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Cherwell’s Fresher A – Z

Ball – colossally expensive outdoor piss-up, organised months in advance and attended by slick-haired black-tied nonces. You will do anything for a ticket. Balls are mostly held by colleges (for about £45 a throw) but the good ones can set you back more than £200. Nevertheless it’s absolutely worth going to at least one. There is sometimes a chocolate fountain: say no more.

Bodleian – very very very good library. Very good library. Contains every book printed in England since about 1700 and plenty else besides. Situated right in the middle of the town, it’s made up of two parts: the square bit (Main Quad) and the round bit (the Radcliffe Camera). The square bit is rather stuffy but staggeringly impressive, the round bit is just staggeringly impressive. And as of this October, a bonus feature:  there is now an underground passage linking the two which looks a bit like that scary corridor in the Ministry of Magic. Fit.

Bod Card (University of Oxford Card) – this identity card is your life and soul. Without it you cannot eat in hall or read in libraries, essentially meaning you cannot live or work. Perhaps cut a hole in it and wear it round your neck.

Bop – college party, usually arranged by the JCR, usually held in a club. In many ways organised reversions to childhood since they involve dressing up. Precise purpose unknown, but frequently held at the end of term, so presumably they have something to do with that.

Brideshead Revisited
– no.

Bullingdon Club – drinking society for the very wealthy. Like Puck, rarely heard and rarely seen. Unlike Puck, renowned for burning money in front of tramps. Former members include David and Boris, but we’re sure you knew that.

Cherwell – student-run weekly newspaper, available free from JCRs. The greatest organ of free speech in the history of the world. Smiter of evil, champion of freedom, hotbed of wit. A miracle.

Collections – scurrilously pointless College-run exams designed solely to ruin your holidays. Set at the beginning of term, you see, though it’s common not to get the results till fifth week or later. Helpful hint: you will usually be set last year’s mods/prelims paper.

College – what non-Oxbridge universities don’t have (except Durham, but they’re only pretending). A learning mall; a big, friendly, often old and conspicuous hive-mind. You live, eat, sleep and work here. It is your home away from home and – wipes tear – in a way it will always be your home. Actually, it’s more like being a branded heifer. Whenever you’re asked to identify yourself the first thing – the first thing – you must say is what college you go to. This will dog you for the rest of your life. But it’s worth it. After all, it has a bar.

College Family – two soon-to-be-second-years of the opposite sex who secretly fancy each other will ‘marry’ and produce ‘children’, viz. freshers. They will then helpfully show them the ropes/fornicate with them/become friends with them/completely ignore them, in roughly equal proportions.

Crew Date – our equivalent of those mass weddings they have in South Korea. A load of girls (eg. girls sporting team) and a load of boys (eg. boys sporting team: I think we may be seeing a pattern here, Watson) go to a curry restaurant to get lashed ‘n’ laid. Little more than an occasion to get wasted, because those are just so hard to come by in contemporary student culture.

Dons (Academics) – rarely called dons but emit a rather donnish air. Very clever, very earnest individuals who meisterplan your work and tutelage, usually providing it themselves. Absolutely never to be crossed, though always nice to outgun them.

Essay – an organisation with a monopoly of legitimate force over a given territory. Don’t get the reference? 2.2.

Famous People – lots of these. Academics are paid woefully so tend to flee for America as soon as they become famous. Gone are the days when Tolkien would give tutes in his rooms at Merton before turning round to write LOTR. However, you can still catch them occasionally. In any case each college has about ten billion celebrity alumni (five Cabinet ministers went to Magdalen alone) who occasionally turn up and do stuff. And if all else fails, there are the children of famous people who go to university here. Hob, and indeed nob, at your will.

Formal Hall – formal hall is what you invite friends to when you’re not quite sure if you want them to be your friend. High-quality food served at discount price in unbelievably impressive environment. Probably the best thing about going to Oxbridge other than tutes.

