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Jargon Buster!

Oxford life is full of traditions with strange names for everyday things being one of them! This ‘jargon buster’ should get you up to speed with some of the more common language used in day-to-day college life.

B is for:

  • Battels: College bill paid at the start of term. See Finance, Battels.
  • Black Tie: dress code for a lot of college events, and for most balls. Normally either cocktail dress or dinner jacket, dress shirt and black bow tie.
  • Blue: award for sporting prowess. See Sporting, University Sports.
  • Bod: Bodleian Library. Oxford’s central library. See Libraries.
  • Bod Card: University Card, and the main form of student ID. Needed to get into libraries and certain university buildings. Also used to buy food from hall, Kendrew cafe and drinks from the bar.
  • BOP: In-college party, a good chance to socialise and dance the night away. See Entertainment, BOPs.
  • Balls: White or black tie events that go into the next morning and have food stalls, music acts and usually has alcohol included. John’s has one every 3 years.
  • Buttery: Room off hall to top up your BOD card or buy wine at formal.

C is for:

  • Collections: In-college tests which are scheduled for Friday before term starts (not for the first term). Presidential Collections refer to reports given by your tutor to a senior member of college with you present. This is done at the end of some terms. Don’t worry, they’re not that scary.
  • Commem ball: abbr. Commemoration Ball, 5 colleges, including us, have a bigger ball once in a degree (once every three years)
  • Crew-Date: Sports team’s word for social. Usually in the iconic crew-date restaurants, bring your own wine bottle and involves sconcing and pennying. Not for everyone but normally a lot of fun.
  • Cuppers: Official inter-collegiate competition.

D is for:

  • Deans: There are two Junior Deans. They deal with room bookings, welfare and small disciplinary matters. There is one senior dean who deals with more serious welfare and disciplinary matters. Contact details can be found here.

E  is for:

  • Eights: a rowing competition in Trinity term.
  • Entz: abbr. entertainments. Current Entz JCR officers are Tara Daemi and Danny Roade

F is for:

G is for:

  • Gown: Harry Potter-esque robes worn for Matriculation, Formal Hall,
    exams and a few other occasions.

H is for:

  • Hall: Dining Room in College where meals are eaten.
  • Hilary Term: Second Term.

J is for:

  • JCR: Junior Common Room. See JCR. Also applies to the physical space in
    Tommy White.

M is for:

  • Matriculation: The ceremony by which you become a member of the University and are officially allowed to wear your gown – takes place in the Sheldonian Theatre.
  • May Day: On the 1st of May, at dawn, Magdalen choir sing from the top of Magdalen Tower and our choir sing later from the tower in front quad. It is traditional to stay up all night until dawn and have a pint before hall breakfast.
  • MCR: Middle Common Room, all post-graduates are members and they have a nice room near Garden Quad.
  • Michaelmas Term: Autumn Term.

N is for:

  • Noughth Week/0th Week: the week before the start of full term. Oxford doesn’t work by dates but by which week number it is eg 4th week. Check if you have collections in 0th week, you may need to be there on the Thursday.

O is for:

  • Oxford SU: Oxford University Student Union. Most useful for their welfare
    provisions.
  • Oxford Union: Debating society which also hosts speakers. Life time membership can be bought for £286.34 although a freshers’ week discount may be available. Click here to learn more!

P is for:

  • Porters: College residents who run the Plodge. See Living, Porters.
  • Pidge: your personal letter collection place, see Living, Post.
  • Port Meadow: Large meadow on the banks of the Thames. Great for picnics and a swim in good weather.
  • Prelims: First year exams that don’t count for your full degree.
  • President: Head of the College. Ours in Maggie Snowling, first ever female
    President of St Johns!
  • Punting: messing about on the river in a boat, propelled by a long pole. Go on matriculation with some food and drinks or in Trinity term when the weather is good.

Q is for:

  • Quads: square units of buildings which makes up the college. We have: Canterbury, Front, North, Tommy White, Garden, Dolphin and Kendrew.

S is for:

  • Sconcing: drinking game a bit like ‘Never have I ever’, but runs on the format of ‘I sconce anyone who has ever x, y, z’
  • Scouts: Another name for cleaners, see Living, Scouts.
  • SOLO: online library search engine, see Libraries.
  • Sub Fusc: Gowns and formal clothing worn for exams. See the official university website here for a guide of what you need to get.

T is for:

  • Tabs: Cambridge student. Often referred to when talking about sports and prefixed with ‘Shoe the …!’ or ‘Dirty …’
  • Torpids: Inter college rowing event in Hilary Term.
  • Tute: abbr. tutorial. Main form of teaching in Oxford.
  • TW: Tommy White, the quad or building (basically the same thing).
  • Trinity Term: Summer Term.

V is for:

  • Vac: The holidays, though you’re not meant to call them this as they’re for ‘working’. 
  • Varsity: Either the joint ski trip with Cambridge normally at the beginning of the Christmas vac or any Oxford vs Cambridge (Shoes vs Tabs) sporting event. Due to COVID-19, the varsity trip has been moved to mid/late March in the Easter vac.

W is for:

  • White Tie: Full evening wear, sometimes worn for balls. White bow-ties, waistcoats and tails for men, or a full length dress.