Tag Archives: University of Michigan

Don’t Walk on the Michigan M

--Informant Info--
Nationality:
Age:
Occupation:
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language:
Other Language(s):

Background: 

My informant, AK, is a 19 year old student at the University of Michigan. She was born and raised in Southern California and is studying engineering. While in high school, AK was an active member and team captain of her school’s swim team. She attended the school from kindergarten until she graduated and knew the place inside and out. (I’ll be referring to myself as SW in the actual performance).

Performance: 

AK: At Michigan, we have this huge letter M in the center of campus. And the rule is, like, if you step on it, you fail your first blue book exam. It’s like at any other college.

SW: I’ve never heard that before.

AK: Really? Yeah, it’s like a big deal here. And apparently the only way to reverse it, is to like run from the clocktower one side of campus, to the other side, and then back to the clocktower and get there right as it chimes midnight. And you have to be naked the whole time. But that’s impossible because the clocktower doesn’t chime past 10pm, and it’s illegal to be naked. So it’s best to just not step on the M in the first place and avoid the bad luck all together.

Thoughts:

While I was not familiar with this specific superstition, I know most schools have some sort of similar superstition in circulation. A lot of them have to do with disgracing or disrespecting the school or campus in some way, which then brings bad luck in the form of bad grades or other things. I’m guessing these came to be as a way of keeping respect for the school. I think there’s something alluring, too, about feeling like you’re in on something. You feel special when you know your school’s superstitions, because you feel like a true member of the institution, and not an outsider. 

The Tenth Girl

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 68
Occupation: Senior Vice President
Residence: San Diego
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/23/15
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Well Dan and Mary Smith told me that. He said “What’s the tenth girl?” And I said “I don’t know, what’s the tenth girl?” And he said “Nine out of ten girls are pretty, and the tenth one goes to Michigan.” I guess the girls in Michigan are pretty plain! But, Michigan was a hard school to get into, and you had to be very smart, so it was probably very smart girls but very plain. They told me that in ’76. When we were working at USC together. David’s wife went to Michigan!

 

ANALYSIS:

(The names above have been changed for confidentiality purposes). This joke has two dynamics to it – a gender differentiation, or a commentary on girls made by boys, as well as a school rivalry component. The informant and his friend who told the joke to him both worked at the University of Southern California, and had a lot of pride and spirit for the school. The friend’s wife went to Michigan – which adds yet another level of humor to the joke, because the joke was told presumably by her as well. At the very least she seems to have been present whenever Dan told the joke. While this is a jab at her appearance (although it could be untrue or unwarranted) it is clearly in a spirit of fun, and relies on stereotyping and blason populaire to make its point and be humorous. The two men clearly respect Mary, and her husband probably finds her attractive, so it seems this joke is told (at least by these specific two men) in a spirit of school rivalry more than anything else. Especially because USC has a reputation or stereotype of attracting a very attractive, but perhaps not as intelligent, female student population.