Varsity’s comprehensive guide to Cambridge vocab

What’s a pidge? What’s the deal with the colour Blue? Who is Cindy? Violet‘s in-depth guide to quirky Cambridge vocab has you covered

Shynee Sienna Hewavidana

The College of Corpus Christi and the Blessed Virgin Mary in the University of Cambridge i.e CorpusSimon Lock

Cambridge can often feel like another world. One of the things that sets us apart is our Cambridge language, ie. our habit of using made up words instead of, you know, normal words. Take 'tripos' for instance – what's wrong with just saying degree? Where is the need Cambridge? Where is the need?  Whether you're a fresher or have just literally completely forgotten everything there is to know about Cambridge over the holiday (same), take a look at our all comprehensive vocab guide. 

Blue

An award given to student athletes for competing at the highest level of university sport. Normally granted if you are in a Varsity match (see Varsity). You can be a full blue or a half blue. Pretty prestigious honour, you can get a fancy blazer and upwards of 5x people on Facebook commenting “You’re a Blue? You’ve never mentioned it before” on your profile pictures.

Bluetacking  

The art of pulling as many Blues as you can. My most endorsed skill on LinkedIn.

Brunch

A Cambridge institution. Every college offers cheap(ish) brunch every Saturday (though I have heard of some colleges running brunch on Sunday too). Pembroke is generally believed to be the best. Here’s a brunch review we made earlier.

Bumps

As the River Cam is so small, boats can’t race side by side so instead they have to “bump”. The object of a bumps race is to catch up (and ‘bump’ into) the crew in front, without being bumped from behind. They are held twice a year – in Lent and in Easter.

Bops

College parties organised by your JCR. Not always called bops - sometimes just ‘Ents’ and Corpus, for instance, calls them slacks.

Kings Bunker – venue in Kings College. A huge ents event open to other colleges.

Clare Ents – events in Clare College which are open to other colleges.

Collections

First year mock exams. Some colleges don’t hold them. Those are the nicer colleges – collections are a lot of stress for nothing. They mean nothing. (Fun fact: I scraped a third in one of my collections and got a first in the actual exam.) Also called Mocks.

Cuppers

Intercollegiate sporting competitions.

Class Lists

Tradition where students’ names are displayed alongside their degree grade on a board outside Senate House. Very controversial – we recently had a referendum where it was voted to keep them.

Caesarian Sunday

An annual tradition held on the sunday of May Bank Week. Typically, a day of heavy drinking and drinking society initiations. Google it. It’s the Daily Mail’s favourite day of the year.

College Nicknames

Emma: Emmanuel.

Caius: Gonville and Caius – pronounced 'keys.'

Magdalene: It is pronounced Mau-da-lin NOT Mag-da-lin. Pronouncing it how it looks would be far too easy.

Catz: St. Catharine's.

Tit Hall: Trinity Hall.

Medwards: Murray Edwards.

Camcard

This handy little card will let you buy food in hall, walk through Kings and take out library books.

College Staff

Bedder

Lovely person who will clean your room, normally fortnightly. They do not make your bed or tidy your room – they’ll vacuum, empty the bin and clean the sink but only if your room isn’t a tip in the first place. They’re not your servants so, for the love of God, make friends with them and buy them chocolates at Christmas.

Dean

The Dean of your college is responsible for disciplinary action. Fun fact: riding the Jesus horse will get you deaned.

DoS

Your Director of Studies will coordinate your supervisions and listen to academic queries. Pronounced “doss” which is one of the top 5 words that people describe a Cambridge degree as.

Fellow

A Fellow holds an academic research position.

Master

The head of a college. Also called a Provost, Principal or Warden.

Porter

Staff of the college who are tasked with controlling entry to the college and sorting mail amongst other things. As with bedders, make sure you make friends with them as you’ll be seeing them an awful lot over the next few years.

Tutor

Responsible for your pastoral care. You should go to your DoS about academic concerns and your tutor for everything else.

Bursar

The financial manager of a college.

Clubs

Life/Kuda

It was called The Place, now is named Kuda but everyone calls it Life. No, I don’t know why. Sunday Life is a tradition.

Cindies/Ballare

It was called Cinderella Rockerfellas (‘Cindies’ for short) back in the nineties, now is named Ballare but everyone still calls it Cindies. No, I don’t know why. Wednesday Cindies is the best night to go out (Ed: really?).

Lola Lo’s

Always been called Lola's as far as I know. Peng smoking area. Thursday Lola's is the vibe but who on earth goes out on a Thursday?

Fez

Club in Cambridge – small, filled with smoke and good music. Sunday Fez is good but Life is more popular.

Turf

A club takeover – very popular nights out in Cambridge.

ArcSoc

This is actually the architecture society but ArcSoc is renown for its wavy nights.

Dangerspoons

The nickname for Spoons on a Saturday – apparently it is dangerous due to being filled with ‘Townies’. Wrong: Spoons on a Saturday is lit no matter what.

