Throughout Pomona's history, a unique and continually evolving idiom has helped shape the College's culture. Whether it was bloogling in the '50s or stacking in the '80s, this Sagehen slang has added linguistic spice to every age of campus life.
A 1958 article in The Student Life, headlined "A Lexicon of Pomona Jargon," elaborated on common usages of the day, mentioning such nicknames as Gus-Gus for Honnold Library and tangle for a school dance, Old Granny for Sumner Hall and Fuzz, which referred to Memorial Gymnasium. Seniors in the '50s are said to have met their dates at beau parlors, with some undoubtedly going on to engage in furtive bloogling, otherwise known as necking.
If, in those days, you had encountered a group of female students who referred to themselves as modern women, you might have expected an early form of a women's studies club, but you would have been wrong. Lani Weirick '53 reports that these young women enjoyed such activities as chugging beer at Loopie's (short for Guadalupe's) on Foothill Boulevard. Their less "modern" classmates who preferred a milder form of refreshment traveled farther east on Foothill to buy ice cream and were known as the frosty brigade.
It was not always as easy as it is now to get to a weekend party at Pomona--at least for some. For many years, female students such as Weirick endured lockout, otherwise known as curfew. To escape lockout, many participated in going over the wall--a phrase that pretty much speaks for itself. To do this, it might be necessary to penny the door--taping a penny over the lock mechanism to allow the door to close normally but not to lock.
Like modern women, the North Pitzer Wildlife Society, established years later, was something of an exercise in obfuscation. It wasn't a group wholly dedicated to the preservation of local fauna. Instead, Sagehens such as J.P. O'Connor '72 studied the wild life at Friday afternoon beer bashes in the Wash. The term the Wash, referring to the wooded area on the southeast corner of campus, has broadened in recent years to include the Sontag Greek Theatre, a frequent scene of weekend revelry.
Those days of yore--the '70s--were recalled by Greg Cook '72 and some other Sagehens recently when they held a meeting of the North Pitzer Wildlife Society on the 19,344-foot summit of Cotopaxi, in the Ecuadorean Andes.
The Oldenborg Center has been known for some time as the Borg. Perhaps it is just coincidental that a race of mechanically enhanced cybernetic beings called The Borg popped up in the television show Star Trek: The Next Generation. Sagehens, however, have been involved in writing and producing the Star Trek sequels, and have been known to subtly include a certain prime number in some episodes. The term the Borg, in any event, has been readily assimilated on campus.
Today at Pomona, the uninitiated might be mystified by a word such as Twonchy, a favorite of graduate Victor Liu '98. It may sound like an obscure portion of a tree, but it was originated by Lindsay Clothier '98 in reference to a popular Claremont destination, 21 Choices Frozen Yogurt. Twonchy is just one of many nicknames that Sagehens have coined over the years for off-campus hangouts. Before the days of the bakery called Some Crust, there was a pastry shop called Jensen's that was tuned in to the minds of students. Late on Friday nights, the owner would reopen the doors and sell day-old doughnuts at a reduced price. This led to doughnut runs, says Peter Osgood '81.
Sagehens have been fond of inventing their own terms for other aspects of campus life as well. Liu says that his class dubbed the Mudd-Blaisdell area, which includes the multicultural hall, the multi-culti. Before the Sumner House became a quaint bed-and-breakfast-style guest house, Osgood recalls its being used for alternate student housing. The students who lived there enjoyed growing vegetables and cooking their own food. Thus, Sumner earned the designation Veggie House.
Brian Schwartz '01 notes that prospective students who visit the campus while considering Pomona are called prospies--in the singular, prospy. He favors the acronym ODB for Oldenborg. In fact, he says, the kind of shorthand so entrenched in the military is in common use at the College, although it is all but indecipherable to outsiders, as in: "I found OIT within SACS, where they assured me I could find funding at ASPC with CCLA and reserve the space at the OCL." That apparently has something to do with information technology, student academic computing, the Associated Students office, the Committee for Campus Life and Activities and the Office of Campus Life.
Some honored Pomona traditions also have special names. Osgood has fond memories of chirping, a spectator sport still practiced at athletic events today. The instructions are as follows: "Basically, one lifted two fingers of the right hand, as if making the 'quotations' sign, and swung the fingers down to simulate a bird's pecking at something." Chirping is intended to torment the opposing team, but stacking is used to victimize a fellow student. "Friends" go into another student's room, carry out all the furniture, and fill the room with newspaper.
Terms such as Gus-Gus and Twonchy are gibberish, of course, beyond the Pomona campus. But that is part of the attraction. The language is not meant to be understood by outsiders. By definition, jargon is the specialized vocabulary of those who share a common experience. The nicknames that Sagehens use help to create and reinforce a community and culture specifically their own.
Susannah Howland, a student at Vassar College, was a Public Affairs intern during summer 2000.