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Days of rage.

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Seems like it’s been a post a day around here lately. I need to shut up already.

But before I do:

Something (I’ve already forgotten what) put me in mind today of one of the choice bits of slang at Penfield High School, circa 1989:


The Internet tells me that a “rager” is common slang for a wild, no-holds-barred party — the kind where legends are made, and stuff ends up broken all over the house, and people feel pangs of regret when they’re 35.

When I asked about the term “rager” on Twitter, a New Hampshire-based acquaintance of mine essentially said, “Oh, yeah. A big party, right?”

(Only about a month ago, a Duke University fraternity got in trouble for holding an Asian-themed party nicknamed the “Racist Rager.” Nice clownshow, bros.)

But in my little corner of teenage America, a “rager” was an individual person, not a party.

I picked up the term from some of the kids a couple years older on my cross-country team. It was actually an abbreviation for “rage machine,” which was an especially high honorific.

And it could be used either sincerely …

Friend: “I had 16 cans of Piels at the party the other night. Started at 6 p.m., ended at 4 a.m., and I had Zeppelin playing the entire time. I woke up in my backyard the next morning with my mom yelling at me and a priest giving me the last rites.”
Me: “Ludwig, you’re a rager.”

… or sarcastically …

Friend: “I totally forgot we had science homework last night, so I skipped orchestra and went to the library to copy it off Mimi Moon. I think I’m running a D+ in orchestra but I don’t care.”
Me: “Ludwig, you’re a rager.”

(The line between sincere and sarcastic is never finer than when you’re 16.)

To translate it into 21st-century slang, a “rager” was a person who was going hard.

Which, in the terms of my time and place, generally (though not always) meant someone who was simultaneously attempting to ingest as many alcoholic beverages and listen to as much Seventies hard rock as possible.

Or, when used sarcastically, a “rager” was a person who was a total, unredeemable poser.

(“Poser” … there’s another great bit of slang. Do kids still use that for someone who’s totally lamesauce?)

I have no idea if anyone, anywhere, ever used the word “rager” in this fashion, outside about two dozen kids at Penfield High in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Still, I’m putting it out on the Internet, just in case someone goes searching for it. Now there’s a written record. Some future chronicler of the ways of America’s people will thank me.


5 responses »

  1. I don’t remember rager or at least, it never entered my lexicon. Which older kids on XC? I remember “Eck or Ag?” (Ecstasy or Agony, i.e. good or bad) And I thought it was spelt “Poseur” (and Wiki thinks the same:

    • I associate the term with Odle and Knapp, and I’m fairly sure you would have been familiar with it. As the Pennsy Dutch say, it wonders me that you do not remember it.

      Webster’s New World Dictionary accepts both poser and poseur. I am sure in HS I did not spell it with a “u.”

  2. EricaTyson2012

    I remember hearing people at PHS talking about the party version of a rager, but not the individual. Not that rager would’ve been the word for my night at Pandemonium, Skate King or the very illegally patronized Club Calabash or Club Caribbean that girls could sneak into.

    And I don’t know if kids use poser now. I know that some of us who used poser as kids now describe that same person as dripping in wack juice.  

    • Hmmm. I can’t remember ever hearing it used for a party.
      It seems increasingly possible that this term was limited to about a half-dozen people. 😉
      I vaguely remember the word Pandemonium. Dance club? Where was it? Probably not the kind of place I would have gone when I was in HS.

      • EricaTyson2012

        I’m ashamed of how little I knew of locations outside of Rochester’s city limits. (I caught the bus to Penfield and knew only the route it covered). Pandemonium must’ve been, like in Irondequoit ( sp?) or something. We got dropped off and picked. I totally would have been lost if it were up to me.

        Oh, and I wrote the wrong name, it was Skate Town and the other one was Olympic roller rink. Skate Town was in Irondequoit I am 100% certain because many Saturday nights ended with real (or anticipated) fights and the Irondequoit police macing the building.

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