Tag Archives: pranks





This friend explains that “ICUP” is a “word” that children would ask each other. And she has heard her classmates from elementary school ask each other this question, she has been asked this as well. The joke of asking someone to “spell ICUP” is that it phonetically sounds like “I see you pee”. She interprets this as a joke that mainly boys try to trick each other with or to trick girls. She believes it does not have much meaning other than to be cheeky and to potentially embarrass someone.


The phrase above is a prank and a joke and I also interpret it as children’s folklore with “potty humor”, which is quite common in children’s folklore and humor with obscenity. Jay Mechling states that children’s play can be cruel and this prank overall seems harmless. Although I see it possibly turning into teasing if the joke is not understood by the one being pranked. But as a verbal prank, someone may find it funny and tell the joke themselves and it continues to spread. The phrase is childish, but creative which is most likely why it continues to be told.

Moss Back.

L is a 78-year-old Caucasian male originally from Meridian, Mississippi. L is a retired drill sergeant and veteran of the American war in Vietnam.

While visiting Phoenix, Arizona I met with L to discuss folklore, as he had previously helped me collect war stories for an oral history project. I met L at his Phoenix office where he provided me with two scary stories he remembered from his past. The following is the second of these two stories, which he first heard as a boy in the late 1950s.

L: Moss Back, Um.. I think it was a Cherokee Indian… What happened? Trying to think, guess we’ll see, he gets his head cut off.. and uh, then he goes around looking for his head. You know laughs and you could hear him moaning at night when he’s coming through the brush and through the trees. So you didn’t want to go out at night and you didn’t want to hear “Moss Baaack.. Moss Baaack’s coming..” laughs Oh God, probably seven eight years old when I first heard it. It was really funny, uh, so at church we had a group called “RA’s” Royal Ambassadors. So we had a ball team we played softball and that kinda stuff so we had, I’ll never forget him. He was our assistant pastor to church and he did all the stuff with the boys. We had some friends that had a lake out in the country about ten miles outside of Meridian.. and so he fixed up a deal to throw us camping out there and fishing, an overnight stay at the lake. So, we fished that day and you know uh did some swimming and fishing and all kinda stuff. And then that evening, they built a big ol’ camp fire. And they started telling us ghost stories you know laughs and Moss Back was one of ‘em and all kinds, all kinds of stuff and here’s a bunch of boys from.. seven eight, to ten maybe twelve. Um, so we listened to all these stories.. and there was somebody I don’t remember who it was, but there was another man there helping the Pastor out. And they said ok said, uh, “you boys”, uh, you know “go on to bed and do whatever you’re going to do and we’re going to go on and fish for a while there’s good fishing out here at night.” So they got in this boat and paddled out into this lake. Well, they went to the other side and came around through the dark laughs and we’re all sitting around here heard all these ghost stories you know laughs and here they come you know they got right up close to us and they went “Moss Baaack’s a comin Moss Baaack’s a comin!” laughs imitates scream we jump up running in every direction laughs oh my God! laughs boy they got us good. They, they likely scared us out of a year’s growth you know.

Reflection: L provided a great example of a common way folk have historically interacted ostensively with scary stories, pranking. The ”insiders” with knowledge of a scary story tend to prank the ”outsiders” (those without knowledge of the scary story) as an act of initiation for transitioning from ”insiders” to ”outsiders” of the story. As L’s account demonstrates, this often takes the form of the ”insiders” pretending to be the monster featured in the scary story in order to frighten the ”outsiders.” Moss Back as a character appears to be based on racially problematic history, as beheading is a known method of execution that American settlers used to punish Native American populations.



Informant: Well… So, my coworkers and I like to prank each other, and there was a time when there was this really stink––I can’t remember who started it––but one of us got this stinkiest cheese from the store and hid it in the other one’s desk. And then he hid it in my desk. And then I hid it in his car. Like, I found a spot under the driver seat where I stuffed it up there and he couldn’t ever find it. So I mean, there’s stuff like that. One of the guys also covered my phone in Vaseline and called me and I answered it and freaking shoved a glob of Vaseline in my ear hole… One time I heard that someone was running late for a meeting so I went and parked both of our moving vans on both sides of his car within like three inches. He couldn’t open his doors so I saw him out in the parking lot––he had to open the trunk––it was a station wagon… So he crawled in through the trunk to get to his car. Um… The other thing we’d do is if like the other guy left his door open, we’d like recline the seat…? Because a lot of times when you get in your car you just automatically lean back without looking and so you see him like disappear. It was so funny. Like I did it to him one time, and you know, I saw him like go out to his car and he like went to lean back and he just disappeared. So, I don’t know, just stupid stuff… And we do it to our boss too. Like sometimes when we know he’s going skiing, we pack his boots filled with like popcorn… Uh… Styrofoam popcorn, or uh… We’ll turn his bindings backwards. Or, yeah.   


