Tag Archives: liminal period

Limerick: “Monkey and a Baboon Sitting in the Grass”

Main Piece: 

“Uh… Here’s one. Monkey and a baboon sitting in the grass. Monkey stuck his finger up the baboon’s ass. The baboon said ‘Monkey, damn your soul! Get your finger out of my asshole!’”

Background:

My informant learned this from his step-grandfather when they were bonding as part of the joining of two families. My informant presented it as a situation where the performer of this limerick recites it to a single person in a setting where it would normally be inappropriate- for example, over the dinner table. This would provoke groans or laughs from other listeners. The reciter apparently could be called on again to tell new people the same limerick. 

When asked the meaning of this limerick, my informant responded:

“There is absolutely no meaning to this. And I would say this if it occurred to me and I was hanging around my friends and thought ‘Hey, y’all want to hear something funny?’”

Thoughts:While my informant took a nihilistic view of this limerick, this seemed mostly based on the lyrics. While the lyrics seems predominantly intended to shock and amuse, the context and audience response to this limerick points towards another purpose. The first thing that stuck out to me was that this limerick was part of an early bonding between two separate family units. This means it may serve as a benevolent version of wedding or funeral pranks. This could serve to break the tension of liminality as two families undergo a transition. I doubt that this is always the purpose of the limerick, but the interesting bisecting of the audience does make me think this is something of a welcome. According to my informant, one person- a new person -is receiving the recitation while others moan and grandpa doing his normal thing. This singles a person out as someone who now knows the limerick and welcomes them into the same group as the rest of the audience. In the situations that my informant put forward, this seems like a piece of humor that functions as a bridge over liminality. Further evidence of this interpretation is the tendency to call on the reciter to serve their role again when another new person is present. 

Trojan Marching Band: Old Navy, A Drumline Tradition

Background: The Trojan Marching Band is known as Hollywood’s Band for its many, many appearances in tv, movies, and advertisements. They have appeared in shows like Glee and Scrubs, movies like Forrest Gump, and programs like the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards. Through these connections, the band has also taken part in various events for companies around the world. In 2014, Gap Inc. hired the TMB drumline to perform for the grand opening of their largest Old Navy store in Shanghai, China. The informant, CN, relays this story how he was told it.

Main Piece: Because the Trojan Marching Band has a particular brand and logo, most companies won’t want to pay for the rights for those or have the band’s uniform tied to their advertisements. CN tells me that most companies have them simply cover up their TMB logos with tape, wear their harnesses, or wear something entirely different. For the Old Navy performance, Gap Inc. supplied the drumline with specially made covers meant to go over both the uniform and harness that would blend in and bear the Old Navy logo instead of the TMB one (Pictures can be found Here). 

Drumline members in Shanghai playing for the Old Navy gig in 2014. Note that the Old Navy covers are over the drum harnesses, and seem to blend into the uniform.

After the gig, CN said that the drumline got to keep some of those covers, but that they didn’t have anything to do with them. That is until a member of the drumline had the idea to use one of the remaining Old Navy vests as a form of punishment for freshmen. At the start of Saturday morning rehearsals, which is at 7:34am, whoever is the last freshman cymbal player to arrive has to wear Old Navy for the entire Saturday morning practice. As time went on, Old Navy got dirtier and dirtier, but no one ever washed it. Now, CN says that the drumline still uses the Old Navy tradition to give incentive for freshman cymbal players to show up as early as possible. The cymbals often receive the most freshmen out of any subsection of the drumline, so it’s important to the upperclassmen to make sure the freshmen have a reason to show up on time. Certainly, wearing a dirty, smelly vest over your clothes early in on a Saturday morning can’t be enjoyable, so freshmen have to learn to plan ahead to avoid it.

Context: Old Navy is a piece of the TMB’s history in that it marked a drumline trip to China for a big advertisement gig, but it also appears regularly through the Old Navy tradition. Every Saturday from 7:34am to 10:00am the TMB practices, even on game days, and punctuality is paramount for these early morning rehearsals.

