Johnathan Zemlik

JOHNATHAN ZEMLIK takes a look at the weird vocab of Cambridge students, and misses the creature comforts of the North.

Not everyone goes up to Cambridge. There are a lot of people who, geographically speaking, go down to our historic University.

This is just one of the quirks I’ve noticed that characterise the Cambridge language: everyone goes “up” to Cambridge. It sits alongside other wonderfully pretentious phrases used at Cambridge, such as ‘Junior Combination Room’, ‘Matriculation’ and ‘Tripos’.

The ‘Cambridge language’ was clear from day one. My first impression of it was one of suspicion and fear. This Oxbridge stereotype was only further enhanced upon meeting the porters who looked as if they’d stepped out of Chariots of Fire.

But just as I hope southerners don’t judge me by my accent (yeah reet), I decided not to judge the ‘up’ travellers for their vocabulary. I’m glad I did; in between the ‘Matriculations’ and the ‘Tripos’, I’ve also heard the most joyfully vulgar derogatory slurs that would make a docker blush.

However, while I can get over the flowery language, there are still things about the South that I can’t get use to; namely their lack of Northern things.

There’s a distinct lack of Greggs bakeries in Cambridge. In Leeds for example there are four within a square mile and Wakefield is not far behind with two in the Riding Shopping Centre alone. Although I am sure places such as Fitzbillies offer a higher standard of bun or cake, I grew up with Greggs and I miss its calming influence.

Southerners also can’t seem to do proper fish and chips. Down here they all have bones in, or the skin left on under the batter. Where I lived there were three fish and chip shops claiming to have been ‘Best Fish Shop in the UK’ in various years and by the taste of their meals you wouldn’t really dispute any of these claims.

I’m also yearning for the Emley Moor Transmitter, visible from any high point in West Yorkshire. The transmitter is mainly famous for falling over in the 1960s, which is a great achievement for any tower. I miss this erection in the sky which, as I child, I happily passed off as Orthanc from the Lord of the Rings.

Finally, I can’t get my hands on a pint of Barnsley Bitter for love nor money. The infamous mining town produces a tipple second to none. Unlike the mass produced John Smith’s, which out of a can tastes like pure water, this bitter harkens back to a better time; men were men, they worked in heavy industry, wore flat caps and returned home at night to their waiting whippets.

So while I now take some joy from using the strange language that can only be found in Cambridge and enjoy the looks of sheer confusion on my friends faces when I say: “I’m off up to Cambridge,” I’m still pining for the comforts of home. If anyone could point me in the direction of a fish and chip-serving Greggs that has Barnsley Bitter on tap and pictures of the Emley Moor Transmitter on the walls, I’d be a happy man.

  • Cambridge local

    There's a Greggs on Fitzroy Street, by the Grafton Centre.

  • Tourist Info

    There's a Greggs by the Grafton.

  • North/South divide


  • Johnny Zemlik

    You've made my day 😀

  • Newnham Gash

    We love your column! It's FAB – makes our day 😀 xxxxxx


    Newnham gash knows what he's talking about, keep it up Jonny these articles are looking finer than a pint in the rustic arms on a wednesday night :)

  • inaccurate

    you're not a bloody coal miner – just have a Carling.

  • Care Police

    You're under arrest!

  • really

    matriculation is hardly Cambridge lingo, it's a pretty normal word.

    • but

      In every other university, it comes at the end of your degree, not the beginning.

      • nodders

        in every other university other than Oxford, that is

  • Georgie Rastall

    Loving your articles Johnny, keep it up :)

  • Librarian

    You miss the "erection" of the "Emley Moor Transmitter" when our beloved phallic UL is constantly visible? Wtf?

  • Ella

    You can get good-ish fish and chips on Histon Road from the chinese takeaway by the co-op.

  • Al Jizzeera

    South isn't down… It's just South

  • Law

    "I miss this erection in the sky which, as I child, I happily passed off" not very appropriate johnny!!

  • louis

    i use all 3 of those camebridge phrases before breakfast 😀

    • Luois

      Unlike the dictionary.

    • Felix

      I had a cheap drink and met seven new inter-collegiate friends before breakfast.


        I had a poo before breakfast.

  • Cooper

    C'mon mate, I've never seen you drink bitter.
    But you're right, bitter outside of Yorkshire is crap.
    John Smiths is the nicest bitter going, when it's in Yorkshire and on tap.

  • Luis

    Nice posting mate, keep it up :)


    sometimes i lay on the floor and pretend im a carrot…

  • geordie

    >West Yorkshire

  • Sexist

    You can't just call women whippets.

  • Incensed Southerner

    Not only are you mildly racist, sexist ("their waiting whippets"-it is no longer acceptable to refer to women as dogs) and inaccurate (there IS a Greggs in Cambridge, though fuck knows why you would want to go there)- you're also MINDNUMBINGLY BORING.
    On second thoughts, don't, there probably aren't enough Greggs' there to keep you satisfied. only one per square mile? OH DEAR, BETTER STICK TO YORKSHIRE THEN.

    • Disgusted Southerner

      agreed. Johnathan: if you're pining for 'home comforts' fuck off back down t'mines

      • Northern Rock

        You will have a hard time finding one now mate.

  • Northern Rock

    I think you will find that "their waiting whippets" refers to a breed of dog which were traditionally kept by mining families to hunt for rabbits. I can't believe you Southerners would be so thick as to think the term would refer to women. Anyway I'm off now to have some Black Pudding and a loaf of Hovis, before I polish my clogs. I'l si thee.

    • confused

      why do miners need to hunt for rabbits?

      • Normal Person

        Because they were too poor to catch anything else to eat, such as cows

  • Caian

    Real Yorkshiremen go to Cooplands Bakeries. There are six of those in Doncaster town centre alone.

    I do sympathise with you nevertheless, it is an indescribable ball-ache having to walk all the way to the Grafton for a pastry that doesn't cost £4.

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