A Short History of the English Language, as Spoken by the Most Strange Inhabitants of St. Albans School
Humor by Fred Horne '18
This report was originally published in the January, 2018 Edition of American Anthropologist.
The inspiration for the following history comes from a puzzling experience that befell me on the grounds of St. Albans School a fortnight past. I was meandering through the library, noting the local fauna as they scurried to lunch, when I happened upon a document, a packet of the latest World History readings. On the cover were these words: “Drs. Reed Ng, PhD, and Du Wang, MD.” How curious! I stood dumbfounded threescore seconds before the meaning finally struck me: the author was expressing his distaste for reading! You can imagine, Dear Reader, the extent of my amazement. Such ingenuity and intelligence used merely to express a desire not to do schoolwork! Naturally, my curiosity was piqued. I set myself to uncover what drove these strange creatures to such elaborate japes and knavery, to the creation of an entire dialect of English.
Responses to my inquiries varied in helpfulness: one called the language “an outpouring of a collective soul shared among the exploited student underclass...against their bourgeois oppressors”; another merely answered “gangu.” (The meaning of this word is unclear.) Nonetheless, what you see before you today is the culmination of my two weeks’ research into the idiosyncratic and convoluted world of St. Albans slang. My time and resources were limited, so I was forced to neglect the darker and more twisted parts of the lexicon, but what I present here should suffice as an introduction to that vast world.
The first words of the language appear with the Class of 2015. Their signature words were “uff” and “terra-good,” the first a moderate exclamation of displeasure, the second equivalent to “very good.” From the initial terra-good came “yerra-bad,” or “very bad.” The second word owes obvious phonological and morphological debts to the first. What drove this change was the innerlichkeit, or inwardness, that has characterized the language’s growth from its inception. The small size of the creative pool, some three hundred souls, reduces its linguistic viability, for there are too few people to create and sustain an autonomous dialectic community. The students cannot invent enough new words. New words, therefore, are inherently self-referential, for the students must draw out rare flashes of true creativity—terra-good, Magwitch, cass, and the like—into dozens of new and increasingly vapid derivatives. This circularity both restores needed freshness and ensures the language always teeters on the brink of triviality.
The Class of 2017 served as the fulcrum of linguistic development from the Class of 2015’s graduation to their own. One of their great contributions is the odds-zucchini duality. In standard English, “odds” is a gambling game. A challenger and a challenged agree on a dare and a range of numbers; on the count of three, both people say a number within the range. If they say the same number, the challenged must complete the dare. After the first try, the players repeat the procedure, but with their roles reversed: the original challenger must complete his own dare if the two guess the same number. At St. Albans, odds took on a sarcastic, self-aware meaning. To say “odds” asks, “what are the chances I will do this?”, the answer being “none” or “very low.” In odds, we see the first indications of the language’s deep sarcasm. Rarely does one use St. Albans slang without one or more layers of sarcasm. The roots of sarcasm itself shine light here: sarcasm comes from the Greek “σαρκάζειν,” meaning “to tear flesh,” and this darkness is apparent throughout the language.
“Zucchinis” comes from different roots but means the same thing as odds. In Form II, 8th grade, a certain math teacher used to say “ok ok ok” to a student to acknowledge his point or silence him. From “ok ok ok” came “oak oak oak,” the pronunciation spelling of this teacher’s catchphrase. In freshman year, the Class of 2017 discovered “zounds,” an exclamation of surprise, in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The two words melded, for obscure reasons, to form “zooks.” From zooks came zucchinis, an obvious phonological relative, and at some point both came to mean odds. Zooks is doubly ironic because it appropriates a teacher’s tool and references a ridiculous Shakespearean word simultaneously. Another word, “zatch,” also comes from zooks. Zatch can mean anything from “odds” to “bad, useless, or annoying” to an insult. All of these meanings flow from the original zooks, again demonstrating how new words incorporate and elaborate on the meanings of the old.
The third great section of the St. Albans language is the “ass” suffix. Simply put, add “ass” to the first one or two letters of a word, and you have a new word. As one can imagine, this abbreviation causes much confusion, because multiple words have the same abbreviation. For example, I once overheard a student say, “Hey, could you please sice me the nasses from Ms. Dass's lectass on Wass Shass's The Tass?” How befuddling! After several minutes of scalp-scratching, I puzzled it out. The student asked, “Hey, could you please give me the notes from Ms. Denizé’s lecture on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest?” In that one sentence lie all the buffoonery and erudition of the whole language.
