DictionaryFlickr: Greeblie

I began my life at Cambridge largely ignorant of the words and phrases key to any self-respecting Cantabrigian’s vernacular. Study the following dictionary and you just might manage to conceal your fresher status for the first five minutes of conversation; at least until you’re seen cycling haphazardly down King’s Parade, or crashing into a lamp-post. 


Derived from the word ‘bedmaker’, this is the member of your college’s domestic staff responsible for ensuring you don’t disappear under a pile of Chinese take-away containers. At some colleges, they even still make your bed and do your laundry!


Pronounced ‘keys’ and a common fresher-alert test.

College Parents 

A humorous, yet potentially incestuous relationship engineered by your College JCR/Student Association. Each first year student is allocated at least two upper year students, one male and one female, who will be there to ‘parent’ their ‘children’ through the bumpy ride that is life at Cambridge. 


Your Director of Studies. One of the people responsible for your entry to the College and the person you’ll spend your entire three years apologising to for being a fraud.


The Cambridge supervision essay is a unique and mythical beast. Unlike normal assignments which you spend days or weeks researching and perfecting, this essay will usually be typed up, without notes, two hours before the deadline, with an introduction bearing no correlation to the actual body of the piece and a ‘missing’ conclusion, because you had ‘too many great ideas to sum up in one paragraph’.


Not to be confused with the maroon-coloured dress worn by Ron Weasley to the Yule Ball, this is the black academic gown you wear to your College’s formal dinners and the synthetic heat conductor you’ll subtly try to slip off your shoulders as soon as the College Master has said grace.


Formerly the room where a gyp, an Oxbridge student’s manservant, awaited the call of his gentleman. Now a small, barely serviceable kitchen in most undergraduate accommodation blocks.


The Junior Combination Room: public lounge/common room within a College where undergraduates relax and socialise. This is also the student-elected body which represents the undergraduates and holds activities within a College.


As with Caius, this one is sure to trip up the newbies (including yours truly). Pronounced ‘maudlin’. Whether the college itself deserves this adjective, I’ll leave it to you to decide.


This is your pigeon hole: the place where your friendly, neighbourhood porter will place your mail and notifications of any suspiciously shaped packages you may receive, including the one from your mum which is clearly clean underwear.


The Porters’ Lodge: this is the bat-cave of your College Porters. You’ll go to the plodge when your food keeps disappearing from your cupboard, when you can’t find the laundry room, and when you arrive back at your college in the early hours of the morning without your student card, your keys, or, more worryingly, your shoes.


The hint is in the name: these are the academics who supervise your weekly work at Cambridge. They’ll read your painful first attempts at writing an academic essay, listen patiently to your bluster about a book you’ve never read, and decipher your apology-laden emails when you fail to meet an essay deadline and need ‘just one more day’.


Move over Monday, Thursday is the first day of the week at Cambridge. One of the most baffling idiosyncrasies of the University.


Unlike at other universities, Cambridge tutors have nothing to do with your academic work. Cambridge tutors are the supposedly loveable, fluffy-cardigan-wearing lot to whom you pour out your fears and worries. Or, the socially-stunted, uninterested automatons hired by your College to oversee your welfare. It all depends on the tutor!


This is the time when you worry about all the work you haven’t done during the week, but feel you can have a legitimately guilt-free lie-in. Weekend is a much sought-after, rarely seen, creature haunting the Cambridge term.

Week Five

Spoken about in hushed, ominous tones. Imagine Gandalf facing the Balrog and exclaiming ‘You shall not pass!’