“Tuck-ins” at UCSD

The “ceremony”:

When a member of a fraternity or a sorority wants to pick up a “little sibling” of the opposite gender, the little is called a “tuck in.” In order to legitimize the act, the *families of both the member and the prospective “tuck-in” come together on a designated night to properly “tuck him/her in.” The older members select a story-book (the informant used Green, Eggs, and Ham as her example) and a word that is both unique and recurring in the text (i.e. “green” or “ham”). The older sibling would then begin reading the selected story, and every time the selected word within the story comes  up, the prospective tuck-in must take a shot of a predesignated hard alcohol. As the night goes on and the tuck-in gets more and more inebriated, he or she must also play games in demonstrating his or her lack of sobriety. For example, she might be asked to give a nick name to every other member present at the event, and then remember all the nicknames; for each mistake, he or she must take another shot. The objective of the ritual, of course, is to legitimize the union of the siblings through severe drunkenness.

*Each new member of a sorority of a fraternity is assigned to a “heritage” of preceding members. While there are no “parents” there are brothers and sisters, which carry down the line as grand-big-sisters/brothers (shortened to “grandbigs”).


The informant, herself, being a member of Theta at UCSD had gotten tucked in when she was a sophomore, when she was 20 years old.

Collector: Why do you think you guys do it?

Informant: Well…I think it’s just welcome new members into another community, I mean it’s college so yeah…the drinking.

Collector: Why are they called tuck-ins?

Informant: I have no idea. Maybe it has to do with tucking the members in to the group, but I don’t know why anyone would pick the words “tucking in” to describe something that could just as easily be called…like integrating or something. (chuckles)

While the notion of families in the Greek community is not unique to UCSD, what I do find interesting is precisely what the informant was touching on in her last comment. It does seem curious that such a specific phrase would be used, and frankly the first image that comes to mind, particularly because of the play on the family dynamic, relates to the phallus. Perhaps “to tuck in” first surfaced as an innuendo to describe the consummation of a new union. Regardless similar traditions exist in Greek communities at other schools. Here at USC, for example, the process of taking a little sibling of the opposite gender also exists, though they’re simply referred to as “little bros/sisters (according to gender, of course).”

Something else in the process worth noting would be the story-book – again, an example of a play on home life. The prospective older sibling reads the story, analogous to how a parent reads a bed time story as he or she “tucks in” the child. However, this particular ritual only takes place in the event that the older and younger siblings are of opposite genders, so I maintain the hypothesis that the phrase “tuck-in” may very well extend beyond the innocent connotations associations of a parent tucking in a child. After all, this is college. This is NOT, however, to say that any kind of sexual violence takes place; rather it is simply speculation of the phrase etymology.