THE Acta Columbiana has recently finished a series of articles on "Intercollegiate Slang," which merit rather more attention than they have received from the college press.
The author opens with remarks about the word pony. At Cornell the word has a different meaning from that which it bears nearly everywhere else, being used to signify a crib, or other unlawful aid used at examinations or recitations. At Bowdoin a crib is known as a fakir, and at Yale it is a skin. The author - Richard Grant Black is his name - makes one or two unimportant mistakes with regard to the few original slang words in use here. Snab for girls, he tells us, is a Harvard word. He may be right, but I think very few undergraduates at present would know what it meant, and it is not to be found in Hall's "College Words and Customs," published here in 1856. Now, as Mr. Black himself says, "The college vocabulary is very slowly enlarged, . . . but once let a phrase become firmly established, and it is immortal." Such a convenient general word would scarcely have had time to spring up and die since 1856. The best of our original words is doggy, a very expressive term, which - with the noun dog, derived from it - is almost unknown out of Cambridge.
To cut, the only word we have for voluntarily omitting recitation or chapel, has a number of synonyms. At Columbia they prefer to slope, at Michigan University they bolt, and in some of the western "educational institutions" they skate Mr. Black is unable to find derivations for these words. Slope is to be found in Hotten's Slang Dictionary, meaning "to decamp, run off," and is called an Americanism. Cut is found in the same place, meaning "to stop, cease to do anything."
When we make a brilliant recitation we squirt, or, more commonly, rush. With us this "consummation devoutly to be wished" is the result of grinding or digging. At Williams they grub and make a high-ti.* At the University of Virginia, curl was their synonym for this successful ending of work. At Princeton grinding is called poling, from the verb to pole.
What we call a flunk or a dead, namely, a total failure, is known differently elsewhere as fess (West Point), smash (Wesleyan), and burst (several Southern colleges). The Acta makes a mistake in not noticing the fact that our word mucker applies only to persons not in college. The collegiate rowdy is known as a scrub, which I think is another word originated here, though undoubtedly drawn from English sources. At Columbia a scrub is dubbed a ploot, a prune, or a plum. At Yale a peculiarly suggestive phrase, slum, is general.
At Harvard we don't haze Freshmen any more, but at West Point they still devil a Pleb., and at Brown they soap the neophyte, - perhaps because he needs it.
Some curious things may be learned by any one who will take the trouble to think a little about slang like this, - slang of the better kind, not that of the streets, - and it is a pity that some student of philology has not taken up the subject of slangology with care. I think he would be well rewarded.
* I have been unable to find this word in any of the Williams Athenaeum's utterances, but Hall credits that college with it in "College Words."