Tag Archives: swimming

Swimming Culture – California

Folklore: Swimming culture

What people just know:

-if you’re on the wall, you don’t push off right before someone is coming or is going to turn

-floating on the wall in the middle of a set means you’re “weak sauce”

-people usually don’t REALLY have cramps.

-being the lane leader means you can’t slack off.  If someone’s in front of you, you can’t just catch up and ride the drift …people in the front hate this

-if you’re slacking…its obvious. Cheaters piss people off cause everyone else is dying as they suck it up.

-the words “for time” or “test set”= instant dread

-the right most lanes are the “fast lanes.”

My Analysis:

The most interesting point that Jen made about what only swimmers know is the joke of “cramps,” usually used as a lame excuse for people to skip practice.  It becomes a phrase that everyone knows to be false, yet people have accepted it and are continuing to use it to ditch. When someone says they have cramps (menstrual cramps or stomach aches), they are usually mocked by other swimmers.

People who use excuses to be lazy are really frowned upon in swimming because the sport is so physically grueling: waking up at dawn, cold water, exercising all muscles in the water.  People who do not know or understand the unwritten rules of floating on the wall or being the lane leader are shunned and cause a lot of annoyance.  Everyone is expected to hold up their part and carry the same work load.

What people just do:

-changing in front of people is no big deal.  Panties and bras a basically the same as a suit, and for many, being naked is not much less. Even around non-swimmers, swimmers typically don’t really care about showing skin

-morning practice. if you don’t wake up early…you’re not that hard core.

-parkas, ugs, pjs, and sweats = standard swimming gear

-swimmers don’t know what to do in a pool with pool toys and no lane lines.

My Analysis:

The actions of many swimmers carry the same sense of commitment and also a sense of shamelessness. Being naked in front of each other is not humiliating because changing from street clothes to swimsuits is done so often. This is a unique social aspect because many Americans value their privacy, both personal information and their bodies. For instance, some families in older Japanese customs would bathe together. In America, anything suggesting inappropriate nakedness is shunned upon.

Folk Speech

Folklore: Swimming Language

-Will you cap me?

Explanation: “Will you help me put my swim cap on?”

-Do 10 2’s, descend each one by 50s.

Explanation: “Swim 200 yards, getting faster every 50 years. Repeat 10 times.”

-We’re tapering this week.

Explanation: (It means taking it easy to rest up for a big meet)

-Ones ready go!  Two’s on the bottom.

Explanation: “Lane leaders off the wall, second swimmers leave when the clock says 30 seconds.”

-Leaving on the top.

Explanation: “Start the set when the second hand reaches 60 seconds.”

My Analysis:

Because the pace of swimming is pretty rigorous with very early morning hours, strenuous workouts and frequent meets, time tends to go by fast. Swimmers are clocked by the hundredths of a second, so abbreviations of language are just an extension of that quick mentality.  Jen also mentioned that because only swimmers intimately know this language after years of practice, experienced athletes will instantly know who is not really an established swimmer.

The language is a pretty essential part of the swimming culture because everyone speaks this way all the time. It’s interesting to note how numbers become the center point of the sport, not as a measure of points but a measure of speed. So most of the words spoken at meets or practices are spoken in terms of numbers.  This contrasts greatly with other sports like soccer or basketball, where other terminology such as passing, goalie, slam dunk are the main words.