Dancers Talking Sh#t

Awkward and selective censorship

Awkward and selective censorship


This shit was going to happen eventually. Add it to the list of national trends trickling on to this campus (see Occupy Wall Street). On January 17th, BodyHype unleashed its own spin on “Shit girls say,” a YouTube phenomenon where in dudes in drag make videos saying, well, shit girls would say. Most would agree that “Shit Princeton Kids Say!” – a slightly less gendered adaptation of the original – does a pretty good job, hitting all the major tenets of campus life. At the moment of this post, it’s closing in on 15,000 views.

Depending on how closely we look at it, it can tell us a lot about ourselves, namely that no matter what social boundaries divide Princeton students, at the end of the day we can all bond over our common future careers in finance. Have a look at the video and a thoughtful analysis after the jump.

Take a closer look at this shit: “Shit Princeton kids say” ostensibly comments on four different stereotypes (Asian, freshman, sorority and “the fratboy”). On the surface, it’s telling us that students associated with these four stereotypes often think and say a lot of just straight up dumb shit, something few would disagree with. The platitudes mentioned within seem generally spot on: fratstars trying (and failing) to explain Tiger Inn, Pi Phis fixing summer plans in the City, Asians discussing work and freshmen grappling with humility.

The video suggests such pursuits are group-specific; that when it comes to shit-talking, fratstars and GDIs, freshmen and sophomores, Asians and Black students, speak their own unique languages. This, to me, is not the whole truth. For one, the video disregards that it’s made by a troupe of dancers, perpetrators of some of the most egregious campus behaviors. More importantly, in my opinion, on this campus, we are all just saying the same shit. If “Shit Princeton kids say” is relatable, it is because it presents language, phrases, and words spoken regardless of affiliation.

This is not such a novel claim. Many cite the Orange Bubble’s common language, often as a source of pride. See, for examples, the Daily Princetonian’s Princeton Dictionary. Our wonkish lingo pertains to general aspects of Princeton life (e.g., prox, pre-rade, ICC), specific pieces of campus geography, and the many, many University traditions (e.g., bicker, lawnparties, pick-ups). In a place as weird and sheltered as Princeton, you might say such a vocabulary is essential to efficient communication. Certain slang and acronyms – P/D/F, GDI, ICC – save students valuable syllables. Moreover, there are important differences between being McCosh’d versus PMC’d, between meeting at ’Spoon rather than Witherspoon’s.

But although we’re openly conscious of our common language, we’re less open about the circumstances that allow such lingo to become widespread. A closer look at “Shit Princeton kids say” reveals a lamentable truth: that we all, despite being very different, gravitate towards the same ol’ shit – not just the same words and phrases, but the same subject matters, the same content. The video itself makes a glancing but astute note of this phenomenon with the “Goldman” gag at the end, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Across campus, we hackney the same, recurring themes, time and time again. We talk, understandably, about courses, Harvard and the Street. But we focus, more objectionably, about grades, bicker and the merits of finance. Worst of all are the stale questions that pepper the discourse: “Got a lot of work?” “Where you working?” or – the ice in my veins – “What are you doing tonight?”

If you find this shit to be self-evident, and many will not, you might then ask why? The most obvious reason is that students spend so much time around each other doing the same things, surrounded by the same peculiar traditions and geography. By this view, proximity and familiarity keep so-called Inspired Conversations at a distance and pave the way for small talk in a number of forms. The shit we talk about, then, is the shit we have in common, which is still not a particularly surprising or controversial claim, but one that deserves exploration.

Take, for example, the popular expression “to hose,” or “to be hosed,” which has come to mean to reject or be rejected from any number of our campus’s exclusive organizations, including – but not limited to – eating clubs, (formerly) competitive majors and acapella groups. The expression has a nice ring to it, to be sure, but could be replaced by many more common words. You couldn’t call it a euphemism since it’s far more graphic, and probably less politically correct, than its traditional synonyms. Rather, “hosing” has come into common usage because students across campus discuss the concept behind it, exclusion, so frequently.

With this in mind, I would argue that Princeton is especially good at warding off casual Inspired Conversations – whatever those might be – due to the sheer mass of social machinery on campus (eating clubs, fraternities and sororities, accapella, dance and theater groups, political organizations, journalistic endeavors, USG, etc). With the exception of the first three of these organizations, all are only secondarily social groups. But social they are nonetheless. The net effect is to create a set of tried-and-true talking points, with varying degrees of substance, upon which students inevitably focus.

This is stellar so long as shit is not clogging up more substantive conversational pipelines. However, “Shit Princeton kids say,” so wildly construed, warns that, with the current discourse, we might be losing out on each others valuable insights – the real earthy, fibrous stuff, you could say. It’s telling us, indirectly, that, perhaps if we students more regularly parsed through our own shit, our verbal shit, we might come to realize the serious plumbing we have left to do.