Thoughts: I believe that Old Navy is used primarily for humiliation to teach freshmen “to be early is to be on time.” By CN’s account, the smell isn’t really that bad and the thick cover can help to prevent a new cymbal player from accidentally pinching their skin and clothes between the cymbals. Humiliation as a driving force can push freshmen to wake up earlier than their peers and spark a sort of competition of punctuality. 

Annotation: Band Bangs the Drums in Shanghai https://studentaffairs.usc.edu/usc-band-bangs-the-drums-in-shanghai/ 

Trojan Marching Band: Traditions on the Band Bus

Context: The Trojan Marching Band carries a level of prestige with it that entices many to follow it, meaning that the band’s appearances at USC’s sporting events are imperative. Informant CN states that the band hasn’t missed a football game in 32 years (more than 400 games!), and that creates an expectation for the band to appear. The band travels to away games primarily on a group of buses (this includes bus trips to Arizona, Cal Berkeley, Colorado, and Washington State, as well as a biennial flying trip to Notre Dame), and that leaves several hours of down time. CN described to me some of the traditions that band members use to occupy their time on the bus. 

Main Piece

  1. Name Jokes and Open Mic: For reference, the bathroom on the bus is known as “the Head,” which will serve as the basis for many traditions. For example, band members have an open mic where members go up to the front of the bus and use the PA system to tell a joke. They begin by tapping the microphone and saying “Is this thing on?” to which the rest of the bus responds “No!”. They then say “Once upon a time my name was [band name]!” and the bus asks “Why?” (See Trojan Marching Band: Band Names). The member will then make a “Name Joke”, which are most puns involving the band member’s name and very often be inappropriate. The member will then say their main joke, which could be a roast of another member or a general joke they came up with. If the roast or joke hits particularly hard, the band members will chant “Holy Shit” as the joke-teller returns to their seat. If the roast or joke is deemed bad by the bus, they will instead chant “Head! Head! Head!” and the joke-teller must go to the back of the bus and sit on the toilet for a while. CN says that this is all in good fun, but that it’s still never a good feeling to be sent to the Head. 
  2. Rules: There are rules for the bus that every band member must know and that someone will recite at the start of every trip. They are exactly as follows:
    1. “Rule #1: Nobody, but nobody, including nobody, shits in the Head.”
    2. “Rule #2: You can get off the bus, you can get on the bus, but you can’t get off on the bus.”
    3. “Rule #3: Please refer to Rule #1.”
    4. “Rule #4: Fuck ___”

The first and third rules simply state the common sense rule that pooping in the bathroom is not a good idea, as it will stink up the entire bus. The second is another common sense rule to not do anything sexual on the bus. The fourth and final rule is a reference to ___, who CN says was a rude band member whose legacy reflected that. Normally, their name would be said, but for the purposes of privacy it has been anonymized. 

Thoughts: The Open Mic time seems like a good chance for freshmen to break into the band’s sense of humor and thus further initiate into the group (See Trojan Marching Band: Band Names; Band Camp Traditions). CN said that freshmen are commonly asked to make jokes during Open Mic, and this can help them through the liminal transition into the group. The rules seem like a joke, but they’re all common sense and the necessity of every member to know the rules makes it a somewhat unifying experience. 

Armenian Wedding Money Dance

Context: Matrimony is a special liminal, or transitional, period in a person’s life. In some cultures it marks the transition from a woman being owned by her father to owned by her husband. In some it marks the beginning of a monetary relationship between two families, like a mutual advancement in social class. Regardless, for cultures that have a tradition about the liminal event of marriage, most often the tradition is in regards to future prosperity, success, or fertility. Here, informant GG explains the Armenian wedding traditions, shedding light on similarities between them and the western traditions.