Interviewer: Why do you think you guys do these pranks in the workplace? 

Informant: ‘Cause our job’s boring, and this makes being at work fun… There’s no real reason other than to have fun, you know? We’re all stressed out, we’re all… You know, working hard, and then… All of the sudden you start laughing ‘cause you find a block of stinky cheese under your desk… You know, or someone shrink wraps my entire desk with like computer and everything, like… With this like moving tape… It’s just part of the culture of the office to have fun together… Everyone’s like, you know, we’ll let air out of our boss’ tire when he’s going biking, just… There’s always stuff. 


Pranking coworkers is often associated with rites of passage, as the pranks are often geared towards new employees who have yet to be “initiated” into the in-group. Pranks are often associated with thresholds, as demonstrated by trickster characters who are neither entirely good nor entirely bad; they are unstable, liminal figures. This piece, however, demonstrates that pranks are not limited to transitional periods of time. They can also be ongoing components of a work culture, and may continue amongst the in-group. It appears here that pranks are used to make a very stable, predictable environment slightly more unstable. It reduces the formality of the workplace, blurring the divide between employer and employee, and between professional and casual relationships and conduct.

American Wedding Pranks

I: Informant, M: Me

I: A common tradition amongst most groomsmen, is to goof on the groomsmen [correction: meant groom]. To do some kind of practical joke. It’s usually done  the night before, sometimes its during the reception, sometimes its done right before they get married. Like when I married [name blanked for privacy]

M: yeah

I: [name blanked for privacy] My best man and I drank two very large tequila shots together toasting the end of my single life and beginning of my new wonderful life and he asked me as we did the shot are you sure you want to get married *laughs*.

…. What we did for [blanked name- will use Pedro] was unusual. Pedro, the night before I got ahold of his shoes. And when you go infringe of a Catholic Church to get married sometimes you face with the priest in between you.

….. So I was sitting next to [bride’s] grandparents who were extremely, extremely conservative and we are in the front row, the second row watching them get married. Now normally they sit like this. But what Pedro and [Bride] were doing is the were walking up to the alter and getting on their knee in front of G-d and in front of the priest and when he got on his knees, his shoes, his heels would be up and the bottoms of his shoes would be showing and of course the shoes are brand new. So I wrote in black permanent marker on the bottom of his shoes, HELP on the left shoe and ME on the right shoe and it was witnessed for all to see. Pedro thought it was funny as hell. I assure you that the bride’s parents thought it was anything but.

Context: This informant has not only been married and experienced the wedding pranks/jokes, but has also participated in creating one when he was a groomsman.

Analysis: The wedding in America represents the transition from childhood and adulthood. Thus, while in the midst of the ceremony or right before, the ‘groom/bride’ is in this liminal place where he/she isn’t quite married, but isn’t quite just an engaged couple anymore. They are in the process of taking on a new identity as married adults. Pranks/joke/riddles and various other traditions are common in other liminal states and serve to test you, prepare you, and help you transition into ease your new identity, married adulthood in this case. Typically pranks/jokes have to be done by somebody close to the person being pranked or else it is no longer considered well-intended and all in good fun, but can be upsetting and discomforting if someone you aren’t close with pranks/jokes you. It’s as if they haven’t earned the right to set things slightly awry. That’s why, it makes perfect sense that the groomsmen would play pranks/jokes on the groom given those are typically some of the closest guys to him in his life.


Main Piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and the interviewer.

Interviewer: So tell me a bit about what McNuggetting is?

Informant: McNuggetting is more or less a fun way of bullying in middle school haha, i mean no one thought of it as bullying, but looking back, it totally was. So basically any time someone left their backpack behind, we’d take all their shit outta their backpack, flip it inside out, put all their shit back inside and then duct tape the whole thing. It’s pretty mean honestly but god damn it was funny haha


Haha no way, kids actually used to do that at my school to, just without the McNugget name.


My informant was born and raised in the Midwest, more specifically, Wisconsin. He went to elementary through high school there before traveling to California for college. 


I talked to my informant over dinner while we were quarantined together during the coronavirus 2020 epidemic. We were initially talking about fond elementary school stories when McNuggeting came up and I realized it would be great to document.


I think it’s interesting how a “fad” even though it’s technically bullying, was popular all across the country. My school (in California) and my informant’s school were worlds apart in terms of social views, however, kids seem to just do whatever the kids are doing around them without really thinking of the consequences.