Fifty years ago this fall, a “glossary of current Hamilton slang” appeared in the Alumni Review, with a no-doubt risky wish from Editor Robert Hevenor: “We hope parents of freshmen will find it useful.” While a hardy handful of those linguistic nuggets have survived — a television remains a tube, the cool still wear shades, and the straight arrows are eternally being dumped on — many others have been relegated to the dustbin of history.
A glance through the ’62 lexicon, excerpted below, convinced us not only that a look back would be fun for generations of alumni, but also that the time has come for an update. What was the best slang — wait, make that the best printable slang — being slung during your time on the Hill? Send terms and definitions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Hill Slang” and your name and class year, and we’ll compile a glossary for the ages in an upcoming issue.
For better or for worse, it’ll be a real gasser.
ACE, verb. To achieve an unexpected “A” in an examination, term paper, speech, etc.
ADVANCED GOD, noun. Title of any course in religion beyond the elementary one.
BENNIES, noun. From “beneficial rays of the sun.” When available in Clinton, bennies are generally soaked up on steeply sloping fraternity house roofs where the spectacle can be enjoyed by the public.
BLAZE, verb. To carry on in an uncool manner. To flail (which see) more or less unsuccessfully. Noun: blazer — one who blazes.
BULL ROAR, noun. A fabrication or tall story. Frequently refers to alleged adventures at Skidmore, Wells, New York City, etc.
CHIT-CHAT, noun. A public speaking course.
DOUBLE FLAG, noun. A complete failure. “FF.”
DUMP ON, verb. To denigrate, cast aspersions upon or reprimand. Generally a prerogative of the associate dean and full professors.
FLAIL, verb. Successful or cool blazing. To create reasonable and/or amusing amounts of confusion.
FUNNY BOOK, noun. A publication containing pictures and biographies of all freshmen. Used widely by fraternity rushing committees and absent-minded teachers.
GASSER, noun. Anything which is either very good or very bad, as in the expression, “Man, that was a real gasser!”
HORROR SHOW, noun. In certain fraternities, the aftermath of a zoo (which see). Frequently features the twist with percussion solos, and often occurs on Sunday morning.
JOCK TIME, noun. Time for mandatory physical education classes.
LUNCH, verb. To throw up. The less sophisticated say blow lunch, but this is discouraged in the prestige group.
PEBBLES, noun. Elementary Geology.
RATS, noun. Psychology.
ROLL, verb. To go somewhere — Cazenovia, Skidmore, Vassar, etc. Interchangeable with bop.
SCREAMER, noun. A total failure. Normally used with the verb “take”: to take a screamer in a test.
SHADES, noun. Dark glasses worn while soaking up bennies.
SHOT DOWN, verb. To have one’s date fail to appear at a party. Cf. stood up (archaic).
STRAIGHT ARROW, noun. A student who studies, goes home on house-party weekends, writes his family three times a week and approves of compulsory Chapel.
STUD, noun. A student who cares about his appearance. Frequently appears for a public speaking assignment in madras shorts and jacket.
TAKE IN THE SHOW, verb. To attend Sunday Chapel.
TUBE, noun. Any television set.
TURNED OFF, adj. Angry, put out. The result of having been shot down.
ZOO, noun. The stage at a houseparty which precedes a horror show. Also, Dunham Residence Hall.