Tuesday, November 15, 2011

O is for Oddities

In many ways, Oxford is a bit of a world of its own (which world, forcibly, also includes the other place, ie. C--bridge). It has extremely well-defined and long-standing institutions and customs, a way of functioning that has its roots in the High Middle Ages and armies of students and ex-students to keep its traditions alive. But then again, I guess that any establishment of 800 years is bound to be slightly insular and different from the rest of the world.

Hence why the unofficial motto around here is "It made sense in the 1200s". See, whenever you run into something inexplicable (or alternatively, requiring a 15-minute long explanation full of medieval references), the short answer is just so say: "Hey, it made sense in the 1200s!". Confused about the college system? Well, it made sense in the 1200s. Wonder why the same street changes name three times within 2 kilometers? (I'm looking at you, Cornmarket!) Well, back in the 1200s...And let's not forget about sub fusc and Matriculation.

Of course, keeping traditions doesn't mean that we can't have flat screens in
an 800 year-old church. This is St-Aldates, where I attended an Intl Student
Welcome Dinner my first week here. Picture courtesy of friend-of-friend`s FB.

Sometimes, however, even things in Oxford aren't old enough to warrant the 1200s-explanation. Therefore, a popular variant is the "Around the 1800s..." justification. This is particularly true regarding my field and faculty. The English common law wasn't as much taught as learned on the job for the longest time.Señor Blackstone found that out the hard way in 1758. The entire system of the BCL (why a "Bachelor of Civil Law" as a master's degree?), the MJur (why different names for what is essentially the same degree?), along with the vocabulary of "writing a paper" (ie. taking a course) and final honour schools (final year all-inclusive exams for undergrads), all make sense once put into their rather complicated historical context. I mean, we probably could hypothetically modernize everything, but: a) that'd be losing centuries of reputation and b) what would be the fun in that?

Sir William Blackstone, of the infamous Commentaries
and the first Vinerian Professor of English Law.

Finally, there are some inexplicable things here which, no matter the time period reference, simply DO NOT MAKE SENSE. In that case, the default explanation is "Oh, those crazy English people...". Case in point: Separate taps for hot and cold water. Gosh, this drives me absolutely c-r-a-z-y. You get scalding hot water coming out of one tap, and freezing cold out of the other. Ugh. My dishes never feel quite clean (unless I want to have burnt hands), and neither does my face (I've resorted to washing it in the shower). I have never appreciated the possibility of having warm and even lukewarm water at will. Oh those crazy English people.

My sworn enemies, separate taps. GRRRRR. 

Speaking of oddities, I'm thinking of doing a whole series about things specific to Oxford and its people. It'd be under the form of an abecedary,  so I'd write about one oddity per day in alphabetical order. What do you think people? Yay or nay? I know you don't often comment, but I'd really love to get some feedback on this idea. So comment ahead...thanks!


  1. Yay! :D

    Sorry about not commenting...not entirely sure how this works. Is 'Google account' like my gmail? Well, I'm about to find out...

  2. Oh hey, it is. I'm gonna talk to you lots now.

  3. Hee, thanks Iz! Appreciate the comment. Yes, talk to meeeeeeeee.

    In other news, I have a cold and it sucks. :(

  4. now I know where those old separate taps in Marianopolis come from =) and yay for 1 oddity per day!!!!

  5. Are you still on Facebook? Mom wants me to 'consult' you about cegep...

    Btw, German history is really confusing. o_o

    EDIT: Why is there...captcha here?

  6. @Kaishan: Oh right, I hadn't even realized! Yeah, I guess we must have inherited them as part of our Commonwealth traditions.

    @Izzy: I'll give you guys a call. And I took off the captcha, totally forgot about it. Sorry.

  7. For the taps, have you considered this?