Ready? OK! Bring It On cheered into theaters 15 years ago this month. So dust off those pom-poms, squeeze into that sweater, and jump into some cheer slang, pop culture references, and the story behind spanky pants.
1. BRING IT
“Bring it,” Isis tells Torrance before the national championships. “Don't slack off because you feel sorry for us.”
Bring it is an abbreviated form of bring it on, a taunt to an opponent to do their worst. The earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is a 1980 New York Times article, but the phrase was probably in use well before then.
Reminiscent of bring it on is a 19th-century U.S. colloquialism, bring on your bears, perhaps from the old practice of bear-baiting, a kind of ursine bullfighting.
“Can we just beat these Buffys down so I can go home?” Jenelope says of Torrance and Missy. Buffy in this context refers to a Valley Girl type—rich, white, dumb, and sometimes blond.
When exactly the name Buffy came to refer to a stereotypical California girl, we’re not sure, although it was probably before the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a send-up of that stereotype. The name Buffy peaked in popularity in the 1970s perhaps because of the Buffy character on the show Family Affair, which ran from 1966 to 1971, or singer Buffy Sainte-Marie, who released an album called Buffy in 1974 (and appeared on Sesame Street in 1975).
In Bring It On, "Buffy" has another layer of significance: by the time the movie was released, three of the actors—Eliza Dushku (Missy), Clare Kramer (Courtney), and Nicole Bilderback (Whitney)—had roles in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series as, respectively, Faith, Glory, and "Unidentified Cordette."
“Carver, can you cradle out?” Torrance asks. “You bet I can!” Carver says, moments before she falls and breaks her leg.
The cradle is a cheerleading stunt that involves a flyer—the person in the standing, upheld position—being thrown up and caught into a “cradle” made by the arms of the bases, or the people holding the flyer. The whole set-up, with bases and flyer, is known as the elevator.
4. WOLF WALL
The wolf wall is another cheerleading stunt, or, as Jan says, “Only the hardest pyramid known to cheerleading and mankind.” Requiring a whopping 14 people and resembling a wolf with pointy ears, the stunt seems to have originated at North Carolina State University, home of the Wolfpack.
5. CHEER SEX
Courtney accuses Torrance of having cheer sex—smiling and making significant eye contact while cheering—with Cliff. Cheer sex plays on other -sex compounds such as phone sex and cybersex.
“This is not a democracy,” Torrance tells Courtney. “It's a cheerocracy.”
“You are being a cheertator!” Courtney cries.
The suffix -cracy means "rule or government by," and ultimately comes from the Greek kratos, “strength.” There are dozens of -cracy blends. Besides the more common democracy, aristocracy, and bureaucracy, there's kleptocracy, rule by thieves; mobocracy, mob rule; kakistocracy, government by the worst of society; and gynecocracy, rule by women.
7. SPIRIT FINGERS
“Give me spirit fingers!” Sparky the choreographer tells the squad. Spirit fingers, a play on jazz hands, isn’t a real cheerleading move, while the term jazz hands has been around since at least the late 1970s.
8. SWEATER MONKEY
Another Sparky original, sweater monkey is a derogatory term for a cheerleader. Cheer uniforms have traditionally been a skirt and sweater combo, despite the Toros’ midriff-baring tops. In fact, according to the National Federation Spirit rules book, the guide for high school cheer competitions, “When standing at attention, apparel must cover the midriff."
9. SPANKY PANTS
Let’s get to the bottom of spanky pants, shall we? While at least one source defines them as underwear-like shorts worn under cheerleading uniforms, an earlier reference of spanky pants is an underwear brand from Carter’s. Actress Dana Delaney (randomly) mentions them in a 1994 interview with Playboy magazine, and in 1997, these columnists helped a Spanky Pants-loving reader find where she might get some. The naughty name—pants that invite spanking—seems at odds with the description of the underwear: band-leg briefs.
10. SPIRIT STICK
Unlike spirit fingers, the spirit stick is a real cheerleading thing. Cheer legend says the tradition began in 1954 at a National Cheerleading Association (NCA) camp. One team, while not technically adept, showed great spirit, and at the end of camp, to reward them for their positive attitudes, Lawrence "Herkie" Herkimer (aka the “grandfather of cheerleading") bestowed upon them the very first spirit stick, improvised from a tree branch.
Since then, spirit sticks have become much fancier, and are no less valued: all teams want to go home with one, and, as Torrance says, they can never, ever touch the ground.