Random observations on oskie (UNCLASSIFIED)

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 19 19:45:01 UTC 2010

Given that Neyland's tenure and the earliest recorded references to
Oskie-Wow-Wow precede Majors's freshman year, I believe his account of
the origin--or, at least, the reference to the "frontier days"--to be
apocryphal. More specifically, it may well be something that was
invented to explain the chant. But the chant clearly goes back at least
into the 1890s (1894) and when I originally searched for occurrences, I
spied a catalog reference to an Oskie-Wow-Wow song that I can no longer
find. The chant appears to have been widespread among many universities,
so it was not limited to a single fight song.Note, in particular, that
the Penn chant from 1894 (below) is nearly identical as the one I cited
for Kansas and Illinois a decade later--"Oski-wow-wow, whisky-wow-wow,
Olemukili". There were some minor variations, such as "whiskey-wee-wee",
etc. It is possible that the original song contained some sort of lyrics
that referred to a tribal gathering or imitated a sort of warrior dance
that Majors alluded to. It might have been adopted as a student/alumni
battle cry in the 1890s--either for football games or general
gatherings--but did not enter football on-the-field jargon until
Neyland's coaching days.

Again, this is just a speculation based on the evidence that's been
uncovered so far. The question still remains as to where the word
"oskie" came from. It might have been just a nonce word invented for the
song with the accompanying legend invented along with it or later
(certainly, there are plenty of such "Indian" words in literature) or it
might have been a corruption of something that was perceived as a native
battle cry or chant.


On 1/19/2010 12:56 PM, Mullins, Bill AMRDEC wrote:
> Jon --
> I take it you don't go to many Tennessee home football games. Neyland's maxims, including the one with "oskie", were on the Jumbotron during the 2001 and 2002 season. It got started as part of the 50th anniversary of the 1951 National Championship season.
>   $B!! (J
> Gary Lundy "Neyland's maxims hit the big screen - Fans get chance to learn about legendary coach" _ Knoxville News-Sentinel_ 8/29/2001 p. D1
> "V Ball, oskie , cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle ... for this is the winning edge."
> Chuck Cavalaris "Majors unlocks key to 'oskie' origin " _Knoxville News-Sentinel_ 12/16/ 2001 p. C3 " ""It comes from oskie -wow-wow, which is a phrase we were taught to yell after we intercepted a pass," [former UT player and head coach Johnny] Majors said. "You would yell, ' Oskie , oskie , oskie ' to let your teammates know they needed to turn around and block someone." Majors said he first heard the phrase in 1953 as a freshman when first-year players were not eligible. . . .But where does oskie come from, coach? . . .Here's the best Majors can tell, both from conversations with [former UT Head Coach Robert] Neyland and elsewhere: oskie -wow-wow is an Indian term that became familiar to settlers in the "frontier days." "I wish I had the exact translation for you," he said. "But oskie -wow-wow means circle the wagons and protect your perimeter. When settlers heard oskie -wow-wow, they knew something was up and needed to close ranks, whether it was a possible attack or a!
>   attle cry or whatever. It also makes sense in football because the secondary is part of your perimeter defense." "
> And you should have read the student paper a little closer:
> Robert Holder "Vols need to take a lesson from past" _The Daily Beacon_ 10/5/2007 [online archives have no page number]
> "5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle... for this is the WINNING EDGE."
> The term "oskie" and the phrase "oskie wow wow" are also associated with U of Illinois.  The mascot of Cal at Berkeley is a bear named Oskie.  It is also the nickname of an athletic team at Oskaloosa.
>   $B!! (J
> An early use of the word in a cheer:
> _New York Times_ Nov 11, 1894; pg. 3
> "The Quakers now sprung a new cry upon the crowd. They had evidently been holding it back as a final war whoop should their team do well. It was: "Oski-wow-wow, whisky-wow-wow, Olemukili Kentucky-i-Pennsylvania."
>   $B!! (J
> Early documented reference to oskie = pass interception, to intercept (although it probably goes back much earlier, to 1940s at the latest, during Neyland's tenure as a head coach).
> "Record Point Race" _The Corpus Christie Times_ 10/31/1968 p 54 col1 "The "oskie" set up RICKY LESSER'S 53-yard field goal, also a new school record."
> And related:
> Frank Ellis "Firm Jayvees Beat Jonesboro _Blytheville Courier News_ 10/17/1967 p 9 col 4 "Maxim number five used by Wyatt says, "Follow the ball, cover, OSKEE (rally to the point), and pursue, here is the winning edge." " [The "Wyatt" reference is to Arkansas coach Bowden Wyatt, who had played under Neyland at UT].
>   $B!! (J

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