“Shark bait hoo ha-ha”: A New Yorker’s take on the Oxford lingo

Culture Features

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Evalena is a visiting student from New York reading English.

This is my first year at Oxford and the longest time I’ve spent in the UK. So, as a disclaimer, I have had admittedly limited exposure to Oxford’s particular words and their meanings. But by asking British students to explain what they mean, I soon made my way to becoming an Oxford lingo-champ! I’d say it is important for all incoming students, international or otherwise, to learn some of these basic terms. Here are some of the highlights:

Tutes (pronounced as toots) = Tutorials, which are the main classes with professors other than lectures. Can also be used in reference to the tutor if you want to be cute.

Col = College. Usually abbreviated in text. In a sentence could be used as “Hey, are you going to Col today?” Never ‘the college’. Although there are various colleges that comprise The University of Oxford, they are usually referred to by name or by this general term.

Uni (pronounced as yoo-ne) = University. The word ‘university’ is specifically not to be expressed. You go to ‘uni’, not university. This is very frequently used in conversation, so I am pretty sure every student within the United Kingdom understand this, so to all you internationals out there, this is for you.

Battels = College dues. I guess it is a battle for you to pay them and for the college to get the money from you? My best guess.

Collections = Mock exams, because those are always fun.

Subfusc = Matriculation outfit, also worn during exams.

Vac = short for ‘vacation’ and refers to the holiday between terms. It is probably just used in text, it would seem kind of weird to abbreviate the word ‘vacation’, like who do you think you are?

Plodge = Porter’s lodge, that thing right at the beginning of every college where the porter is. The term “lodge” is also likely in reference to this location. If I’m being honest, the porter’s lodge is referred to as the lodge a lot more than the plodge probably because plodge does not sound cool in any context.

Pidge = Pigeon hole, that place where all your mail goes. If you want someone to mail you, you would say something like “Pidge it to me.”

The Union = The Oxford Union – not The Student Union. There are a large collection of students at Oxford who are fortunate enough be able to afford to be members to The Union.

Crewdate = Two ‘crews’ of people, usually organisations of some sort, ranging from societies to athletic teams to clubs, gather at typically a thai or curry restaurant and play drinking games. The phrase is rather literal. I do not know what thai or curry food has to do with anything. I think it’s about going somewhere with food and cheap drinks that you can use to bond over.

The Bod = The Bodleian Library.

The Rad Cam = The abbreviated form of ‘The Radcliffe Camera’. It is known as one of the most intense libraries in Oxford,  where only the most committed library-goers will survive.

Sharking = Occurs when a student from a higher year ‘gets with’ another student from a lower year, usually a fresher. The senior student is referred to as ‘a shark’ thereafter, while the younger student is known as ‘prey’ or ‘shark bait’. While many students aspire to ‘sharkdom’ very few ever attain it.