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View Full Version : Best kept secret revealed! The meaning of Phi Alpha...


Bear_Nenno
09-06-2000, 01:28 PM
Are there any SAE brothers or alumni on the board? Anyone every get an SAE brother drunk enough to confess??

For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about:

The fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon has a very well kept secret. Once one becomes a "brother", he is told the secret meaning to Phi Alpha. None of their pledges or neophytes know the meaning. A true brother would never ever tell what it means.
But this is the SDMB. Collectively, we know everything. Therefore someone on this board knows the true meaning of Phi Alpha. The hard part, I guess, would be getting you to tell me. C'mon... you can tell me. None of your SAE bretheren will know who is behind your secret screen name.
I guess this is a long shot, but I figure if I was ever going to find out, I would find out here!
So, what is the secret meaning to one of the best kept secrets in the world, Phi Alpha?
My guess is that it really has no meaning. I think the big secret is that when you are finally sworn in as a brother they tell you, "Ok, the secret to Phi Alpha is it doesn't mean shit! But dont tell anyone!"
Any takers?

KneadToKnow
09-06-2000, 01:42 PM
I knew a TKE in college who insisted that the secret of Phi Alpha was that it was the first two letters of what every SAE really was.

But this is strictly hearsay testimony provided by a GDI in hopes of starting a frat war. :D

Olentzero
09-06-2000, 01:53 PM
but I always heard SAE stood for Sexual Assaults Expected.

Phi Kappa Psi always cracked me up too... with the judicious placement of two vowels you could spell 'fuckups'.

GaryM
09-06-2000, 02:55 PM
SAE: Society of Automotive Engineers?

GaryM

Bear_Nenno
09-06-2000, 03:43 PM
...was that it was the first two letters of what every SAE really was.And what is that? I can't think of any bad words that start with "P" and "A".

capybara
09-06-2000, 07:17 PM
No, not Pi, but PHI alpha, as in F, A, . . .

jb_farley
09-06-2000, 07:53 PM
Bear_Nenno- what about pansy? pariah (okay, that's a stretch- fratboys calling eachother pariahs?)? pasty bastard?

Lumpy
09-06-2000, 09:56 PM
I can't tell you. I can tell you why John F. Kennedy was killed. I can tell you why the government keeps UFOs a secret. I can even reveal many of the events of the Apocalypse. But I can't tell you the secret meaning of Phi Alpha. Just trust me, there's a very good reason for it to be secret.

Homer
09-07-2000, 01:15 AM
Bear_Nenno: The tradition of Greek Fraternal meanings is that the words (here, Phi Alpha) are the first letters of a phrase or separate words in original Greek. Meaning, that "Phi Alpha" may well be the first letters of a phrase that, in greek, the first word begins with phi, and the second alpha. Of course, the abundance of greek words that begin with either of these is so great that guessing the meaning is near impossible.

I could tell you all the secrets of Lambda Chi Alpha, but I never would.

--Tim

Homer
09-07-2000, 01:18 AM
Don't tell the D-Chi's, but we stole their flag, because one of them stole our SP paddle. Bastards! I hear they also stole a ritual book about 10 years ago, but it's just a rumor. None of them will admit to it.

--Tim

JamesCarroll
09-08-2000, 11:57 PM
My brother is a PKA. If you look at their crest you'll actually see that the real name of the fraternity is Phi Phi Kappa Alpha (the two Phi's are combined to create a Pi). My brother said, like in most fraternities they stand for something that's secret. I said "Easy, its Fraternis, Fidelis, something, something." His jaw dropped and stammered a denial. I knew I had least that part correct. I'm a KDR and if anyone knows what they stand for, please let us know. Apparently no one remembers.

Jabberwocks
10-25-2011, 04:47 AM
Cold pudding, but still...

The so called secret of the Phi Alpha is
φαιδρότης ἀσάφεια - Faidrotes asafeia in plain.

