Many students living in a college town located in the Midwest of the United States have put up large signs on the houses in which they reside. The signs' messages such as "Hangover Here," "Crammed Inn," and "Syc-a-College" create puns drawing on multiple domains of meaning from student or local life, including locations, institutions, and popular film or music titles. This article considers the different meanings and purposes of house signs as envisioned by different groups of residents of named houses in order to explore the contours of agency involved in house sign activity. Interviews with residents of named houses reveal that some groups' interpretive desires are salient to all residents of named houses, regardless of what they understand their house sign to do, while the interpretive desires of others are thwarted. Thus, this article argues that agency is mediated by house sign activity in uneven ways and, more broadly, uses the college house sign phenomenon to shed new light on the ways in which agency is mediated by language.
Journal of American Folklore – American Folklore Society
Published: Oct 18, 2007