Friday, 4 February 2011

Bizarre Notes, bizarre cheers

I've mentioned Notes and Queries previously; the American equivalent, published in the late 19th century by SC and LM Gould of Manchester, NH, are also worth reading for interesting Victoriana. They're online in the Internet Archive:

An initial dip found this from 1888:

College Cheers. The following are the cheers of the leading colleges of the United States:

Dartmouth.— "Wah, who, wah! wah, who, wah! da, didi, Dartmouth! Wah, who, wah!"
Columbia.— "Hurray! hurray! harray! C-o-l-u-m-b-i-a!"
Cornell.— "Cornell! Cornell! Cornell! I yell, yell, yell, Cornell!"
Harvard.— "'Rah, 'rah, 'rah! 'rah, 'rah 'rah! 'rah, 'rah, 'rah! Harvard!"
Phinceton.— "Hurray! hurray! hurray! Tiger—ale-e-e! boom! ah!"
Rutgers.— "Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Bow-wow-wow!"
Stevens Institute.— "Boom 'rah! boom 'rah! boom 'rah! Stevens!"
University of Pennsylvania.— "Hoorah! Hoorah! Hoorah! Penn-syl-van-i-a!"
Wesleyan.— "'Rah, 'rah, 'rah! Wesleyan!"
Williams.— "'Rah! 'rah! 'rah! Willlyums! yams! yums! Willyums!"
Yale.— "'Rah, 'rah, 'rah! 'rah, 'rah, 'rah! 'rah, 'rah, 'rah! Yale!"

The World Almanac and Encyclopedia (Press Pub. Co., The New York World, 1906) has a list of several hundred of page 340 - US readers (or ones elsewhere via a proxy server) can find it via Google Books - prefaced with

This collection of cheers has been made by the World Almanac, by correspondence with officials of the respective institutions, and revised to 1907. It is believed to be the largest collection ever published.

... and further gems include

Hamline University.— "Boom get a rat trap! Bigger than a cat trap! Boom get a rat trap! Bigger than a cat trap! Boom! Cannibal! Cannibal! Zip! Boom! Bah! Hamline! Hamline! Rah! Rah!"
University of Kansas.— "Rock-Chalk! Jay-Hawk! K.U.!"
Pennsylvania College.— "Brackey Corax, Corix, Coree! Brackey Corax, Corix, Coree, Heigh Oh! Umpty Ah! Hulla Belloo, Bellee, Bellah, Gettysburg, Gettysburg, Gettysburg! Rah, Rah-Rah!"

(Some refer to university fixtures: the Kansas "Rock Chalk" refers to a limestone outcrop on the campus. Some clearly have classical origins, like that of Pennsylvania College, which is one of a number based on the frog chorus "Brekekekex koax koax" in Aristophanes' The Frogs. Some are plain inexplicable).

This formulization of chants at school/college sports matches is all pretty strange - as the Wikipedia article on Cheering puts it, "this custom has no real analogue at English schools and universities". And the more I read of US school/college traditions - see, for example, Traditions of Washington & Jefferson College - the gladder I am I went to British ones, where you can just attend, get your education, and leave. Ritual chants are just the tip of the iceberg of a set of effectively compulsory tribal systems, whether for school allegiance or exclusive social infrastructures. In relation to a country that places such rhetorical emphasis on Freedom, it's a bizarre contrast to see an educational system that presumably makes life extremely hard for any student who isn't interested in participating in mandatory conformist ritual 1. But as Princeton University's Task Force Report on "Eating Clubs" shows, such institutions are deeply difficult to eradicate.

1. Authoritarian systems are often very close in their fixtures. See the US Bellamy salute. Remind you of anything? See also Newman & Byrne: alternate histories for a reference to Newman & Byrne's Back in the USSA. Its lead story, In the Air, holds a dark mirror up to real-world USA and finds some things, such as Eagle Scouts, are little different.

Addendum: Felix Grant has commented at The Growlery - see
Bizarrest, bizarrer, and merely bizarre... - with the fair caveat that the British educational system, in quite recent history, has had its own share of weird ritual. As I replied there, this undoubtedly still applies in some sectors, but I was thinking of the present-day UK mainstream state system and ordinary universities; for example there is no British university that makes a student effectively a non-person on campus, excluded from large segments of the university's social circuit, if they won't jump through weird initiation hoops to join some student body.

- Ray

No comments:

Post a Comment