A Guide to Understanding Dartmouth Lingo

by Jacob Maguire | 9/12/18 9:00am

Unlike many other incoming first-year students, when Emma Chiu ’19 arrived at Dartmouth in the fall of 2015, she had previously heard the terms “flitz,” “FSP” and “BEMA” but only because she had watched a YouTube video of Conan O’Brien’s 2011 Commencement address at Dartmouth and heard him name-drop several examples of campus vocabulary.

Chiu, a rising senior, said that the address made her enthusiastic about what her future at Dartmouth would bring.

“It made me excited for the day when I could [re]watch [the speech] and finally be able to understand everything in it,” she said.

According to Kos Twum ’21 Dartmouth lingo appears to be unique to the College’s undergraduate community.

“Only undergraduates seem to be able to relate,” Twum said. “My brother, who studies at [the Geisel School of Medicine] but went to Ohio State for undergrad, seemed to have no idea what I was talking about when I told him to meet me on 3FB [third-floor berry] one day.”

Twum admitted that it took her a couple of academic terms to learn all of Dartmouth’s unique lingo, but she has since integrated phrases like “warm-cut” and “Blobby” into her everyday vocabulary. She has also developed an affinity for several words and phrases.

“‘Warm-cut’ is probably my favorite term,” Twum said, referring to the process in which students cut through warm buildings on their way to class in the winter, even if it does not constitute an actual shortcut. “I probably took a ‘warm-cut’ every day during winter term, and everyone does.”

Similarly, although she thinks that it “sounds kind of gross to say,” Twum thinks that the term “Blobby” — a nickname for the ornate lobby of Baker-Berry Library — “is very convenient because everyone knows exactly where it is” in the massive building, which contains more than 1.5 million volumes among 320,000 square feet.

Natalie Vaughan ’20 loves the term “flitz,” which denotes a flirtatious email that students send to one another via blitz, a common nickname for the campus’s Microsoft Outlook email system.

“The idea of sending a flirtatious email is so weird, but cool at the same time,” Vaughan said. “I’ve told friends about it back home and they’ve been shocked.”

Vaughan equally enjoys using the term “fritz,” which she defines as a blitz that students send to their friends or to people with whom they hope to become friends. She clarified that a “fritz” can consist of anything from a humorous blitz sent to one’s best friend to an email sent to an acquaintance about potentially getting a meal together.

“‘Fritz’ is unfortunately not used as often on campus as the word ‘flitz,’ but I’m hoping that it catches on and becomes a big thing,” Vaughan said. “I send fritzes all the time!”

As an upperclassman, Chiu remembers several terms fondly that were used more frequently during her freshman year at Dartmouth than @now, a full three years later.

“I like ‘LNC’ for ‘Late Night Collis’ but it’s not used that much,” Chiu said. “And ‘@now’ has been slowly dying but I hope that it will be brought back. As a ’19, I remember it being used a lot more my freshman year amongst all students, and I still use it in texts, blitzes and even out loud. People should use it more often.”

Not all terms on campus generate positive feelings and reactions from students, however. For example, Vaughn recalls feeling troubled her freshman year when she first learned about the “Dartmouth X”: a supposed phenomenon in which romantic desirability increases among male students and decreases among female students over the course of four years at the College.

“The ‘Dartmouth X’ surprised me the most [of all Dartmouth lingo] due to the sheer absurdity of it,” Vaughan said. “When I first heard about it my freshman fall, I became immediately worried about how Dartmouth’s culture perceives men and women because the whole concept is creepy, absurd and bothersome.”

While Vaughan still believes that the concept of the “Dartmouth X” is harmful to campus culture, she has learned over the course of her freshman and sophomore years that the “X,” while well-known in some circles, is not a prevailing orthodoxy among Dartmouth students.

“When you’re young and impressionable, it’s really easy to make a lot of assumptions about gender dynamics on campus when you first hear about the ‘Dartmouth X,’” Vaughan said. “The whole idea is disconcerting, to say the least, as a freshman. But over the course of my time here, I’ve realized that the ‘Dartmouth X,’ while still problematic, does not actually carry that much weight on campus and is more of a reputation rather than a social construct.”

Chiu also feels troubled about the stereotypes that the concept of the “Dartmouth X” creates about student desirability. She noted that her former professor for Psychology 11: “Laboratory in Psychological Science” mentioned to her that several former students had discussed conducting experiments about perception to test the validity of the concept of “the X.”

Chiu added that the concepts of “A-side” / “B-side” and being “facetimey” can be harmful on campus at times, but can be an effective “jab or roast” among friends as well.

Being “facetimey” involves spending time in public, high-traffic locations — such as Novack Café, FFB (First Floor Berry), Collis Student Center and KAF (King Arthur Flour Café) — with the objective of being seen. “A-side” and “B-side” describe social status, with “A-side” as the more desirable title.

Chiu said that being “facetimey” often has a mildly negative connotation, which can be unfair because many students spend time in public spaces on campus. Similarly, “A-side” and “B-side” can “in some ways be problematic” because they can connote “top-tier-ness or social capital” among student groups beyond the Greek system.

However, Chiu acknowledged, both terms can be humorous to use among friends because “when you’re using it ironically … it’s very self-aware.”

Overall, Vaughan believes that, even though Dartmouth’s array of unique terminology poses benefits and problems on campus, it ultimately reflects the College’s character.

“These terms are indicative of Dartmouth’s isolation because they [comprise] an inherent and obvious development given the school’s geographic location,” Vaughn said. “At the same time, [Dartmouth lingo] highlights the sense of community at the school and makes you feel part of a strong community.”

Recognizing that the assortment of idiosyncratic terms on campus can be puzzling for incoming freshmen, Chiu, Twum and Vaughan all encourage first-year students to ask upperclassmen if any terms confuse them.

“Don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t know what something means,” Chiu said. “Also, I think [lingo can be] fun to use, but don’t feel like you have to overdo it either.”

Twum said that Dartmouth’s unique terminology will eventually come naturally to students, so they absolutely should not obsess over it.

“My biggest advice [for incoming freshmen] is to avoid getting hung [up] about terms, because no one will make fun of you for using the wrong lingo,” Twum said. “Everything, including Dartmouth’s lingo, will come naturally by spring term — and probably before then.”

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: justify; font: 9.5px Baskerville} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: justify; font: 9.5px Baskerville; min-height: 11.0px} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} span.Apple-tab-span {white-space:pre}

Chiu is a former member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff.