A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Word of the Day: Subfusc

Subfusc, from the Latin subfuscus, means dark or dull in color. As a noun, it refers to the (dark) clothing traditionally worn under the academic gown at Oxford. University regulations define subfusc clothing as:

For men:Dark suit and socks, black shoes, plain white shirt and collar, white bow tie.

For women:Dark skirt or trousers, white blouse, black tie, or ribbon, black stockings and shoes and (if desired) a dark coat.

Subfusc is also mandatory at Oxford during examinations. A mortarboard must be carried, but must not actually be worn. Students not complying with dress regulations are turned away from examination rooms by University police.

There's a movement afoot at Oxford to abolish the wearing of subfusc. Arguments against it range from "it's sexist," and "it puts an unfair burden on needy students," to "it encourages the [notorious] food fights that take place after the last exams." In a poll taken last year, however, 81% of Oxford students voted to continue the mandatory wearing of subfusc.

In defense of the tradition, the Honourable Aubrey Saxby-Rumpole has written a stirring editorial in The Oxford Student. While wearing subfusc, he says,"You become a member of an ancient, largely in-bred and increasingly marginalised elite. As a non-Cameronite Conservative I am all in favour of that. Oxford should not allow itself to become like those ghastly provincial hives of mediocrity; Cambridge, for example, where male students attend examinations dressed in Bermuda shorts and army surplus jackets." Hear, hear!

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