Since the Class of 2017 departed, the slang vocabulary has begun to implode for want of original ideas. The only truly new words of the last six months have been “mooch” and “Dr. Wang,” both adaptations of standard English to a sarcastic purpose. More typical are words like “case,” a corruption of “cass,” sarcastically meaning “I care.” Here my investigation of two weeks ends. It is yet to be seen whether the language will gain new life or dwindle into self-referential meaningless.
Dr. Harry Lang, PhD, MD, JD, DA, RE, AL
Chair of Anthropology
University of Phoenix, Online College
Hosted by Niall McDonald '18 and Charlie Hansen '18
Produced and edited by Alexandre LaBossiere '18
By Zack Martin '18
Last Thursday night, the Bulldogs played in a hard-fought IAC Tournament Quarterfinal at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes. The Dogs had a tough time getting going on the offensive end, shooting 28% from the floor and 50% on free throws. The highest scorer for STA was Michael Katsock ‘20 with 11 points. The Dogs played fantastic defense, led by Collin Nnamene ‘18 with 15 rebounds and 3 blocks, and were able to hold the Saints to just 52 points. However, this wasn't enough to overcome their own scoring woes. As Collin Nnamene ‘18 put it, “It was a very exciting game, we just couldn’t hit anything.” The Bulldogs’ season ended with the 40-52 loss. Although it was a disappointing finish to the winter sports season, there were still many memorable BEEF games over the past few months. Hopefully the energy at those can be taken into the final stretch of BEEF events this Spring.
By Chloe Conaghan '19
This past week, Cathedral Varsity Basketball definitely grew as a team. On Tuesday, we had our senior night game against Holton. Our shots weren't falling and we didn't have our best game. We ended up losing by a couple points but fought hard till the end. Most importantly, we stayed united as a team and worked hard in practice on Wednesday to re-commit ourselves to our team goal and shake off the uncharacteristic loss. On Thursday, we played away at St Andrews. With a huge game from Lillian Keller ‘19 who scored almost 20 points, we fought like we never had before. In the press we were forcing turnovers and played smart defense. With hussle plays from both Davy sisters (Nina ‘21 and Naomi ‘18), we came back from an 11-point deficit. In the end, we lost by 2, but we progressed as a team and played to our potential. Next week, we anticipate wins. COME TO OUR PLAYOFF GAMES :).
By Alex Giannattasio '18
In thinking about leaving NCS, one image which keeps recurring in my mind is that of the enormous gothic backdrop of our campus. Oftentimes the Cathedral seems like just that—a backdrop. It seems like it’s just something we walk by on the way to class or struggle past while fighting to bear the wind tunnel. However, every C day the Cathedral proves that it has more than just an aesthetic appeal, and is, in fact, a defining component of the NCS community. The space of the Cathedral alone demands a sense of awe and respect which is unparalleled by any other structure on campus. I think every NCS girl feels a sense of privilege to be able to spend time in the Cathedral, especially those of us who may realize that when we leave we cannot take the Cathedral and its beauty with us. What makes the Cathedral a unifying force in the NCS community, however, is the time we spend there together. Cathedral services are one of the few, if not the only, times the entire NCS community gathers, bringing the Upper, Middle, and Lower Schools’ students, as well as the faculty and staff, together in the same space. This unified time weaves a thread throughout the community, bringing together groups and girls of different ages who may not interact on a daily basis. Lower schoolers and middle schoolers look to high schoolers and imagine what their lives will be like in a few years, while high-schoolers adore the performances of the Lower School Guild and Chorus. Even beyond our normal C-day services, the Cathedral brings us closer together as a community in a way no other activity or building does on our campus. Lessons and Carols is a service fondly remembered, so much so that alumni religiously return each year. Likewise, one of my favorite services is when the seniors walk in with the fourth graders during the opening Cathedral service, setting a tone of unity for the coming year. This sense of unity is one which grows within classes as well as throughout different age groups, percolating down to the younger grades. Even as a senior I vividly remember my time as a fourth grader in Cathedral, suggesting that maybe our time there has a more lasting impact than we realize during the bustle of our everyday schedules. Moreover, the Cathedral acts as a unifying force while creating a sense of sisterhood between us NCS girls. We pride ourselves on being a diverse community but one factor which we all share is our time spent in and love for the Cathedral. I can only speak for myself but I am willing to bet that when this year’s seniors leave NCS, and later grades to come, we will always come back to gather in the Cathedral, like eagles returning to the nest.
