Archives for category: Ceremony

The wisdom of crowds may be an over-used phrase, and the stupidity of the lynch mob springs to mind as testament to the simplistic expression of intention that typically accompanies joint speaking. However we might note that both religious prayer and protest demonstrations frequently make use of a call-and-response scaffolding that allows somewhat more elaborate and articulate expression of collective sentiment. In protest, call-and-response is usually limited to one or two eliciting questions (“What do we want? Free education! When do we want it? Now!”), but in religion, the call and response is typically integrated into liturgical ritual, supported by printed texts, allowing sequences of call and response that extend over many turns, and that include complex expression of finely tuned theological beliefs. Read the rest of this entry »


There is much furore about a freshman chant used in an event during Saint Mary’s University Orientation Week in Halifax.  A similar chant has surfaced at the Sauder School of Business in the University of British Columbia.

The Sauder chanting seems to have taken place on a bus of students returning to campus from a hotel party (source).

The St Mary’s chant was more public and video of it is freely available.

The text of the St Mary’s chant is widely reported to be “Y is for your sister, O is for ‘oh so tight,’ U is for underage, N is for no consent, G is for grab that ass – Saint Mary’s boys we like them young.”, although a reader of the  Toronto Star claims that the N-line is clearly (sic) “N is for no regrets”.  I personally hear “N is for no respect”, but I am uncertain.

The Sauder chant is reported to be similar, with the difference that “G is for go-to-jail”.

There have been resignations and uproar, of course.

Texts used in chants are often very simple.  Think of the popular use of the call “U. S. A.” at American sporting and political events.  Longer texts are associated with formal rituals, such as prayers.  Where these are not memorized and over-practiced, chanting is usually done in call-and-response format, as seen, for example in the people’s microphone during the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011  (about which more in a later post).  In the documentation we have of this chant, all participants know the text (no call and response) so we may take it that this particular chant has a degree of institutional embedding, and that this has happened often in the past.  Not pretty, but chanting is not always pretty.