Main Text: Transcript:

GG: Armenian weddings are known to be really over the top. Parents, relatives, family- they really spare no expense in going all out with like the food, the entertainment…  One tradition is that the bride and groom, they get together… and then people will gather around and they’ll throw stacks of money into the air. It’s just like a constant stream of people… usually it’s the males of the families, and they’ll come up and they throw like a hundred bucks worth of ones in the air and it’s like flowing down. They create a circle where they throw it from all these different angles, and it’s supposed to signify wealth and abundance at the start of the marriage, and it gets intense sometimes. There’ll be like piles of cash on the floor or like little kids running around trying to grab some. Some people need… big ‘ol brooms by the end to sweep all the money up. 

HR: That’s amazing, that sounds hilarious! [Laughs] So lots of western traditions have wedding gifts. Is that like in lieu of a wedding gift, people just instead walk up and throw wads of cash at the bride and groom?

GG: They still do give gifts, but they’re not as big as in the west.

I continued to speak with GG about this tradition and found that he’d been apart of many money dances at Armenian weddings, not as the thrower or the groom but as a kid, running in and trying to snag money for himself! 

Thoughts: I think that the nature of liminal periods includes some kind of uncertainty about the future. When one makes the transition from one stage in life to another, they often turn to traditions regarding luck or guidance. The transition from single to married carries plenty of uncertainty, so the Armenian Money Dance tradition is a way of wishing the newly-weds monetary luck in the coming years. 

Trojan Marching Band: Band Names

Context: Initiates in the Trojan Marching Band all receive a special nickname known as a “Band Name.” Traditions surrounding band names vary by sections. Some sections, like the drumline, name all of their initiates by the end of the first two weeks, others wait until the end of the semester, and most sections name throughout the semester whenever they come up. Band names can be chosen for just about anything that the section finds humorous about the initiate, and they’re often puns that combine multiple aspects of that person. 

Main Piece: My informant, CN, told me the story of his name, “Tiny Dancer”. When he was a freshman, used to make small dance movements when he talked as a way of gesticulating. At one point, one of his classmates decided to quit the line by not showing up to a practice. When another member pressed him on where that classmate went, he recounts that he said “She’s *gone. Like, she’s not coming *back”  (with gesticulations at every *), but the drill instructor didn’t understand what he meant. His upperclassmen thought this was funny, so in reference to an Elton John song, they named him Tiny Dancer. 

There’s also a sort of ritual about how naming becomes official. CN told me that, when the upperclassmen have decided to name you, they take your lanyard that holds your printed name and band logo. That night, they flip it to the blank side and draw a picture to represent your name, and the next day after sectional practice ends they will keep everyone back. They call the initiate to the front of the group, and say something like “Due to constant dancing on the field with tiny dance moves and wearing different kinds of sunglasses, the drummer formally known as CN shall henceforth and forever be known as Tiny Dancer.” The exact phrase “The [player] formally known as [parent given name] shall henceforth and forever be known as [band name]” is consistently used to mark the transition from non-band member to band member. 

Band names are not only the mark of induction into the band, but they’re also legitimate nicknames. CN tells me that most of his friends in the band call him “Tiny” instead of his parent given first name, and those friends often introduce him to others as Tiny. In CN’s words “Band names become a part of our identity…” and when his band friends call him by his first name it feels off. As a way of cementing band names into the band member’s identity, even when the band name doesn’t stick as a functioning nickname, whenever someone says something that references someone’s band name, they “take a lap” (See Trojan Marching Band: Band Camp Traditions).

Thoughts: Nicknames are a common and simple form of folklore, especially when the nicknames are tied to a liminal, or transitional, periods. Traditions involving nicknames of initiates often mark a level of acceptance into a group. This is just as true in the Trojan Marching Band, where members in their first year in the band receive a band name. I believe that the concept of band names is both interesting and consistent with previous analysis that humor is often a medium for liminal periods. By accepting a band name that jokes about an aspect of one’s personality, one can be better accepted into the group because they’ll know more about the humor that group expects from them. From the perspective of the TMB, band names can function as a sort of alternate identity that links everyone in the band to something greater. Where once there were a few hundred instrument-playing students, there are now a few hundred band members, and that distinction is made in part through band names, among other traditions.