By Liam Warin '20
Regardless of the quantity of furniture present, the “Skounge” is the premier hangout spot at St. Albans. Its place on the third floor of Marriott Hall is integral not only due to its proximity to Senior Circle but also due to its windows, which allow viewing of the Deck and the Little Field. Many people have started bringing in hammocks and TVs to spice up life in this ever-vibrant place. The Sky Lounge is an almost senior-exclusive area, and other grades rarely try to stay here.
The library is an amazing place to hang out and study alike. In the morning, many students gather here to go over homework, to socialize, and to sleep. The library is used by all grades at all times. Having the back rooms are a major benefit to those who want privacy in conversation or studying. Not to mention, phones are always allowed here, as the librarians do not enforce the phone rule requiring you to ask them for permission. However, food and drink are strictly prohibited. If a librarian catches you with such substances, he won’t be too pleased. The area near Mr. Eagles’s office is also a very fun place to hang out, especially when the TV is there. Even if you don’t want to study, the library is a great place to hang out during all times of the day.
Sam’s Bar is the most populated hangout area at the beginning of any flex or ensemble period. Its food and drinks are unparalleled (mostly because there is no other spot to buy food on campus other than Open City), and the tables nearby are great for snacking and quickly sitting down to talk with friends. Usually a freshmen-occupied area after the initial food-buying time, Sam’s Bar allows for long conversations, and its window wells provide a safe place to leave a book bag. Phones are allowed here, but Mr. Hansen’s room is nearby, so make sure to put them away when leaving the area. Sam’s Bar is a great place to be during any flex or ensemble time, and not just because of the food.
A much smaller space than many of those on this list, the Fishbowl is good for any sort of activity. Not much studying is done here, but the swivel chairs and TV make it a blast. Because anyone can connect to the TV with his phone, groups in the fishbowl often watch movies or YouTube videos whilst rapidly spinning around in their chairs. Though the fishbowl is usually occupied by seniors during office hours, all grades use the Fishbowl during the rest of the day. Additionally, its closeness to Sam’s Bar makes it a prime spot to eat food and drink beverages. Although the Fishbowl is small, its many utilities make it a great place to hang out.
MH 200 Level Classrooms:
The MH 200 Level Classrooms offer the sophomores a manageable space to hang out. Due to essentially all of the other spaces being taken, the sophomores resort to this area, but they make the best of it. Each classroom has a marker and a whiteboard and lots of desks, allowing for large group conversations and lots of banter. Food and drinks are prohibited, along with phone usage, making these rooms less optimal to stay in. Despite their deterrents, the MH 200 Level Classrooms are a good place for somewhat large groups to hang out and chill during ensemble and flex periods.
The Glass Boxes are usually used for storing books and bags during lunch periods, but they double as a hangout spot after school. This space is essentially just for those waiting for their rides to arrive at Senior Circle. Though the boxes are small, each room’s two tables and many chairs allow for smaller-sized groups to converse and crack jokes without anyone hearing. Because people only use the Glass Boxes after school, phones are used, though food and drink fail to make appearances. The Glass Boxes are also a good place to wait for your ride.
Roli’s Room is a spot where anything goes. Although it’s used almost exclusively by the Juniors, its juxtaposition to Sam’s Bar allows it to shine. With its projector and many desks, anything goes. Phones are often used here (with Roli’s permission, of course), but food is not eaten, nor are beverages drunk. The area is very large, allowing for much tomfoolery and lots of laughter. Roli’s Room is amazing for any sort of activity, whether it be studying or conversing.
By Bota Saudabayeva '18
Although relegated specifically for senior use, the senior room is the place to be for lunch, office hours, and free periods (if you have time to waste conversing, napping, and snacking). Stocked with Terra Chips, seltzer, and cheese blocks galore, the “Senior Eighteen” is a heavy rival to the “Freshman Fifteen.” A perfect way to bond with people one usually doesn’t have classes with, the senior room is an oasis from the academic rigor of NCS.
