Tag Archives: fraternity

“tasting the brotherhood”

Context:TB, a member of a fraternity at USC provided me with this legend that has circulated amongst the men in his frat. We were having a discussion about traditions and rituals that are unique to his fraternity and that is how I obtained this legend. He told me that he had heard it from an active member who was a year older than him when he was pledging over a year ago and that the story still gets passed down to new pledges every semester.

Text:“In my frat we have educators, who are older active members in the house who keep the pledges, the new class of boys being initiated at the end of the semester, in order. There’s this rumor that a few years ago a pledge was promised an expedited initiation if he drank a concoction of urine that had been collected from a bunch of active brothers in the house. This act was referred to as “tasting the brotherhood” but the strange thing about it is nobody knows if it’s true because the person made to do it would be too embarrassed to admit their actions. The rumor probably was first made to freak out the pledges, but with years of the story being passed down its uncertain if it ever happened or still happens at all”

Analysis: One of the most stand out features of this legend is the ambiguity surrounding the truth of the rumor. The idea that someone may be too embarrassed to confirm or deny their participation ensures the story’s continued circulation without any clear verification. I believe this uncertainty is central to the fraternity and them being able to use this story as a scare tactic for the pledges to create a greater sense of unity upon initiation.

Fraternity Term


2. “To fade…oh I’m fading that or I’m fading you, that’s a term in my frat and its commonly used. To fade means to like leave or disengage from. If we are hanging out and I walk out of the room.. I’m fading you, I’m leaving you. Or if its like I’m fading class, I’m skipping class.”

3. For my interpretation of this term, I associate fading or being faded to a term that is associated with marijuana. I have heard people say they are faded when they are high, but I have never heard of it in this way, so that’s interesting. Because this term is common in fraternities, I could gather that because fraternities are not new, this term has been around for quite some time and is not just used at USC. By the google definition of the word fade, it means to gradually disappear or come in or out of view. With this in mind, thinking historically, in the fraternity environment I would think it is common to come of with slang like this. Moreover, throughout history the word fade has been used and changed in so many different ways, but seem mean the same thing. For example, when getting a hair cut, one can ask for a fade and basically the length gradually gets thinner and thinner to create a fading sort of look. I think this is cool to think about.

Fraternity Term

  1. Scope
  2. In a continuation of an interview I did with a classmate of mine in my anthropology discussion class he shared with me some of his fraternity terms and here is what he said: “Scoping is another one, its like to look at. If you are wearing something funny… you can say ‘yo! Scope me’ that’s a few of my fraternity terms”
  3. As he got this term from his fraternity, I find it common knowledge that brother in a fraternity often like to use slang or shorten their words when they talk to each other. This could be to come off as cooler to others or to feel a sense of community knowing you are in a house or organization that has its own language essentially. He did not reveal to me the origins of this saying, but I assume it has been around long enough to become relevant now. I would not personally use this term, but when looking at the definition of the word scope, used in the context my friend did, it seems to make sense. When thinking somewhat historically, people or even animals would “scope out” or look around their surroundings to find someone or something, so this one is not a far reach.

Oscar The Grouch

Context: Informant is a USC student, but not part of a USC fraternity, and has not tried to pledge to one in the past. Their information on the subject is entirely based on what they have heard from their USC peers, who are not part of fraternities either. Oscar the Grouch is a prominent Sesame Street character, known for his irritable personality and the fact that he enjoys living in his trashcan home.

Informant: “I heard from my friend that in USC fraternities, for hazing, they choose the ugliest guy trying to pledge, and they call him ‘Oscar the Grouch’. They put him in a trashcan and then they have the other pledges get really drunk and then throw up on him.”

Background Info: Although the hazing rituals are a well known aspect of joining fraternities/sororities here at USC, the exact details are supposed to be kept secret. Therefore, in this scenario, the folklore is not necessarily the hazing ritual, but the conjecture and rumors which the community makes surrounding the hazing ritual. Whether or not ‘Oscar the Grouch’ is a real hazing ritual or not, the students of USC have enjoyed telling these outlandish stories to one another. When informant was describing the hazing, surrounding people stated they had heard of the ritual as well. Although no one could confirm, it was obvious it was a well-known story among the USC students.

Thoughts: It is definitely interesting to see how folklore can be mysterious, and therefore conjecture on the subject will produce more folklore. The hazing ritual is meant to define who is in the fraternity, and who is not. It’s interesting that the people not in the frat will lack that folklore, and will make their own trying to fill the void. This, i think, leads to a lot of over-exaggerations in the story, and therefore the stories become pretty outrageous. Still very entertaining though.

Hell Week

Context: The subject of the interview was a student at UCSB and was a member of a fraternity while in attendance. 


“And the pledge class had something called hell week, which was one solid week of the pledge class being asked to do and being forced to do all kinds of manual labor around the house. Clearing the windows, clearing the bathrooms, clearing the volleyball court, all done to develop a sense of comradery amongst the pledges. And since everyone else ahead of them had gone through this, it was kinda a right of passage. What we realized early on was that drinking was a huge part of this, and the people that were running this were trying to get you to be drunk to provide humor for all those running this”. 


This is just one of the countless examples of the culture and folkloric initiations surrounding the fraternity process. Much of these rituals are rights of passages that mark an entering into a new group. These specifically show that you are now accepted by that group.