Amazing how Greek still beautifully helps these silly secrets to persist. The words, which some translate as "brighter from obscurity", are in truth an oximoron, two juxtaposed words: brightness (also, metaphorically, joy) and obscurity (also, metaphorically, uncertainty).

Most oracular responses are styled like this, so the enigma is a perfect fit in a pseudo-secret society. Deeper meaning falls to the explanation of whoever is in charge of initiation, and that, given the level of collegiate inanity, may prove abysmally dismaying.

As one supposes that it has been passed down by the Founders, who were at least fellows of some learning, it can be imagined that the purpose is to encourage the wise to look beyond the appearance of things, light-in-darkness and darkness-in-light and all the stuff that was very popular intellectually some 150 to 100 years ago (not that it ever died out, but it really flourished then).

Have fun finding references. An easy one is from Plato's Republic, there where talking about doxa, the author places it in between knowledge and ignorance, "something darker than knowledge but brighter than ignorance” in the translation of Shorey.

Alessan
10-25-2011, 05:00 AM
εγκεφάάάάάλους...

Gyrate
10-25-2011, 07:13 AM
I was (and, I suppose, still am) in Phi Mu Alpha. We had our various secret rituals and handshakes and so forth, as all these groups do. I'm pretty sure none of these "secrets" are of much objective significance, except that they serve to bond the group together in commonality of knowledge and purpose.

I could tell you what went on at our initiation but honestly, outside of the context of the fraternity and the pledge experience it's pretty banal (although the music is nice).

furryman
10-25-2011, 10:15 AM
"The third English word ending in gry is..."

chappachula
10-25-2011, 03:42 PM
...secret. I said "Easy, its Fraternis, Fidelis." His jaw dropped and stammered a denial.

What blows me away is that his jaw dropped.
It's sad that college educated people today think they are special because they know a few simple words in the classic languages, and assume that nobody else could ever figure it out.

The fraternities were founded back in the days when Latin and Greek were standard subjects in high school and college, and everybody knew them. Even the Marine Corps slogan (Semper Fi) is Latin; and those guys don't sweat through boot camp on Paris Island because it offers language lessons. Two hundred years ago, it was just assumed that even uneducated soldiers would understand a couple of Latin words, and speak them with pride (presumably after it was explained once.)

Every fraternity has its "secret" slogan, and to me, it's pretty obvious that every single one of them consists of synonyms for, well, fraternity. Ya know: friendship, togetherness, loyalty, brotherhood,etc.
And that narrows it down to a couple dozen words. How hard can it be to guess them, when you know the first letter ?

But SHH......!!!, DONT DARE SAY IT OUT LOUD!!!!!

The Hamster King
10-25-2011, 03:54 PM
Cold pudding, but still...An excellent first post! Well done, sir! And welcome aboard!

Jabberwocks
10-26-2011, 03:24 AM
εγκεφάάάάάλους...

καίπερ φαάντατοι

But why in the accusative? Just being funny I guess.

Alessan
10-26-2011, 03:29 AM
My fluency is in Google Greek.

Jabberwocks
10-26-2011, 03:40 AM
An excellent first post! Well done, sir! And welcome aboard!

Thank you very much. Not that I have all that time for internet forums, in fact. But this topic hit me. The entire concept of "best kept secret of the world" irks me. I was a member of a student society founded some 300 years before the country of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon was even discovered by the white man. Our stupid secrets were known to every historian. For goodness' sake, the most serious Masonic rituals are known in details to historians. Because people talk. It is human, and it is good.

Kids (most of whom inclining to drunken behaviours and testosterone excesses) congratulating themselves on how well kept their silly fraternity secrets are, do irk me. I'm becoming a cranky old man.

But as pointed out, the secret rituals have meaning in context. Out of it, they are dross. So boasting about the secrecy is silly, and making a big deal of it is very, ah... juvenile. What were we talking of again?

Jabberwocks
10-26-2011, 03:43 AM
My fluency is in Google Greek.

Excellent fluency, to be sure :) The translator must have been designed by some very clever fellow, for you just missed the case. Thumbs up :)

jjimm
10-26-2011, 03:57 AM
Cold puddingWhen come back bring Phi.

