Swarth Her? I Hardly Know Her

Now that I can confidently say that life at Swarthmore is not going terribly, it’s weird to imagine going back to a life outside of our little college. So two weeks ago, facing down all the homework and visiting and traveling and talking I had to fit into the ten days of fall break, I was less than pumped to head back home (sorry Mom). But break went better than I’d anticipated: Ithaca is small and rainy and painfully, wonderfully intellectual, like Swarthmore, and my parents were surprisingly chill about having me around (i.e. didn’t cancel my Greyhound ticket, try to lock me in the basement and hiss you’re never leaving us again).

Other than navigating the expected disjointed feeling of going back into joint custody and seeing old friends, there was only one thing that kept tripping me up: Swat slang. Because we’re essentially living on top of each other on a tiny island of trees and overly enthusiastic pop cultural references, Swatties have developed our own little lexicon of terms that would be incomprehensible to the outside ear. At home, I was met with dozens of blank looks after offhandedly referencing something that my friends here would’ve understood in a second. In an attempt to understand exactly how stupid I was sounding to my family and friends, I conducted a survey of my parents, my youngest sister, and a few friends using the first seven pieces of Swarthmore vocabulary which came to mind. Here, for your entertainment, are the results; some ridiculous, others freakishly accurate, and a few which I’d argue we should adopt as alternate definitions immediately.


Swooping: when an upperclassman hooks up with a first-year, (theoretically) prohibited before fall break.

Mom: Running very fast down the hill after deer late at night, with arms outstretched. Or maybe Swarthmore War Whooping (“Kill, Quakers, Kill!”).

Dad: The habit of only using sister school Haverford’s bathrooms in the morning because they’re so much more posh than the ones at Swat.

Step-mom: Studying in the bathroom, a common pastime.

Youngest sister: When all the vampires at Swarthmore have a party.

Friend: Taking something from someone. Taking food.

Friend: The act of sneaking into the dining hall without swiping your ID card.


The Crum/The Crumb: the mini-forest on Swarthmore’s campus/the overcrowded late-night student café.

Mom: The forest (sorry, I know that one). The Crumb is a mythical bakery located somewhere within the Crum, staffed by fairies.

Step-mom: A disorder, like “the clap,” but contracted asexually from cuddling with questionable motivations. The Crumb is identical but with further symptoms of numbness.

Youngest sister: A crumb that is a thousand years old and can walk and is in glass.

Friend: The Crum refers to the crummier aspects of the Crumb, which is some sort of building that has qualities of a real crumb.


Swat swivel: to look all around you before disclosing information about another Swat student.  

Dad: Actually proper Latin name Swaticus Swivelus: a cross between a sewer rat and a quad squirrel often spotted late in the tunnel to the railroad station.

Youngest sister: A secret hand shake that involves turning.

Mom: Spinning around very quickly on bar stools as a response to exam stress.

Step-mom: A turn of the head to check out an attractive classmate, followed by crippling anxiety about objectifying the other.

Friend: A complex dance routine requiring lots of chairs that swivel.


D’well: abbreviation of Danawell.

Friend: To dwell in the famous Swat water well.

Mom: One of the combined dorm spaces between a dorm starting with D and another one with “well.”

Step-mom: Recovered from illness, only to find oneself stupider. Contraction of “Duh” and “Well.”


Primal scream: screaming in Sharples the midnight before exams.

Step-mom: A muttered complaint.

Mom: Another response to exam stress where everyone on campus screams as loudly as possible, preferably at midnight.

Youngest sister: Primal scream is a scream that is the loudest scream ever because it just is.


Swat seven: the seven minute grace period given before someone is declared late for an activity. Alternatively, having hooked up with all 7 class years by the time you graduate.  

Youngest sister: Swat seven is a fly squisher.

Friend: Taking a seven minute break, i.e. “I need to take a quick Swat seven.”

Friend: When the fire alarm gets set off for the seventh time in one night and the students stage a coup.

Step-mom: Heroic team of radicals who occupied the Dean’s office for twenty-seven hours in protest of mistreatment of yogurt-providing cows.


Misery poker: sharing your (academic, social, emotional, etc.) problems with others in order to make them feel worse about themselves.

Friend: Poker for people who suck.

Friend: A card game where you tell everyone about your miseries when you lose.

Mom: Poker played at the end of the semester when everyone is sick, or a depressing game of one-upmanship where each person tries to out-misery the last.

Step-mom: Name for a fellow student who asks you how many hours you studied for today’s test.


Clio Hamilton

Clio W. Hamilton '22 loves writing, knitting, and sleeping. She maintains that she could be something other than an English major, but so far all signs point to the contrary.

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