure activity. It is interesting too that he learned this in high school before he could technically drink and his means for learning the technically illicit game was through folklore. Perhaps he and his friends didn’t want to write down the game or transmit it through writing but were comfortable performing it and spreading that way, in a way far more ephemeral/spontaneous than an authored record.