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The Spike or Victoria College Review, June 1906

The Oxford Man

page 47

The Oxford Man.

The discussion of a subject such as this is obviously no ight task, and the reader's indulgence is craved if he wonders at being made the recipient of a collection of notes and wayward impressions of one, who with an open and unbiassed, though expectant mind, was suddenly transplanted into the midst of a luxuriant growth of prejudice and tradition. It is true that Oxford is associated with the glamour of culture and refinement, especially when viewed from afar, but like precious metal this does not lie exposed on the surface, and must be sought after with all the vigour of an intelligent mind.

The typical Oxford man, fresh from a big public school, probably with a glorious record and tradition of its own, comes up with several of his friends to the University, where the conditions are somewhat similar to those under which he has lived, except that now he has practically unlimited freedom. He has as much exercise as is good for him, he can talk as much school shop as he likes, he is bored at regular intervals, and he smokes a large pipe full of mild tobacco. Under such conditions what could life be other than enjoyable! Amongst the senior men at college he finds friends from his old school, and this is really quite an important consideration. He is thus in a position to choose what other friends he pleases. Such being the state of affairs, it is only natural that the members of a college should fall into a number of cliques or sets according to length of purse or the school from which they came.

Part of the public school polish consists of destroying originality and levelling the individual down to a uniform type, all of whose actions are regulated by "form." In consequence of this, it is not extraordinary to find that the people of especially brilliant intellect are in many cases the products of the private schools.

Such then is the Oxford freshman—an individual perfectly trained to fall into the groove of Varsity life—to look, talk, act, and dress like all his fellows.

We are now in a position to discuss the Oxford slang and to describe the Oxford dress, and to see that it is really a natural consequence of what has been described above.

page 48

With regard to the vernacular it may be said at the outset that the method itself is extraordinarily simple, though its application sometimes leads to weird results. Nouns are made to end in er, and preferably in ger, though there are a few survivals in gins. Words such as "brecker," "bedder," "sitter," "lecker," "ecker," etc., are natural enough, though "Ugger" (Union), "Jaggers" (Jesus), and "Wuggins" (Worcester) may be somewhat more surprising. But it is not a little astonishing to hear for the first time a man say quite seriously that he has just had a bad attack of "indejaggers."

In connection with the subject of costume, it is commonly supposed that the Oxford undergrad, walks about demurely, clad in cap and gown. As a matter of fact, on his way to lectures he wears what is left of his gown round his neck or else flying in ribands from his shoulders, whilst a cap is rarely seen. With light blue trousers, well turned up at the bottom to expose his green or decorated socks, which are encased in elegant dancing pumps, and with a waistcoat that puts the setting sun to shame, the Oxford "blood" strolls up and down the "High." The jackets usually worn are light in colour (at present it is fashionable to have a shade of green, though brown will probably be in fashion next term), and may be described as a degenerate style of Norfolk jacket with huge disfiguring buttons. Coloured flannel collars are just going out of vogue, but this is to be regretted, as a sky-blue collar with a purple tie on a background of a pink shirt is truly an elegant combination. With such a costume a headgear appears unnecessary, except sometimes in the afternoon, when a particularly ugly cap with an enormous peak is worn.

Such is the external appearance of the Oxford man; but you must not judge harshly, as he has a reputation all over the world, and "Oxford life" is a mystic phrase which covers a multitude of sins.

It has been thought that the fresh ideas of the Rhodes scholars would, if not immediately, at least eventually, exert some influence on Oxford. But this will not be so, just as the composition of an ocean does not change however fresh or huge be the rivers that empty their waters into it. That this is actually the case is evident for a variety of reasons. First of all, Oxford is typically conservative and has an obstinate tendency to resist any change whatsoever. Then again, as many of the Rhodes scholars appear to have been chosen entirely for their athletic qualifications, and as many others, especially in page 49 the colleges where they are in larger numbers, tend to unite together, whilst only a few penetrate into the inner circles, it must necessarily follow that their influence will be very slight indeed. At any rate, the advent of the Rhodes Scholars will expose the palpable ignorance of geography of the English schoolboy, who, whilst he knows ancient Greece to a parasang, yet knows Australia only as a place where they play cricket, and New Zealand merely as the land of the famous "All Blacks."

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