Indistinguishable
10-26-2011, 04:15 AM
καίπερ φαάντατοι
In case it isn't clear to you*, it is traditional on these boards to refer to long-dead, newly-resurrected threads as "zombies" and make some reference along those lines right after they are resurrected. Thus, this case's "BRAAAAAINS...".

Jabberwocks
10-26-2011, 04:35 AM
In case it isn't clear to you*, it is traditional on these boards to refer to long-dead, newly-resurrected threads as "zombies" and make some reference along those lines right after they are resurrected. Thus, this case's "BRAAAAAINS...".

Oh :)

No, I completely lack the savy. I never read the Boards before, to be honest, so I am in total ignorance of the usages. The thread hit me from a completely uncorrelated search, and since I happened to know the subject, and happen to love Straight Dope, felt the need to drop a marble.

If it is considered bad form to post on an old thread, even if it had got no answer, I apologise.

Still, a good use of the Greek :)

Indistinguishable
10-26-2011, 04:43 AM
Oh, it's generally fine form if you provide something of substance, as you did. No problem with that.

jjimm
10-26-2011, 05:00 AM
If it is considered bad form to post on an old thread, even if it had got no answer, I apologise.It used to be, but the powers that be changed the rules about it a while back. And since your debut post was entirely substantive, it is the opposite of bad form. :)

Alessan
10-26-2011, 05:20 AM
On the other hand, it's important that someone note that it is indeed an old thread, so that unaware posters don't enter into arguments with people who haven't been around for over a decade.

DotheWeigleYeah
01-10-2013, 12:25 PM
I realize this is an old post but still would like to point out some facts for people who come across this thread

I myself am a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. If you wont to know the true meaning to our infamous saying 'Phi Alpha', join SAE and enlighten yourself as a True Gentleman and a Phi Alpha Raider. All accross the globe, certain organizations have certain 'rights of passages' that mean a great deal to them than some outsider. I can guarentee all fraternities have something they hold dear to their heart that others do not know the real meaning to it.

I am also a soldier in the Army currently serving in Afghanistan. Even here, different units have different mottos that some people do not know and may never know what the hell they are talking about. The other day, I rendered a salute to an officer and said "Good Afternoon, Ma'am" Her response was "don't compromise' Will I ever know what the hell she meant? probably not but it just goes to show, different organizations have something they keep to themselves. If you want to know, join. Simple as that!

Phi Alpha

Smeghead
01-10-2013, 12:54 PM
All accross the globe, certain organizations have certain 'rights of passages' that mean a great deal to them than some outsider.

*rites

Also, *across.

Czarcasm
01-10-2013, 12:58 PM
*rites

Also, *across.Waddayou want from a Greak?

CC
01-10-2013, 01:07 PM
College boy.

Sicks Ate
01-10-2013, 01:19 PM
I forgot how much I despised the Greek system in college, until I read this thread.

Really Not All That Bright
01-10-2013, 01:45 PM
This thread reminds me of the 40-something PMs I got asking me to disclose fraternity secrets when I started the "Ask the frat boy" thread.

BwanaBob
01-10-2013, 01:59 PM
I forgot how much I despised the Greek system in college, until I read this thread.

I loved the fact that when I attended university, the Greek system was effectively banned. When the drinking age rose, frats were magically re-enabled by the university.

Dewey Finn
01-10-2013, 02:19 PM
If you wont to know the true meaning to our infamous saying 'Phi Alpha', join SAE and enlighten yourself as a True Gentleman and a Phi Alpha Raider.
Or one could consult Wikipedia. (Not the current version of the page, of course, but an older one (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sigma_Alpha_Epsilon&oldid=124284139).)

Accidental Martyr
01-12-2013, 01:37 AM
When I was in college at The University of Alabama the SAE chapter was banned from campus for selling cocaine at the fraternity house.
http://nytimes.com/1992/02/02/nyregion/campus-life-alabama-fraternity-suspended-4-years-for-little-progress.html

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