Fresher – you. Clueless and disdained. Often ‘pushy’ freshers immediately begin their remorseless ascent up the greasy pole, thus rendering everyone else even more disdainful of them. Most keep their heads down, sticking to the dictum of Manuel from Fawlty Towers: ‘I know nothing. I come from Barcelona.’ Though for Barcelona insert ‘some arbitrary village in Devon I’ve never head of’.

Future Spouse – will you find them? Don’t pretend you haven’t been thinking this.

G and D’s
– triptych of ice cream shops. Purveyors of finest quality bagels, paradoxically. Notorious hoster of first dates and awkward freshers’ meet-ups, and no more a major part of your life than the Mato Grosso. Still, worth visiting at least once.

Gowns – funny flappy black things worn to formals. People who get firsts in their prelim exams get vastly superior Voldemort-like ones. The aim of this is for them to be killed by jealous contemporaries who only got a 2.1, thus eliminating the less reproducible elements of the gene pool.  

Hack – somebody who seeks election to an office in a University or college society or organisation, and who does this by going around meeting as many people as possible in an attempt to get their name ‘out there’ and solicit votes. They will appear friendly at first but are without exception the most unutterable cockends in the entire University. Avoid.

iPlayer – God and Satan rolled into one happy, licence-fee-funded website. Will destroy your degree just as it will enrich your existence. Unless, of course, you only watch EastEnders.

JCR (Junior Common Room) – your college’s student union for undergraduates. Approximately as interesting as it sounds. But there are some advantages: they give out cake and sometimes even alcohol!

Kebab Van – although held in scathing contempt by many, let me just say that these are actually really good. They are plentiful, staffed by nice people, provide adequate food at nugatory cost, and are open till four in the morning. Should you choose to subsist on them however you may find yourself breaking out all pimply.

– things which command, dominate, and generally ruin a scientist’s day. Humanities students will take the piss out of you, telling you they can lie in bed till 4pm and then only read one page before going out drinking. This outrageous stereotype is 100% accurate.

Lashmolean – no obvious meaning. Presumably relates to one or more of the following: Ashmolean, the pretty museum on St Giles; lash, going out on the, meaning to get drunk; and punning, tendency of Oxford students to make excessive use of.

LawSoc – one of the many University societies catering for those who wish to sell their souls. Worth a mention because of the gloriously alcoholic events hosted approximately three times a term completely free of charge – once you’ve forked out the joining fee.

Lectures – worthless, irrelevant chicanery attended by fanatics and conducted by harmless, tweedy old gubbins. The annoying thing with lectures is that good lecturers are very rare, but their lectures are extravagantly superior to the normal ones- so much so that it’s almost worth going to them. Almost. Incidentally science students have to go anyway and their lectures are even more boring. Another notch on the humanities’ bedpost.

Library – Oxford has a higher concentration of libraries than any other city on earth. Practically for certain, you will only ever visit three: your college library, your faculty library, and the Bodleian. In fact, why aren’t you there now? Off you trot.

Long Vac – from the Ponce vac, meaning ‘holiday’, and long, meaning ‘summer’. Three months (and a bit) in which you will usually work for minus money in some godawful bank or chambers or somesuch. Its vast length, however, means you can travel to foreign countries and walk about in them, and also use the time to get some solid reading done.

May Day – absolutely ludicrous Ox-trad twaddle in which you assemble on Magdalen Bridge on 1st May at 5am to listen to children sing from the top of Magdalen tower. That’s it. Seriously.

Mods (also known as Prelims) exams everybody sits at some point in first year. You only need to scrape a paltry 40% to proceed to second year, so don’t worry too much. Yet, anyway.

Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity – the names of terms, each of eight weeks, unchanged since the sixteenth century. People at other universities will take the piss out of you for this.

OUSU (Oxford University Students Union) – what it says on the tin, pronounced ow-zoo. 12% of you will vote in its annual elections. Other than that it will have nothing to do with you and you, we fervently hope, will have nothing to do with it.

