Swatties or Swarthmoreans?

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

People who go to Swarthmore are Swatties, right? Not according to the About Swarthmore website, which calls us Swarthmoreans. We decided to find out what the reason for this was, and received this answer from Jeff Lott, the Senior Publications Editor and editor of the Swarthmore College Bulletin:

“I have been at Swarthmore since 1990. Around the time I was hired, the term ‘Swatties’ was just entering the campus lexicon, derived from the clever new campus-slang abbreviation of ‘Swarthmore’ to ‘Swat.’ I don’t exactly know when ‘Swat’ first appeared, but a search of old issues of The Phoenix in the late 1980s might yield the answer.

“The use of ‘~ans’ or ‘~eans’ remains the grammatically correct and dictionary approved way of indicating that something or someone is ‘of or belonging to’ a place, institution, or group. People who live in America are called Americans; those from Europe are Europeans, etc. (It can also indicate a resemblance to something, as in ‘Mozartean.’) Our College style guide does not mention the use of ‘Swat,’ but those of us who edit Swarthmore’s publications and Web site generally allow it only in direct quotes. This is particularly true in the Swarthmore College Bulletin, which I edit. ‘Swat’ and ‘Swatties’ are relatively unknown to (and, to be honest, grating to the senses of) alumni who graduated before about 1990. (Exceptions have been made for Admissions Office literature, which have promoted the use of ‘Swat’ and ‘Swatties.’ A recent admissions publication is titled ‘THEN-SWAT-NOW.’) Although ‘Swatties’ is an artful shorthand and has been almost universally adopted by students and young alumni, but it is not standard usage. Thus, it has not (yet) been adopted as part of our standard style.

“There have been other terms for Swarthmoreans. In the 1950s, one was a ‘Swarthmoron.’ Like ‘Swatties,’ that term was never officially adopted by the College as a way of indicating membership in our community.”

We searched the Phoenix archives, and, sure enough, the first appearence of the word Swattie that we could find was in the late 1980’s: in the March 25th, 1988 issue. However, it appears that at that time there were even more names for Swatties. The September 11th, 1987 issue had a headline with the word Swatters.

Got any more lexical questions about Swat-lingo? E-mail us at dailygazette@swarthmore.edu.


  1. My dad’s first reaction when I mentioned Swat was, “Swarthmore? What do they yell at sports games? ‘Go Swarth-more-ee-ans?'” I said, “Um, I think ‘Swatties,’ or whatever the mascot is, but I get the impression they’re not so big on sports anyway….”

    I’m glad “Swatties” caught on, and not “Swatters,” which sounds like an adjective describing the mental state of someone with paranoia. “She’s batshit Swatters.” Almost as weird as “Fords”!

  2. Great article. As an alum from the mid 1970’s, I find the term ‘Swattie’ really annoying. In my time, ‘Swarthmoron’ was the colloquial form used, somewhat smugly, by insiders, while ‘Swarthmoreans’ was used formally and by those who weren’t as cool as we insiders were.

  3. It could be worse! I have a friend who goes to “Mudd,” and I personally think “Swattie” is much catchier than “Mudder.”

  4. I think of Swatties as applying to our students and Swarthmoreans in reference to people who live in the Ville.

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