University Libraries Logo University Archives of Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech Historical Data Book, Section 2.9:
Student Body Miscellany

NICKNAMES - There have been many nicknames for students at the university during its first century. Some of the names have been applied to the entire student body; some to specific groups of students. Among the more prominent and memorable nicknames are the following, listed alphabetically:

Chappies - Applied to athletic teams in the 1890s; derivation unknown.

Coofer (Koofer) King - A student who has great success with "coofers." The word "coofer," almost unknown on other campuses, became a part of Tech language sometime in the early 1940s. It refers to an old test or problem that has been saved or found and is consulted later (sometimes illicitly) by a student who has not yet taken the test or worked the problem. The term was coined by students at Tech's now defunct Extension branch at Bluefield College who later transferred to Blacksburg, bringing the word with them. The word had its origin in "coffer," a legitimate synonym for a strongbox. Some students at Bluefield had access to a coffer there that contained files of old tests and problems, and they soon came to refer to the materials themselves as "coffers." In time, the sound of the word was softened to "coofer," and still later the spelling was changed to "koofer." It is often used as a verb in such constructions as "to coofer a problem."

Gobblers - Applied to athletic teams from about 1908 to the present, although its use has declined recently. It first appeared in print in a 1909 editorial in The Virginia Tech. About 1908, students began referring to student athletes as "Gobblers" because of the better and more ample servings of "growley" (food) the athletes received and the way they "gobbled" their food. After the 1909 football team complied a 6-1 record and was named Southern Champions, the editor of the student newspaper called on the student body to honor the name of "Gobblers" in a new way, rather than in a derisive sense. The football coach also took his players aside and "initiated" them into an impromptu and informal "Gobbler Club." It was several years later, however, before the name was used regularly. In 1913 a local boy, who was serving as a clown mascot, had a large turkey pull him in a cart at football games and made such an impression on fans and sports writers that the "Gobbler" nickname and mascot became permanently entrenched. A costumed "Gobbler" mascot, now called the Hokie Bird, was introduced in the fall of 1962.

Highty-Tighties - Applies to members of Band Company. The name came from the first line in a Band Company spirit yell composed by a member in the fall of 1919 and used so often that the name became applied to the band itself (primarily after 1933). Though not true, the band has long promoted a widely believed legend that a drum major caught a dropped baton on first bounce at a parade in 1921, and a spectator yelled "Highty-Tighty!" (meaning "show off"), thus giving the band its unusual nickname.

Hokies - Applied to all Tech students and athletic teams. "Hokie" is a coined word, derived from the "Old Hokie" spirit yell, composed by O.M. Stull '96 in a student body contest. According to Stull, the word had absolutely no meaning and was used merely as an attention-getter.

Old Lady - Used primarily by cadets in reference to their roommates as far back as the 1880s. The Gray Jacket, a student publication, explained in its December 1888 issue: "The student tries to imagine that his roommate is his better half and calls him his 'Old Lady' and his 'Old Gal'."

Rat - Used by upperclass cadets in reference to freshmen as far back as 1888. The nickname was discouraged after 1935 and "Mister" was substituted. Upperclassmen continued to call freshmen cadets "rats" informally, however.

Skipper - A cadet term in reference to senior privates as far back as 1912.

Techmen - Applied to students and athletic teams. Became popular after it was used in the first line of "Tech Triumph," a fight song composed in 1919: "Techmen, we're Techmen, with spirit true and faithful."

Techs (Polytechnics) - Applied to athletic teams after "Polytechnic Institute" was added to VAMC name; usage dropped after adoption of "Gobbler" nickname in 1912.

SONGS - There have been many songs written by Tech students and alumni down through the years, and one important song, "Moonlight and VPI," written by a non-alumnus on request of the corps of cadets. Among the more prominent songs are the following, listed alphabetically:
Alma Mater - The current Alma Mater was composed by E.T. Sparks '40 (music) and L.G. Chase '41 (words) for a student contest held in the spring of 1939 by the VPI Richmond Club. The words have appeared in every commencement program since 1954, constituting the closest official adoption of any "Alma Mater" at the university. R.B.H. Begg '99 won first prize in a 1914 contest for the best "Alma Mater," but it was never adopted.
Moonlight and VPI - Music by Fred Waring; lyrics by Charles Gaynor. The corps of cadets petitioned Waring to write a song for Ring Dance in 1942. The result was "Moonlight and VPI," introduced by the Fred Waring Glee Club on April 17, 1942, on Waring's CBS radio network show, broadcast from New York. The song has been played at every Ring Dance since.
Tech Triumph - The university's most popular fight song, composed in 1919 by Wilfred P. Maddox '20 and Mattie Eppes (Boggs). The song was officially adopted by the student body in December 1919.

SPIRIT YELL - Immediately after VAMC added "Polytechnic Institute" to its legal name in 1896, the name was shortened to "VPI" and "Virginia Tech" in general usage; consequently, the old college yell, "Rip! Rah! Ree! Va! Va! Vee! Virginia, Virginia, A. M. C.," had to be discarded. A student body contest was held and O.M. Stull '96 received a $5 prize for his new spirit yell, the now well-known "Old Hokie," first used in the fall of 1896. According to Stull, the word had absolutely no meaning and was used merely as an attention-getter. The cheer (with original spelling): "Hoki, Hoki, Hoki, Hy; Techs! Techs! V.P.I.; Sola-Rex, Sola-Rah; Polytechs - Vir-gin-i-a!; Rae, Ri; V.P.I. !" There have been other spirit yells written, but none has come close to "Old Hokie" in importance.

Top

VT History | Digital Library and Archives | Special Collections | University Archives


Send questions or comments to:

Tamara Kennelly, University Archivist
University Libraries
Virginia Tech
P.O. Box 90001
Blacksburg, VA, 24062-9001

URL: http://spec.lib.vt.edu/archives/databook/text/chap2/2_9.htm
Last Modified on: Tuesday, 25-Sep-2001 08:16:07 EDT