As fun as Oxford life can be, the terminology and jargon thrown around can be daunting when you’re looking at applying here. To get rid of the confusion, I’ve come up with a little list of some useful Oxford terms!
Battels: Don’t fret: this doesn’t involve combat, unless you include the internal pain of having to hand over your student finance to your college. ‘Battels’ is the word for your charges from college each term, to pay for things like accommodation.
Blue: It’s a high level award for students who compete against Cambridge for certain university sports. They say you’ll leave Oxford with either a first, a blue, or a spouse, if that gives any indication of the commitment level…
Bod: This is short for ‘Bodleian’, which is the main central university library – some parts are very pretty and some parts (run away if somebody suggest going to the Gladstone Link) have never seen daylight (literally - the Gladstone Link is underground).
Bop: This’ll be a favourite if you enjoy crafting your own toga (it’s harder than it looks!) or brainstorming a punny costume… or even if you just like a dance and a sing in your college bar. Bops are one of the staple social events in your college JCR or MCR. It’s a college-wide party that happens every few weeks, normally with a dress up theme.
Carnations: This flower has a lot of significance around exam periods… you wear a different carnation depending on the exam you are sitting. For your first in the exam session, you wear white. Pink is worn for all the middle exams, and you wear a red carnation to your final exam.
Collection: A beginning of term exam testing material from the previous term – you didn’t think you could relax for the entire vac, did you?
Crewdate: a social event, normally occurring at specific food establishments in Oxford (Jamal’s, particularly) where two different sports team or society committees dine, normally consume a lot of alcohol, and play games (see sconce).
Dean: This is the fellow of the college in charge of discipline (and sometimes welfare too). To be ‘deaned’ is to have to go and see the dean for behaviour-related incidents (so make sure you keep your kitchen clean).
Entz: Yeah I know, who puts ‘z’ at the end of a word like that anymore? But your entz teams in college, or on society committees, are the dedicated team who run most of the social events, including bops.
Going down: When you leave Oxford (it’s never going to happen. I’ll be here forever: they can’t make me leave!) The opposite is ‘coming up’.
Hack: A student, predominately involved in student politics (see: The Union) or journalism, who you will probably meet once and find they only want to meet up with you or send a catch up message when they’re running for a role on a committee. Suspicious…
Hilary: Nope, not a BNOC, but the name of the second term of the year, sandwiched between ‘Michaelmas’ and ‘Trinity’.
Hall: The place where you eat, and also the name of the meals there (including Formal Hall – which is normally a three-course fancy affair).
JCR: Short for Junior Common Room. A common space dedicated to the undergraduates in college, and also the collective name for the undergraduates in college.
Prelims/Mods: The name of first year exams. Don’t fret – they don’t count towards your degree but are a good practice at Oxford exams.
MCR: Short for Middle Common Room. A common space dedicated to the graduates in your college, and also the collective name for graduates in college (some colleges call this a GCR, Graduate Common Room, instead).
Norrington Table: A leaderboard ranking colleges by the degree classifications awarded at finals. People do well in every college, though!
Oxford Union: A student debating society that hosts a number of high profile speakers, often with controversy.
Oxford SU: the federal student unions, who represent students and help provide a central space for students to bring forward issues.
Pidge: Short for pigeon hole – which is where your mail and other things are delivered to you in college (anything from termcards to marked essays to ASOS packages – sorry not sorry).
Porter: The people you need to befriend. These are staff members who know everything going on in college, and who provide security and 24-hour support in the college.
Rustication: Suspending temporarily from your studies for a period of time (normally a year). This term refers to when you’re forced to leave due to poor behaviour, rather than for health or personal reasons.
Sconce: A type of ‘Never have I ever’ related game played at social events.
Scout: Staff who clean your room (be nice to them – having a chat when they come to empty your bins is one of my favourite ways to have an essay break).
Subfusc: Formal oxford attire worn for matriculation (when you officially become a university member) and for examinations.
Tab: Short for Cantabrigian, which is a total mouthful – it’s a slang name for people who go to Cambridge University.
Trashing: A ritual of throwing silly string and glitter (and other messy things) over students finishing their exams. They may or may not also jump into the river…
Tutorial: a teaching session with a tutor that may be one-on-one or in a group where you explore essay topics or problem sheets further.
Varsity: Any competition with Cambridge.
The list is by no means exhaustive – but these are just a few of the key phrases that are useful to any prospective Oxonian!
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