Sadly, this is not a clubSimon Lock

Junction

This massive venue in Cambridge which holds the best nights. Quite a trek away but worth it.

Footlights

Famous theatre club. Has some pretty great alumni including Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie and – of course – my love, my sweet, my angel: Richard Ayoade.

Formals

Formal

Elaborate traditional meals held by colleges. You’ll pay for them beforehand but they’re relatively cheap compared to other restaurants. You will have to wear a gown if you’re a member of the college (minus Kings) and be dressed relatively smart. In actual fact this means that boys have to wear suits and girls can get away with pretty much anything. Such is life.

Pennying

Pennying someone is when you make them down their drink by secretly putting a penny in their drink. There are many rules – if you penny when they have their hand on the glass, you drink. If you penny and there is already a penny in their glass (double pennying) – you drink. If they catch the penny in their mouth you drink. God. Aren’t we all just so wacky and kooky.

Five Pennying

If you put a five penny in someone's dessert before they pick up their cutlery, they have to eat the dessert without their hands. Quite rightly banned at most colleges as drunk students + foreign objects in desserts = choking hazard.

Engineer Penny

An engineer penny is a penny that has been folded in half (during these mystery practicals that Engineers have). And where exactly does this penny fit? You guessed it – your wine bottle. Meaning you have to down the entire bottle of wine if someone engineer pennys you (goes without saying – don’t do this).

Grace

We say a Latin grace before formal and after. You don’t have to know it or say amen.

Gardies

Restaurant in the town centre. Low-key one of the highlights of Cambridge. Vegetarian’s dream. Falafel is to die for.

Gown

All colleges apart from Kings must wear a  gown for matriculation and formals. Some people order online, some buy directly and others buy from college. You can borrow but it's a better investment to buy as you’ll be wearing them so often. They’re around £35. Gowns differ in design depending in college so in theory you can tell people apart through their gowns, but in reality? Of course you fucking can’t.

Gyp

Mini ‘kitchens’ shared by students. Well, I say ‘kitchens’ – most don’t have ovens so they don’t really count. Enough for beans on toast and pasta which is all any of us can can cook anyway.

Hawks

Members only society for sportsmen – you have to be a Blue or Half Blue. Female equivalent is the Ospreys.

Hall/Buttery

This is where you can buy college food. Very easy, you can just scan on your camcard. Some colleges have awful food and others amazing.

Intermission

Stopping your studies. Intermission is designed to give students time to recover from an “illness or other grave cause” that has made it impossible for them to continue their studies.

JCR

– The Student Body: acts like a student council, including but not limited to an ents, BME and welfare officer/s.

– Junior Common Room: room in college for everyone's use. 

This picture isn't meant to intimidate you. Sorry.Simon Lock

Matriculation

Matriculation is when you formally join the University roll. An unmatriculated student may not be allowed to stay a resident member of the college after their first term, so like...do make sure you turn up. Matriculation is a very ceremonial affair: you will wear a gown (you guessed it – minus Kings students), sign a declaration, have pictures taken and have a glitzy Matriculation dinner. Some college matriculate you on the first day and other wait a few days.  

May Week

Period just after exams where everyone just gets on it. This is the week of May Balls, June Events and garden parties. The thought of May Week is only thing that keeps us going during exam term.

May Week Sunday

The Sunday immediately after summer term where we basically get on it. Interchangeable with Suicide Sunday but this name is very controversial, so there was campaign to name it May Week Sunday instead.

Orgasm bridge

Real name is Garret Hostel Bridge (not as sensual, I will admit). The bridge got its name though the sound cyclists make when going uphill.

Ospreys

Members only society for sportswomen – you have to be a Blue or Half Blue. Male equivalent is the Hawks.

Oxford  

Rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge. Comes into fruition during Lent, which is when the majority of Varsity matches are held. Often called Oxf*rd. Look, I’m telling you all that Cambridge vs LSE is the real rivalry that we should all be focusing on. And I’m not just saying that because my ex goes there (I still hate you Mike and I hope you lead an unfulfilling life of misery and despair).

Pidge

Short for pigeon hole – it’s where your post will be held (unless they’re large parcels, by which case, a Porter will hold onto them).

Pitt Club

Poor man’s Bullingdon Club. Pretty sure you have to be a) male and b) have more than £7.47 in your account which sadly rules me out on both accounts. I’m sure they’re heartbroken not to have me in their midst. It’s okay boys, I’m sure you’ll recover someday.

Plodge

Porters’ lodge. Where you’ll collect your keys and post.

Practicals

Everyone at Varsity puzzled over this for an embarrassingly long amount of time. Give us a break, we’re all humanities students. According to my medic friend, practicals are for straight up learning and labs are more for testing.

Prelims

History, English, ASNAC and Classics freshers have prelims during the beginning of Easter term. Classics also have proper exams at the same time. Sucks to be you.

