Brek Ek Ek Ek Ek Koax Koax – GO TEAM!

Biretta tip to rogueclassicism:

From Yale Daily News:

Leave it to Yalies to cheer in ancient Greek at a football game. Tomorrow during the Yale-Princeton game, Yale Cheerleading will be reintroducing the “Long Cheer,” a traditional chant first used at football games in the 1880s[We have GOT to get a YouTube of this!]

The team is performing the cheer, written half in Greek and half in English, at the request of alumni Robert O’Connor ’48 and Frank Gibson ’49, who will be attending the game. The words of the chant come from Aristophanes’ ancient Greek comedy “The Frogs,” written in 405 BCE.

Legend has it that Yalies studying Greek in 1884 thought that “brek-ek-ek-ek-ex, ko-ax, ko-ax,” the sound Aristophanes attributes to frogs in the underworld, would make a rallying football cheer, according to an article in the Yale Alumni Magazine. Gibson said he always wanted to reinstate this “great Yale tradition.” Earlier this year at their Yale reunion, Gibson said, he and O’Connor contacted and met with then-Dean of Yale College Peter Salovey in the Woolsey Hall Rotunda to show him the cheer. Their hope, Gibson admitted, was for Salovey to lead the cheer at football games, just as he leads the marching band.

Gibson said he was surprised when a reporter from the Alumni Magazine appeared and videotaped his performance of the “Long Cheer.” It was from this tape that Yale Cheerleading, after being contacted by the Dean’s Office with the alumni’s request to stage the cheer at the Yale-Princeton game this year, was able to learn the lyrics and motions of the cheer.

Current co-captain of the cheerleading team Lindsay Barbee ’09 said there was no question of whether the team would do it. “This will be a one-time tribute to the alumni,” Barbee said of the cheer’s debut. “Unless the crowd really enjoys it.” Barbee said she wanted to reinvent the “Long Cheer,” making it appealing to current audiences and also reconciling it with the contemporary style of cheerleading. The co-captain said she had to choreograph new, sharper moves that still reflect the simplicity for which the cheer is traditionally known. “We had to modernize it into something the alums could still recognize and also something we could perform confidently,” Barbee said.

Last year, Simone Berkower ’09, assumed the position of unofficial Yale Cheerleading historian after she researched the history of Yale Cheerleading for an academic paper. Berkower said that the “Long Cheer” was one of the most popular cheers at Yale in the early 20th century. She said she is glad that the team decided to keep the original words but change the motions of the cheer.

Before, Berkower said, the movements were manly and antiquated. “What we’re doing is a physical representation of a larger idea,” [sacramental] she said. “We’re taking an old tradition and modernizing it.” Yet Yale Cheerleading still wants to give its audience a taste of authenticity. Barbee said the team will try to induce Gibson and his friends, who are also scheduled to attend the game, to come onto the field and participate in the cheer themselves. While adapting and teaching the “Long Cheer,” Barbee said she noticed a shift in cheerleaders’ roles simply by watching Gibson’s rendition of the cheer on video.

“It seems like he is a cheerleader, whereas now cheerleaders are a staple in themselves — sometimes we’re leading cheers but sometimes we’re just cheering,” Barbee said, drawing a fine distinction. [Deep.]

As for the extinction of the “Long Cheer,” the facts are hazy. The Alumni Magazine dates the disappearance of the cheer to the 1960s, based on a survey of alumni visiting during the 2008 reunion last summer. And, though it will be resuscitated tomorrow, Barbee and Berkower said they are unsure if the cheer is back to stay.

“If people get into it, which may or may not happen, [d’ya think?] then we can do it again,” Barbee said. But she added that Yale Cheerleading already performs many traditional Yale cheers, such as the Fight Song, and doesn’t know how prominent this one will be.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Andy Lucy says:

    Best I could find was this video from a Yale alumni weekend, with a grad from the 40s demonstrating the long cheer.

    Personally, I prefer West Point’s “Rocket Cheer,” but that’s just me. lol

  2. Pater, OSB says:

    Fr.Z… your well placed rubric ‘Deep’ had me in tears.

  3. Tominellay says:

    How cool!! I guess I’m surprised so many atudents and alumni hadn’t heard of this before…

  4. Ken says:

    I think Princeton should cheer in Latin. [Studying it there would be a great start!]

  5. Tom in NY says:

    Boola-Boola batrachoi!

  6. Boko says:

    Despite what many boomer Yalies have been telling us, the Long Cheer (TLC) was never officially abrogated. It’s de facto suppression by our betters has deprived a generation of the rich cultural patrimony that is rightfully theirs. So this comes as good news, but I’m worried about this Barbee character. First, she suggests this is a rare sop to the elderly who were never able to move on with the times. Then she demands TLC be modernized. You’ve got your Novus Cheers, sister. Leave TLC alone!

  7. Boko: Despite what many boomer Yalies have been telling us, the Long Cheer (TLC) was never officially abrogated. It’s de facto suppression by our betters has deprived a generation of the rich cultural patrimony that is rightfully theirs.


  8. Woody Jones says:

    I favor what Gabriele d’Annunzio seems to have thought was the (ancient, not modern US) Trojan war cry: “Eia Eia a la la.”

  9. Woody Jones says:

    With my apologies to Fr. Shawn Aaron, LC, and all other good USC fans, I think the modern Trojan war cry is: “Surf’s up”. (I know, I know, “Fight on…”).

  10. J. Basil Damukaitis says:

    I remember learning that cheer from Fr. Padavick at our college seminary in Cleveland, Borromeo! What memories. Damn, we had an amazing education thanks to Holy Mother Church, particularly the good people of the Diocese of Cleveland and Bishop Pilla!!!!!

  11. John says:

    That all reminds me of when I went to University of Portland and was on the Villa Drum Squad for the soccer team, basically male cheerleaders with drums. One of our cheers was called, “The Gregorian Chant.” (Being a “Catholic” University). We would get hundreds of people to sing “Pilots score a goal!” in chant, although it was not particularly Gregorian. It was pretty cool.

  12. Maureen says:

    Very, very cool. And fun. I have learned it, and will proceed to use it upon others.

    Honestly, this is a great thing. The first thing I ever heard about Aristophanes was the words of the frog’s chorus, and the factoid that Yale used it as a cheer. And now that tiny bit of information has come alive, and is young!

    (Man, it really is like the reform of the reform….)

  13. Animadversor says:

    At my high school—some years ago, but not that many—the senior English class used to chant the prologue to The Canterbury Tales in Middle English at pep rallies. It was not a particularly intellectual group; I think the jocks enjoyed it at least as much as anyone else.

  14. Kathleen says:

    Georgetown still cheers in Latin and (modified) Greek at every game!

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