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.

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