Sent down

Being expelled. Not very common. Or at least, very hushed up. Fun fact: you can be instantly expelled for jumping in the Trinity Fountain.

Sidgwick

Sidgwick is the home of most of the university's arts and humanities faculties.

Smoker

Mixture of sketches and stand-up put on by the Footlights – there has been a Lady Smoker and BME smoker of late.

Subject Slang

HSPS: God, this abbreviation deserves an article of its own.

HSPS stands for Human, Social and Political Sciences. You essentially study four subjects in your first year, the most popular being Sociology and Social Anthropology (the ‘Social’ part), and Politics and International Relations (the ‘Political’ part). The ‘Human’ part refers to subjects like Biological Anthropology.

People who specialise in their second year will start calling themselves “sociology” or ‘politics” students etc.

Compsci: Computer Scientists. Future billionaires, snap em up quick ladies.

Natsci: Natural Sciences – physical and biological sciences including Biology, Geology and Physics.

Engling: English Literature student.

PBS: Psychology and Behavioural sciences.

Mathmo: Mathematicians. Apparently Trinity Mathmos (trinmos) have their own moniker because they are just that unique.

MML: Modern and Medieval Languages.

ASNAC: Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic Studies. Snazzy.

Supervision (Supo)

Where students are taught by faculty fellows on a weekly basis, either one-to-one or in groups. Your college organises them.

Crist: for architecture students, this is where they will present their work.

The Mathematical bridge. Looks very. Um. Mathematical.Simon Lock

Stash

Stash is the name for items of clothing which have either your society, sporting club or college on them. A massive form of peacocking but everyone does it so… might as well order your college jumper now.

Spraying

After you finish your last exam, it is tradition for your friends to wait outside your exam hall and spray you with champagne. Of course, it’s actually prosecco ‘cos we’re not as bougie as we like to make out.

Swaps

Organised nights out, arranged by drinking societies. Two groups will meet and there will be games to win ‘captaincy’. Not as innocent as it sounds. I remember my college child asking me about swaps and whether they were just a meal in a restaurant and if so, what was the big deal? Oh my sweet, sweet summer child. So pure. So young.

Tab

- The Tab, another student newspaper.

- The slang for Cambridge students (short for Cantabridgians). Oxford has a puzzling saying of ‘shoe the tabs’ which is meant to insult us. It has kept me awake at night trying to work out what it means. I've lost years from my life. 

Thesp

Slang for a student actor. Prepare to change your profile pic upwards of 4x a month for publicity, dare you venture into this dark world.

UL

The University Library. Phallic symbol of Engling’s dream.

Van of Death/Uncle Franks and Van of Life

Two rival chip caravans. Van of Life is the one with the best cheesy chips. Don’t @ me.

Varsity

- Cambridge's oldest and only independent (TM) student newspaper (hi).

- Series of competition between Oxford and Cambridge, normally sporting. This is the time where all the stash appears. 

Violet

This pretty jazzy section of Varsity? You might have heard of it?

Terms

Michaelmas is the first term.

Lent is second term.

Easter (or exam) is the third term.

Townies

Basically the name for people in Cambridge who do not attend Cambridge University – including ARU students and locals. Saturday is known as Townie night and it’s rare for Cam students to go out.

Tripos

Synonymous for degree studies... typically tripos is broken into Part I and Part II. Tripos is one of those Cambridge words that you casually use in conversation to brag (my next article – how to casually remind people that you go to Cambridge University without actually ever bringing up the fact that you go to Cambridge University).

VKs

Staple drink of any Cambridge night out.

Websites

Raven

Cambridge’s web authentication service. You’ll need your username and password it to log into everything below.

Hermes

It’s your email. Bit of controversy as to whether it is pronounced like the designer brand (er-mes) or as the greek God (her-mees). Assuming it is named for delivering, let’s go with her-mees.

Moodle

On Moodle you can access lectures, powerpoint slides that are uploaded and past exam papers.

CAMSIS

Camsis is essentially your personal record. Your contact information will be on it, who your DOS and Tutor is, Transcripts etc. You will also use Camsis to register for your exams.

CAMCORS

Camcors is where you will be able to view your supervision reports (normally released after each term).

iDiscover

Soon to be your most visited site – humanities students, you better bookmark it now. iDiscover allows you to search the University’s libraries to find books, ebooks and articles. One of my engineering pals still hasn’t touched iDiscover and probably never will. Lucky.

Rest in peace Library Search, gone but not forgotten.

Week 5 Blues

Another Cambridge institution. Week 5 is around the time that people start to feel the crushing weight of pressure and loneliness. I feel that most days, don’t know why Week 5 gets all the attention.

Week

In Cambridge, the academic week starts on a Thursday, not a Monday. Does anyone know why? History students please message me if you know. Or English students. Anyone. I’m so lonely

Get used to this sight.Simon Lock.