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Published on November 2nd, 2011 | by Rettig to Rumble


How Oly Got Its Oy

Love us or hate us, if you’ve ever seen Oly play live, you’ve undoubtedly heard our die-hard fans chanting that mesmerizing (or annoying, depending on your opinion) “Oly! Oly! Oly! Oy! Oy! Oy!” For a long time now, there has been confusion even among our own league members about how to spell that chant: OI, OY, OIY, OYE—who the heck knows? I thought I knew. But Tannibal Lector taught me that she knew better.

“No, no, no,” I said, “It’s “O-I” not “O-Y.”

“What? I’ve always written it O-Y? Are you sure, Rettig?” my teammate Jeanne was challenging me. I instantly began morphing into Peanuts know-it-all comic strip character Lucy van Pelt, puffing out my chest and standing up straight as I rose to answer this affront to my intellect.

“Yes,” I said confidently, “Of course I’m sure. O-Y is a Yiddish word.” Then, for dramatic effect I added, “the language of my people.” I continued even more authoritatively than before, “In Yiddish, Oy is an expression of dismay. That’s not the message we’re conveying here. Our fans are not a kibbutz of bubbies chanting Oly! Oly! Oly! Oy! Oy! Oy-vey!” They’re a group of fanatic, punk rock derby fans. It’s gotta be O-I. You know, like from Oi music.”

Tannibal Lector had been listening in on this highly cerebral conversation. She looked over at me quizzically. “Oi music?” I repeated to her, raising the inflection at the end making it more of a question than a statement. Crickets chirped in the background. “Oi music…you know, that whole 1970’s genre of British punk?”

“Never heard of it,” she said. I was astonished. I listed some bands for her. I did my impression of the D.R.I. logo guy. I recounted everything I knew about the Oi movement. She listened patiently and attentively. When I had finally finished, she said genuinely “You know, Rettig, that’s actually really interesting, the whole Yiddish thing and the Oi music. I never knew any of that.” But before I could even begin to bask in the thought that I had taught Tannah The Tannibal Lector something, she continued on.

“All that stuff is super cool. Really. But you’re wrong. It’s O-Y. Wanna know why?”

“Why?!” I blurted out, eager to see what historical facts I had failed to uncover in my etymological researching of this simple word.

She smiled. “Because in 2008, when Oly played Rat City at the Rust Riot, we had these sweat pants made, see. On the butt of those sweat pants, written real big across the ass, was O-L-Y. And when Sassy and I were walking along in front of the crowd, my pants started creeping up into my butt crack. When I would take a step forward, the L would get buried in my crack. The fans could see this and we started hearing them say Oly, Oy, Oly, Oy, Oly, Oy every time I walked by. It was hilarious. Our fans eventually changed the chant to Oly! Oly! Oly! Oy! Oy! Oy!”

I roared with laughter. Tannah, in her amazing straightforward way, had trumped me again, not only with her side-splitting story, but with her impeccable institutional knowledge of the league she helped start. Now whenever anyone asks me how Oly got its Oy chant, I just look at them, smile knowingly, and respond, “Oh, that Oly! Oly! Oly! Oy! Oy! Oy! thing? Tannah just pulled it out of her ass.”

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