Words & Stuff

SSS: Out Standing in the Field

(24 September 2000, supposedly; actually much later)

A few months back, I mentioned some decidedly off-color college cheers, as well as some that sound like they'll be off-color but turn out not to be. (I neglected to mention one apparently by Robin Williams: "Rickum, rackum, rockum, ruckum / get that ball and really fight 'em!")

But I didn't have space in that column to discuss geek cheers, and other fight songs and cheers of a sort you probably wouldn't encounter in the upper echelons of college sports.

Some such are extremely simple. Aaron Hertzmann provides these alternate lyrics to the tune of the Rice Fight Song:

Fight fight fight,
fight fight fight,
fight fight fight fight fight.
Fight, fight fight,
fight fight fight fight fight -- fight fight fight.
Fight fight fight,
fight fight fight,
fight fight fight fight fight.
(... final verse omitted ... )
Go Rice!

(Which reminds me that no discussion of college fight songs could be complete without a passing reference to Tom Lehrer's "Fight Fiercely, Harvard." Consider such reference made.) A tradition of cheerleaders everywhere is to have the audience spell something out, one letter at a time. Some places take that to extremes, as with this other Rice cheer:

Gimme a W-I-L-L-I-A-M-M-A-R-S-H-R-I-C-E-I-N-S-T-I-T-U-T-E-F-O-R-T-H-E- A-D-V-A-N-C-E-M-E-N-T-O-F-A-R-T-S-L-E-T-T-E-R-S-A-N-D-S-C-I-E-N-C-E! What's that spell?

Another spelling cheer, from Hahvahd:

H-A-Ah,
H-A-Ah,
H-A-Ah,
V!
V-A-Ah,
V-A-Ah,
V-A-Ah,
D!

And another from my alma mater, Swarthmore College:

Gimme a SWARTH! Gimme a MORE! What's that spell?

Swarthmore has other silly cheers as well, some of which were perpetrated by its short-lived Pep Band. Larry Miller, who was involved in the Pep Band, recalls:

At Basketball games (and [occasionally] football...), when the crowd would chant "Defense!" we would answer "Social spending!"

There was some discussion of using this one, but apparently they decided against it:

Fight, fight, for the inner light!
Kill, Quakers, kill!

Some of the other Swarthmore cheers may have originated elsewhere. This one may come from Atlanta:

Sophocles, Pericles, Peloponnesian War,
x squared, y squared, H2SO4,
Three point one four one five nine,
Come on, Garnet, hold that line!

(One of Swarthmore's school colors is garnet.) There are a lot of geeky cheers from various geeky schools. One fairly widespread one, which has multiple variants:

Repel them! Repel them!
Require them to relinquish the spheroid!

Or in a similar vein, from Williams:

Progress the ball, progress the ball,
Perambulate over the turf!

A lot of less than athletically renowned schools use this one:

It's all right, it's okay, you will work for us someday!

This is the sort of thing I'd expect to hear from Caltech or MIT, but apparently was encountered at Princeton:

Integration, derivation,
L'Hospital's rule, fight!
e to the x,
e to the x,
e to the x, dy, dx,
Cosine, secant, tangent, sine,
Three point one four one five nine,
Label the axes y and x,
Hell with football, we want sex!

There are many variations on that cheer, such as:

e to the x, dx, dx
e to the y, dy
Cosine, secant, tangent, sine,
Three point one four one five nine,
e, i, radical, pi
Fight 'em, fight 'em, WPI!

Which can also end with:

Integral! Radical! Mu, DV
Slipstick! Slide rule! MIT!

Or:

Square root, cube root, log of pi
Dis-integrate them, R.P.I.! (or, Schaumburg High!)

One more variant:

Square root, tangent, hyperbolic sine,
Three point one four one five nine,
e to the x, dy, dx,
Sliderule, slipstick, Tech, Tech, Tech!

(I don't even know what a slipstick is... Some techie I am.)

Somewhere between the geek cheers and the off-color cheers comes this one:

Abstinence, celibacy,
Don't let them score.

There are a bunch of other entertaining cheers where I found that one, on the Williams College Mucho Macho Cheer Sheet.

Tech schools don't always do very well in football, even when they have good cheers. Fortunately, they can excel in other ways on the football field: notably in the area of pranks. There's a lovely story about one of the best college pranks of all time that's told in both Neil Steinberg's out-of-print If at All Possible, Involve a Cow: The Book of College Pranks and in The Jargon File, version 4.2.0. It seems that for the 1961 Rose Bowl, the University of Washington Huskies had organized a set of card displays: 2000+ audience members would each have a set of colored cards and an instruction sheet saying when to hold up what card. The team's cheerleaders would announce the number of a display; each audience member would look at their instruction sheet to see what color they were supposed to hold up for that display. The result was that each card became, essentially, a pixel in a giant grid, capable of showing images or words. Caltech students broke into the room where the instructions for the card displays were kept, and replaced those instructions with a modified set. They changed three of the displays: the image of the team mascot, the husky, was modified slightly to look like the Caltech mascot, the beaver; the display of the word HUSKIES was changed so it appeared backwards; and the display of the word WASHINGTON was changed to say CALTECH. Nobody knew that the substitution had been made until the displays were called, on live national television....


Jed Hartman <logophilia@kith.org>