16 'Spiffy' Words College Students Used In 1916
Just about a century ago, an international student at a college in the United States was telling someone what she likes best about the English language: American slang. "I must learn it," she said. "It is so unexpected."
For example, she was surprised to learn — according to a November 1916 edition of the sorority publication, the Trident -- that "brick" was the masculine equivalent of "peach" because the former was a "term of approval" for a man and the latter was a term of approval for a woman.
Crabbing And Scabbing
To further explore the matter of American college slang, the staff of the Trident sent out questionnaires to 52 chapters and affiliate groups across the nation. They asked Tri Delta members to send in slang terms that were in vogue on college campuses, such as the University of Vermont, Stetson University in Florida, the University of Wisconsin, Stanford University in California and Franklin College in Indiana.
The "unexpected" American college slang words, as published in the Trident, included:
Some of the words on the Tri Delt list traveled across the country and through time. Spiffy and spoofing may always be with us.
But some of the words were confined to specific campuses.
The college campus, says Connie C. Eble — a linguist in the English department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill — sometimes is the most effective community for the development of geographically restricted slang words and phrases. "For example," she says, "students at UNC-Chapel Hill call the evangelical preachers who proselytize on campus Pit Preachers, because they hold forth in an area on campus called the Pit. The phrase Pit Preacher would not make sense on another campus."
Students also have original names for buildings, says Eble, author of the 1996 Slang and Sociability: In-Group Language Among College Students, "and these of course vary from campus to campus. The most prominent one here is the Dean Dome." Officially, it is the Dean E. Smith Center for student activities.
And she points to another term, "though it may not be slang but rather a highly informal regionalism — that refers to Carolina is Cackalacky." She adds: "One can be either from North Cackalacky or South Cackalacky."
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