The Student Commons, when not at its loudest peak, arguably has the softest and most comfortable couches for napping, as well as the sturdiest desks for studying. Not to mention, the quiet room in the back, usually reserved for upperclassmen, is perfect for intimate conversations and last-minute essay editing. One downside: gutsy students who talk freely even under a death glare from a student cramming for a quiz. As someone who’s been on both sides of this delicate divide, this room is open territory for free and savage shushing.
Sophomore and Junior Lounges:
Bridging the space between the Headmistress’ office and that of the Dean of Student Life, the sophomore and junior lounges are comfortable congregation spots on F day mornings and for after-sports study sessions. Although too open for discrete conversation, the privately delegated lounges build a sense of spatial unity in both classes as they struggle over doing their homework without a proper desk.
The classroom of a favorite teacher:
If tears are to be shed or snacks stolen from homerooms, the proper place to do so is in the room of one’s favorite teacher. Whether up all four hundred flights of Hearst’s stairs or across the way in Woodley, the cozy room of a teacher who cannot go home without feeling rude to the crying soul in front of them is the perfect place to detox. Of course, upperclassmen do receive special time-rights to their favorite teachers; it’s only fair with the accumulation of hours spent at the institution. If time is needed, underclassmen should feel free to fill out and submit the correct “Office Hours Time Assurance” forms found in Ms. Clark’s room at least five school days in advance lest they be shooed away by a junior or senior.
The library is a shining gem of studying locations. The couches are sturdily comfortable, yet a smidge too hard in efforts to discourage naps; the tables and view of the Woodley courtyard inspire productivity and perhaps a #studygram. The Sister’s Cafe is faithfully stocked with hot water and tea packets for a relaxing caffeine kick, and the atmosphere is serene and filled with the scent of textbooks and the wonderful research collection upstairs. The intimate rooms and glass boxes with closed doors invite project collaboration and a space to watch Netflix while polishing a lab report.
By Ellie Bailey '19
It’s an ordinary day in the cafeteria at NCS. Floods of underclassmen rush in at the beginning of B lunch and attempt to form lines at the buffet while students with A lunch, mainly upperclassmen, attempt to cut the line, paper plates in hand, to snag some food before their next class.
After the rush at the beginning of B lunch, students disperse to eat their food. Some will eat in the lunchroom whereas others will sit on the Cathedral lawn if the weather is warm. A particularly rebellious bunch will head to the student commons or their respective grade lounges to scarf down their food, despite rules that ban such behavior.
Many students will eat during times that are not their assigned lunch period, such as during a free ensemble or the Club block. Only 9.3% of the forty-three NCS students polled reported never eating food from the cafeteria outside of their designated lunch period. Students and teachers rarely eat together unless it is a special #facultystudentlunch. Brigitte Meyer says she appreciates NCS’s dining system: “I like having the option to eat during a free and use lunch to study or vice versa.”
NCS students can also eat at Open City if their schedule (and wallet) permits. 60% of NCS students polled stated that they do not eat food from the cafeteria at least once a cycle. Only seniors can leave campus for lunch, but other students can enjoy food they bring from home, snacks from the bookstore, or food from Open City.
Meanwhile, across the Close at St. Albans, no students have lunch until the equivalent of NCS A lunch. Students are required to eat lunch in the refectory, the St. Albans dining room, at assigned tables with teachers, unless they are floating. Meals are served family-style. Jack Tongour believes that “family-style is great for the community aspect but a lot of [the food] gets thrown away… Seating is good [when it is assigned]. It would be cliquey otherwise, but the food system causes too much food waste.”
Floating at STA is an alternative to eating at assigned tables. Students submit applications on floatfloat.com or are chosen randomly to eat elsewhere due to lack of space in the refectory. Names are chosen each table rotation.
Lawson Karppi says that “A lot of people float for consistency. It’s chaotic sitting at a lunch table because every day there’s a new table question to decide who will clear the table. There’s a sense of security in knowing you just go to the line, find a spot outside or wherever, and then, when done, put your plate away in the kitchen yourself.”
There are pros and cons to each school’s lunch style. At St. Albans, students can meet other students and teachers that they might not have otherwise met. However, NCS’s dining system allows students to enjoy a more nonchalant dining experience, relax with friends between classes, and take food on the go if they need to cram for a test next period.
