Glossary of Terms

Cloaca Maxima. Courtesy of Princeton University Archives
Cloaca Maxima. Courtesy of Princeton University Archives
Princetoniana presents the following glossary of words and terms considered unique to Princeton's campus. The list is far from complete and is, like the Princetoniana site itself, a work in progress.

Ace: A grade of 1 in a course, quiz or test. v.t. to receive a 1. This was a pre-alpha grading scale; the switch occurred mid-20th century.

Andy's Tavern: Legendary dive on Alexander Street; hangout of renowned basketball coach Pete Carril, until it was converted into a sushi bar in the 1990s.

Astrogut: Popular nickname for Astronomy 202. No final, no midterm, no papers, no problem sets; just four quizzes.

The Balt: Familiar name for the Baltimore Dairy Lunch, a Nassau Street diner that was a popular student hangout for four decades, until it closed in 1963.

Beanie: Identifying cap worn by freshmen, as required by the sophomore class circa 1940.

Beer jacket: Jacket that is exclusive to the senior class; now known as class jacket.

Bicker: A member-selection process for six of the 11 independent eating clubs, where the majority of upperclassmen eat their meals.

Bonfire: Ceremonial event that occurs when the Princeton football team defeats both Harvard and Yale in one year, following the second of the two games. 

Canes: Fashion accessory circa 19th century that was often customized. In 1869, the sophomore class attempted to ban freshmen from carrying canes, leading to fights that were formalized into Cane Spree.

Clapper theft: Theft of Nassau Hall's bell clapper that originated as a prank to delay curfew and/or avoid morning classes, which eventually became simply a prank to enhance class pride, circa 19th century.

Clay pipe: Long-stemmed ceramic pipe that was given to each class member on Class Day and then collectively thrown at the Cannon on Cannon Green to mark the end of undergraduate life. This tradition, begun in the 19th century, lasted well into the 20th century, long after clay pipes were in practical use.

Cloaca Maxima: A centralized below-grade stone and brick outhouse facility that was informally named after the Roman sewer system and located behind the Whig and Clio buildings circa 1861. This was considered a major advance in facilities because previous outhouses were subject to fires.

Dinks: see Beanie.

The Dinky: Familiar name for the shuttle train that connects Princeton to the Northeast Corridor trainlines at Princeton Junction; at 2.9 miles, it is the shortest scheduled commuter rail line in the country.

Flour picture: Informal class photo circa early 20th century that became a tradition after sophomores covered freshmen with flour following the latter's class photo. 

Freshman caps: see Dinks.

Gut-hopper: One who plans his schedule so as to squeeze in the greatest number of gut courses.

Hat lines: A line of students with identically colored hatbands to indicate membership in an eating club, circa late 19th century.

Hatbands: A silk ribbon band that indicated class year or prep school color, circa late 19th century. Freshmen were not permitted to wear them on their hats.

Head shaving: Traditional freshman-sophomore barbering contest in which students try to shave their class numerals on unsuspecting members of the other side. Banned after 1959 excesses.

Holder Howl: A loud, minute-long, cathartic student wailing that occurs in Holder Courtyard at midnight before every Dean's Date, when all written work is due. See Whitman Wail.

Import: Male or female who does not go to Princeton and is brought in for the weekend as a date.

Keycept: Informal gathering of six to 10 freshmen and one junior for orientation and inter-class friendship; sponsored by the Orange Key.

Math for Plants: Popular nickname for Math 101.

Nude Olympics: A group run performed naked in Holder Courtyard on the night of the first snow of the season, circa 1970; now banned.

Orange Key: Founded in 1935, the Orange Key Guide Service is a student organization that offers student-led tours of campus and shares Princeton's history, traditions and culture with prospective students and the broader community.

Physics for Poets: Popular nickname for Physics 111.

PJ&B (Princeton Junction and Back): A nickname for the shuttle train that runs between Princeton Station and Princeton Junction Station, circa late 19th century; also known as the Dinky.

Poler's recess: Circa early 20th century, a loud celebration at 9 p.m. every evening during final exams. Bells, horns and other instruments of noise were employed simultaneously to enforce a campus-wide study break.

Rocks for Jocks: Popular nickname for Geology 201.

Rustification: A penalty involving expulsion, circa 19th century.

Whitman Wail: A communal cry of despair that reverberates through Whitman College at midnight before every Dean's Date, when all written work is due. See Holder Howl.