Light & Verity

First things first

Phasing out the word “freshman.”

Michael Sloan

Michael Sloan

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Strictly speaking, the term “freshman” became obsolete at Yale in 1969, when women were first admitted as undergraduates. But language moves a little more slowly than reality, so the Yale College Dean’s Office only recently resolved to use the gender-neutral “first-year” in official materials. “This has been talked about for years,” says Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarribar. “We’ve been asked about it by students and parents, and it’s become more and more clear that what you call things does matter.” The new terminology will start appearing in Yale publications this fall, but Lizarribar expects that in conversation the two terms will coexist for a while. (“Nobody’s going to say, ‘Oh my god, you used the wrong word!’”) Freshman counselors will be known this fall as first-year counselors, but Lizarribar says the informal portmanteau “fro-co” isn’t going anywhere. As for other time-honored phrases of undergrad tradition, we have a feeling it will be case by case. There probably won’t be any changes to “Eli Yale,” the old song that begins, “As freshmen first we came to Yale.” But the “freshman 15”? Anybody’s guess.


  • Richard Bockrath
    Richard Bockrath, 1:07pm July 12 2017 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    The opening sentence shows how silly this is: "Strictly speaking, the term “freshman” became obsolete at Yale in 1969, when women were first admitted as undergraduates." Aside from the fact that words should have meaning beyond the dot on earth that is Yale, consider "woman" or the plural used here. What about the M-A-N there? The Light & Verity of my time by Thomas G. Bergin would never have considered such a stupid topic.

  • Flash Sheridan
    Flash Sheridan, 10:25am July 16 2017 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    While carefully avoiding the question of when (or whether) the original sense of ”man” as ”irrespective of sex” (O.E.D.) became obsolete, I will note that Oxford has long used a less ugly gender-neutral term, ”fresher.”

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