By Kubair Chuchra '18
From preventing eating in the hallways to stopping students from cheating on exams, honor and discipline play an integral role in keeping STA and NCS safe and moral communities. Here is a closer look at how the two school handle these two issues:
Punishments for dress-code violations at the schools vary both in severity and consistency. At STA, most teachers respond to a student’s missing blazer, loose tie, or unshaved beard with a gentle reminder of the rules and a request that the student fix the issue as soon as possible. If the issue becomes a pattern, STA’s more hardline teachers will require the student to meet with their form dean. Most of the time, this meeting results in another reminder of the dress-code rules and why they are in place.
NCS teachers also often give verbal warnings to first-time dress-code violators. Unlike at STA, however, if an NCS student violates the dress code multiple times or the wrong teacher happens to see them in the hallway, the student can find themselves serving a detention.
Aside from breaking the dress code, NCS students can serve detention for skipping Chorale, being late to a class five times or more during a semester, eating food in the hallway, going off-campus as a non-senior, and driving down to the Athletic Center. In other words, NCS faculty members can give a student detention for any rule violation they see fit.
“Detention is basically punishment through boredom,” says Sophie Dunn ‘18, who received detention earlier this year for wearing leggings. “You just have to help a teacher with organization or miscellaneous tasks for an hour on a Wednesday.”
Though detention is a frequent punishment at NCS, it is unheard of at STA. “I can’t imagine an STA where I would have to show up to school an hour early just for something like parking on Garfield or eating in the Sky Lounge,” says Max Niles ‘18. “That just seems bonkers.”
Certain STA and NCS teachers enforce minor rules through equally quirky means. Ms. Jessica Clark, NCS Dean of Students, reminds students of rules through hashtags like #fivelates=detention and #NOtosneakers #notatcathedral, and Mr. Michael Hansen, STA Computer Science Department Chair and well-known rule enforcer, does the same with acronyms like H.A.S.F.O.B. (Halls And Stairways Free Of Belongings). Most teachers, however, stick to reciting the rules.
STA and NCS administrators respond to major rule infractions with different takes on the same method. Students at both schools caught lying, cheating, stealing, under the influence at a school event, or violating any other major school rule can expect to go before an honor or discipline council made up of both their peers and faculty members. At STA, four faculty members and all five elected senior prefects make up the honor council. Likewise, four faculty members, the student body head prefect, and the senior class president and vice president serve on the discipline council. Though the honor and discipline council are used in most cases at STA, school administrators can and have taken disciplinary action against students without the use of them.
NCS’s honor and discipline councils are set up slightly differently. Elected by their peers to serve a two-year term at the end of their sophomore year, two junior and two senior representatives serve on the honor council alongside of two faculty members, the dean of students, and the head of Upper School. NCS’s discipline board is comprised of two student representatives, also elected at the end of their sophomore year, two faculty members, and the grade dean for the student in question. Unlike at STA, NCS’s honor and discipline board representatives are not necessarily members of Student Government, though this year’s NCS senior discipline board representative, Katie Skoff ‘18, is also NCS’s student government president.
After an honor or discipline hearing at NCS, the respective committee recommends a consequence to Head of School Ms. Kathleen Jamieson, who makes the final decision. The next day, a member of the honor or discipline posts an announcement describing the meeting and the decision on NCS’s student government bulletin board, without mentioning the students name. At STA, Head of Upper School Dr. Benjamin Labaree replaces Ms. Jamieson’s role in the process and the STA head prefect makes an announcement about the meeting and decision at lunch.
Though both STA and NCS make similar information regarding honor and discipline cases public, STA’s lunch announcements can be more revealing than NCS’s subtle student government bulletin board signs. By presenting such information to the entire school at once during lunch, the STA system, especially in the case of a suspension, makes it easier for students to deduce who among their peers faced the discipline or honor committee simply by observing who is and isn’t at school that day.
At NCS, publicity around major disciplinary and honor issues generally remains low. “We make a sincere effort to protect the identity of whoever is involved in the hearing,” says Jordan Gasho ‘18, one of the two senior honor board representatives.
These varying levels of publicity may nod at larger differences between how STA and NCS students perceive discipline and honor. After all, the two institutions are quite different culturally, despite being similar logistically.