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Oral Lore Home

Oral Lore Home

Oral Lore refers to any utterance that is repeated from one generation to the next within a folk group. This category includes not only what we would normally think of as “folklore,” stories and tall tales, but also sayings and brief expressions, slipped perhaps unconsciously into everyday conversation on the Hilltop. In addition, songs, whether original or parodies of popular tunes, fit in this category.


At the most basic level, oral lore makes its way into the vocabulary of every member of a group. It could take the form of slang words, short truisms, and alternate words for established people, places, and things.


Legends are distinct from “folk tales” in their presence; that is, a tale might be set in a far off time or place, but a legend involves events that happened in the not too distant past, the effects of which linger into the present. Folklorists use the term “legend-trip” to describe the kinds of activities adolescents and young adults perform around particular legends. Think: “I dare ya' to knock on Boo Radley's door!”

Ghost Stories

Ghost stories are a particular type of legend, but given their prevalence on college campuses, it's worth creating a separate category for them. Students have reported ghosts in nearly half the buildings on campus, but this space will be reserved for those spectral encounters that are retold over time.

Legendary Characters

Usually, legends about particular people are better described as “gossip” or “rumor” than as “folklore,” but in some cases, stories about a character remain on campus long after the person has graduated, retired, or died.


This category tends to be the domain of Greek organizations—a song for every occasion. Although the Greeks' national organizations publish official songbooks, each local chapter has its homegrown favorites as well as popular songs used for specific occasions. Songs that have currency throughout the student body are likely to be such things as parodies of official songs (such as the alma mater).