Tag Archives: high school

Bomb Threats Written on School Bathroom Walls

Informant Context: The informant is a nineteen-year-old female undergraduate student at the University of Southern California (USC). She attended a public high school in Chicago, Illinois.

Conversation Transcript: 

Collector: “What is something traditional you’ve seen written or drawn on high school bathroom walls?”

Informant: “Initials are pretty common. I’ve seen couples’ initials with a heart drawn around them. Penises are drawn a lot too.”

Collector: “You see them drawn in the girls’ bathrooms?”

Informant: “Not often. I have seen girls write polls on stall doors. This or that questions about general topics. Like coffee or tea. Mascara or blush, for example. Then girls would put tallies under each option to place their vote. Oh! At my high school, people would also leave bomb threats in the bathrooms.”

Collector: “Bomb threats?”

Informant: “Yeah. Kids would write threats on the walls like ‘I’m going to shoot up the school’ or ‘there will be a bomb explosion tomorrow’. Crazy stuff.”

Analysis: It was surprising to hear the informant’s examples escalate during our discussion. I was familiar with her first examples because I had seen similar drawings in bathrooms at my public high school. What shocked me was the informant’s experience seeing terrorist threats written on walls. While I never saw any at my high school, I could imagine this being a popular practice across the United States, as school terrorism has become an epidemic in the country’s recent decades.

Coincidence? I think not!

“70% of the earth is water and 70% of the body is water. Is that a coincidence? I think not!”

Context: The informant is originally from Illinois and is now a junior at USC. According to her, on the first day back from winter break, her freshman year Spanish teacher asked the class if any of them knew what the second longest river in South America was. He pulled down one of those roll-up maps of South America and instead of explaining what the second longest river was, proceeded to go on a very long philosophical rant about astrology, during which the above quote was said. He continued talking (going wildly off topic), until eventually, he returned to his desk without telling them anything about the river, leaving the class very confused.

Now, with a subset of the informant’s friends who took the class, the phrase is used whenever anyone mentions anything related to a body, water, coincidence, or the phrase “i think not”. Despite the context of the conversation, this has developed into an inside joke, partially as a continuous mockery of the teacher, and partially as a remembrance of what the informant referred to as “the good old days”.

Analysis: Honestly, nothing brings a group together better than a common enemy. The inside joke created provides a reminder of shared experiences, moving beyond the context of the class to become a reminder of high school entirely.

However, the real value of this collection comes from the use of, “Coincidence? I think not!” which seems to be a traditional phrase consistently appended to the end of other sentences. The true relevance comes from the consistent use of this with no real knowledge of its origin. From quick research, the internet marks its origin as a quote from the 2004 movie “The Incredibles”, but from conversation with others and further research, it seems as if it has been used long before this (another internet forum notes that it was used in a movie from 1984). Attempts to date the phrase result in a terminus ante quem situation, in which it seems as if had to have been said before 2005, but nobody knows where it was originated or how it was popularized.

Don’t Step on the “B”

Informant KS is a 19 year-old USC freshman from San Jose, California.


It is a custom for students of a certain private, Catholic high school to avoid stepping on the logo of the school — a circular emblem with a “B” in the center which is printed on the ground — or risk being beat up by seniors.


KS attended a private, Catholic high school which was founded over 150 years ago.

KS: “I actually found out about this tradition when I was very young, maybe ten years old. I attended summer camps at the school, and ‘Don’t step on the ‘B” is one of the first things you learn about if you ever come to campus. The basic idea behind it is there’s a logo in the center of campus that has a ‘B.’ It’s a circular logo. And the rumor was that if you stepped on the ‘B’ and there were seniors nearby, they had full license to beat you up, since you disrespected the logo of the school. I’m not exactly sure if people do beat other people up over stepping on the ‘B’ given that I’ve never actually seen it happen. I’ve never seen a student step on the ‘B’ before, I’ve only seen an unsuspecting parent do it before, and nobody really had a reaction in that circumstance. I would say this custom is part of one of the many traditions that we have at the school that gives it a bit of character. I guess it ties into a greater respect for the logo and the institution.”


As an institution dating back over 150 years, the private high school which KS attended has accumulated its own folklore in the form of customs such as avoiding the “B.” Since its founding, the folklore developed among students and the growing alumni network served to develop a common culture and camaraderie surrounding those with the experience of attending the high school, which resulted in KS learning about the custom from a young age. While serving as one shared custom that builds camaraderie, the act of avoiding the “B” also further develops a sense of respect and reverence for an old institution. Older definitions of folklore — such as those utilized by German folklorists Johann Gottfried von Herder and the Brothers Grimm — tend to argue that folklore is a practice shared by the common folk and independent of the elite class, yet this custom operates on both levels — as a shared practice among students, and as a means of maintaining the legitimacy of an old institution.

Band Riddle

Background: The Informant was a band member in high school. The riddle was told by the band teacher.

Q: What music instrument never tells the truth?
A: A lyre.
My band teacher told us this riddle during rehearsal. I didn’t find it funny at the time. It’s pretty much a dad joke.

The instrument has the same pronunciation as the word “liar”. This riddle requires knowledge in the music field, which also explained the occasion and audience of the riddle.

Metaphorical saying for “Doing Bad”

  1. “Screwed the Pooch”
  2. I did an interview with a classmate in my Anthropology class, with an emphasis surrounding folklore and he revealed to me a saying he heard from a friend in high school. “My buddy in high school, this guy I know Jake Harris he really fumbled some science work, something in this class we had together and he’s like man… I really screwed the pooch and I thought that was hilarious. He’s from Simsbury, Connecticut. And I don’t know where he got that or anything, but I heard that and thought it was pretty funny. [How old were you?] At the time, we had to be freshman or sophomores in high school, 15 or 16. ”
  3. My interpretation of this metaphorical saying is that it is simply comedic. I have heard this before, I think I’ve even heard in a movie in the 2000s. It is often times, in my view at least, something that would be said in a stereo typical high school movie. Additionally, from my interpretation and knowledge of this saying it means to mess up something or make an embarrassing mistake of some sort. Moreover, I believe this saying has been around for quite sometime now, but I have not been around many people who say it, so there could be an Northeastern thing.