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How I Learned the Long Cheer

“No, no, no! Not breckity-ex, cuh-wax, cuh-wax,” said Professor Robert Dudley French to his students, shaking his great head vehemently from side to side. “The words are BREK-EK-EK-EX, KO-AX  KO-AX,” he explained patiently. “And they must not be run together. Each syllable must be distinct and explosive. BREK EK EK EX,” he demonstrated, pumping his fists up and down to indicate the proper cadence. “KO-AX! KO-AX!”

Thus, at the hands of an eminent Yale professor of Chaucer, was a group of Yale freshmen inculcated into one of the grand traditions of Yale, “The Long Cheer.”

“Next, after two chants of brek-ek-ek-ex ko-ax ko-ax,” said the professor, “come the O-op, O-op, parabalou!”

“It’s the cadence. It’s the enunciation. It’s the simplicity.”

Placing both fists together high by his right shoulder, he swung them down across his belly and up to his left shoulder, emitting a long “Ooooooooo” which rose in pitch with the swing of his arms and was followed by an explosive “OP!” as he slammed both fists down in a chopping motion. Up came the professorial fists again to left shoulder height. Looping back down, and back up to their starting point they pulled another long “Ooooooooo” from the ample belly. Down slammed the fists. “OP!” came the exclamation point, as if he had punched himself in his solar plexus.

The professor’s arms flew up as if he were a great bird about to take flight, then crashed to his sides.


A big grin split the cocked head from ear to ear as he warmly took in his audience, which had grown from a few to several dozen. For this was not a class in Chaucer, in a room at W. L. Harkness. “Pappy” French was also the master of Jonathan Edwards and his impromptu “class” was taking place on a hot July evening in 1944, in the courtyard of JE. The occasion was a welcoming party for the Class of 1947, almost all of whom were less than two weeks out of high school—and most of whom were soon to leave for the Army, Navy, or Marines. Pappy wanted to make sure his charges, though their classes might be cut short by a letter from their Selective Service Board, would at least be able to take with them the real essence of “The Yale Experience.”




“It’s the cadence. It’s the enunciation. It’s the simplicity. That’s what makes the roar that strikes terror in the hearts of our opponents. Wait till you hear it in the Bowl,” said Robert Dudley French, one of Yale’s all-time lifetime cheerleaders.

Two months later we heard it in the Bowl. An animal roar, drawn from thousands of voices as if they were one. We were all part of that voice, that torrent of noise that flowed down from Portal 15 and swept across the field to inspire our gladiators and terrify our enemies.

It was grand.


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