Oxford Union Society – a debating society BUT you will mostly know it for its superb bar. Also has a beautiful library and termly balls which are not half bad at all. The downsides are enormous though: gigantic cost of entry. More notably, it contains the most repulsive examples of hacks to be found outside Westminster. Thankfully, they don’t stay outside Westminster for long and, hey, you can ignore them.

Park End (also known as Shark End) – the easiest place to pull of an evening. If by pull you mean vom, horribly.

Plays – regular and usually terrible, but provide ample opportunity to creep the boards. Rather competitive though. Our advice is to merely watch them, or maybe run them in your third year.

Postgraduates – astonishingly quiet lot even though they are nearly half the university. Presumably they spend most of their time working – perish the thought. Make friends with them. Be taught by them. Or hey, you know what? Go out with them. They’re yours for the taking.

Punting – you will probably not get to experience this until Trinity. Use a metal pole. Stand at the right end. (The sloped one – only Tabs stand at the other end and we wouldn’t want to be like them now, would we?) Empty your pockets. Place pole vertically downwards. Push. Remove. Repeat. Don’t use the paddle, it’s deceptively useless. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t put your fingers outside the boat (the duck are vicious.) And absolutely, unequivocally, always bring food and alcohol.

Rah – a posh person who speaks as ponceily as they dress. Frequent Christ Church, Brasenose, Oriel etc.

Rahdar – the public school network which enables all rahs to know each other. Get ready to learn so much about London public schools you could swear your Leavers’ hoodie actually reads ‘St Paul’s’.

Real World – the thing that flits by the windows of the car when you go home. Make sure to govern it sensibly.

Rower – wears stash. No other discernable function.

Scouts – people who come into your rooms to clean them. Theoretically. Their real function is to chase out the marauding hordes of one night stands before 10am so as not to scare the midday tourists. (Honestly, they have the keys to your room. Instances of catching someone in a state of undress are not unknown.)

Stash – branded clothing. Cool: college hoodies, college scarves, sport club hoodies. Passable: freshers’ T-shirts, sixth form leavers’ hoodies. Uncool: anything branded with ‘University of Oxford’, since this is worn solely by people who don’t go here. Also, rowing blazers are a no-no except after eight after Eights, and even then only by tossers.

Student Journalist – a writer of journalism; a harmless drudge.

Sub-fusc – white tie worn with academic dress, proffered to the plebs during exam time and matriculation. Surprising fact: you are not allowed to go to the toilet whilst wearing it.

Summer Eights – something to do with rowing. I think it’s in Trinity. I don’t understand it and I’m buggered if I’m going to try learning now.

The Covered Market Welcomes The Freshers – you will see this banner. Not-so-secret fact: they keep it up all year round. Don’t let that put you off, though, the Covered Market has a brilliant cookie stall. Plus! A butcher’s shop.

The Other Place – it’s basically the same as here and anyone who genuinely thinks otherwise is an idiot. Get the fuck over it.

Time Zone – it is a little known fact that the University of Oxford has its own time zone, set five minutes behind real time. This is why all lectures begin at five past the hour. I don’t know how I can convince you this is true, but it is.

Tutes (tutorials)
– you will expectorate and expostulate, in expectation of expertation. Usually involves reading out an essay or solving a problem sheet. Then off you go only to do it all again the next week. The best educational system in the history of the world, incidentally. Take them not for granted.

Tutor – a person who expects you to be able to have a serious argument with them about a subject you have spent one week reading about which they’ve spent their entire life reading about. Surprisingly, you might win sometimes.

University – the thing you tell Daddy’s friends you go to. Otherwise a mysterious institution with no impact on your life, until Finals when it becomes the arbiter of what happens to it.

Weekends – Rebecca Black may have looked forward to them. But you won’t. Weekends are boring, and you can’t even do work because you’ll be too hungover. Best to go home.

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