It is commonly reported that Caltech foodservice once had a dish which was eaten only by residents of Dabney House, and that the phrase ``Dabney Eats It'' was coined by foodservice workers. The same story reports that the letters FEIF may have been coined in response when some kind of inter-house contest was held where ``Fleming Eats It Faster''. Such an origin scenario is supported circumstantially by another quadgraph, a lowercase Greek gamma-delta-beta-gamma. This is known to have originated during the 1970s when a Caltech security guard responding to some campus antics was overheard saying that it must be the ``God Damn Blacker Gang''.
Other reports say that the origin of the letters DEI occurred during World War II when normal student life at the Caltech student houses was temporarily interrupted by the needs of the war effort. If this is the case then the likelihood of verifying the original meaning is about the same as finding out who ``Kilroy'' was.
I have correspondence indicating that Fleming was taunting Dabney with a ``Dabney eats it'' chant as early as the 1956-1957 academic year. Any information regarding when during the 20 years previous the phrase originated will be most welcome.
Another mass-media appearance was in the film Real Genius, although this was with the complicity of the film maker.
A number of businesses spawned by Caltech alumni have sported corporate or product names containing the trigraph DEI. It is commonplace to find these letters buried variable names of computer source code, or etched in unused corners of silicon chips produced via VLSI.
So, when you see the letters DEI prominently displayed on a product, consider that every person associated with Caltech will be thinking ``Dabney Eats It''.