The art of ‘Sconcing’

first_imgI have spent hours telling potential applicants that Oxford is not that odd. Reassuring them that although we do have to work harder than at other universities, student life here is not that different to anywhere else.  Forget ‘Brideshead Revisited’: we are a perfectly normal set of people.   But, let’s be honest, there are quite a few things that you get at Oxford which you just won’t find anywhere else. And although the thought of such things unnerved me a bit before coming up, I have to admit that now I’m here, I quite like some of the quirky traditions we have.  Public School-like it may be, but ‘sconcing’ is one of them.  Sconcing, as it is understood by the students who practice it today, does not follow exactly the same procedures as it used to.  It can be traced back to at least as early as 1617 when the word ‘sconce’ meant a fine or penalty.  A person would be ‘sconced’ at a formal dinner if they broke table etiquette – for example by talking about women, religion, politics or work; by referring to the portraits hung in the hall; or by pronouncing the Latin grace wrong.  All very serious stuff.  The tradition then evolved from being a monetary fine to the penalty of having to drink a tankard of ale which the sconced student could share with his fellows, thus making amends to those who suffered his breach of etiquette. Only the master or senior scholar at the table was able to impose a ‘sconce’: if other people at the table felt that a sconce was necessary, they had to make their request to their senior in Latin or Ancient Greek. Nowadays sconcing is practiced in different ways by different colleges, and the variations are quite revealing.  The standard format goes something like this: At a formal dinner someone will stand up and say “I sconce anyone who… (insert amusing/offensive/salacious comment here)”. A particular favourite of mine was the person sconced for falling over while thinking about prime numbers.  The people or person who fits that description then has to stand up, and has to down his or her drink In most colleges sconcing is mainly practiced by rowers, which perhaps tells you about the love of tradition in boat clubs.  However, subject societies and other sports societies do it too. In Hertford the Tanner Society (for physicists) and the Music Society are known to be keen sconcers, although I’m told by a Hertford physicist that sconcing only happens after dinner, not during it, because the two don’t go well concurrently.  Civilised sconcers indeed. The fact that we’re still eating dinner has never stopped anyone I know.  In Balliol ‘revenge sconcing’ is frowned upon – for example sconcing people who row on bow side cannot be countered with a sconce against those who row on stroke side.  Balliolites demand ingenuity in their sconces.  An ‘incorrect sconce’, i.e. a sconce description which doesn’t fit anyone present, is met with the cry of SHOE! This then results in the abashed would-be-sconcer having to remove their footwear, pour their drink into it, and down it from there.  Pretty gross.  This doesn’t happen in all colleges that sconce though.  A St Hughs student told me that they’d seen it on a crew date but had wisely avoided adopting it.  Not so in Oriel.  Apparently it has to be the president of the boat club’s shoe which is used and because of its popularity he has particular shoes for the purpose, so that the others don’t get ruined.  Presumably this is a remnant of the old tradition when only the master or senior scholar could impose a sconce.  Clearly Oriel is more traditional than most. At St John’s sconcing seems to be less popular now, but until recently it was traditional for rowers to ask for permission from the president of the boat club to sconce people, and to do this in Latin.  They have giant solid silver flagons which are worth about £16,000 each that they put out at some formal dinners. It is suspected that these might be old “sconce pots” which are mentioned in early accounts of sconcing.   Sconcing isn’t something done in all colleges though and its not done anywhere in Cambridge.  Wadhamites for example, are clearly too cool for any of this sconcing lark. As one Wadham third year put it “it sounds like a slightly uprated, posher, boatier version of ‘I have never’”. He perhaps has a point.  Sconcing is daft, posh and ultimately very Oxford.  It can get offensive if done by certain people, but I think generally it is quite good fun and pretty harmless.last_img read more

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Parting of the waters: 2 local districts to split

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! CARSON – Two regional water districts, which have operated under the same management for more than 50 years, are splitting up. The 59-year-old West Basin Municipal Water District, which serves the South Bay area, filed the notice of intent, forcing the split with the 54-year-old Central Basin Municipal Water District. Robert Apodaca, president of the Central Basin board, said his board opposes the split, but has no choice under the agreement between the two agencies. It must occur by July 1. The two districts purchase water from the Metropolitan Water District and then re-sell it to private and public water utilities. Local water officials fear their utilities might end up paying the price. “I think they’re having a divorce and we all get to pay the alimony,” said Jim Glancy, president of the Central Basin Water Association that represents private and public water utilities in the Southeast area of Los Angeles County. A study by Red Oak Consulting for the West Basin district found that it would have a one-time cost of nearly $1.4million and annual costs of $918,000. How the split will affect the Central Basin district remains unknown because it hasn’t been studied, Apodaca said. Santa Fe Springs gets about half of its water from the Central Basin district. Don Jensen, public works director for Santa Fe Springs, said he fears the impending split will raise its costs. “Until they can show us or demonstrate there won’t be a cost impact on the cities, I’m inclined to oppose it,” Jensen said. Gary Draper, general manager for Orchard Dale Water District, said the split could be a good thing. “We’ll be getting 100 percent attention on Central Basin issues,” Draper said. Apodaca said his board intends to minimize additional costs as much as they can. The two districts share 49 employees. The Red Oak study says the West Basin district will need 34 employees. Jose Fernandez, a West board member, said his board asked for the split because of their differences. While at one time there were similarities, the two districts now have significant differences, the Red Oak study shows, Fernandez said. The Red Oak report said the West Basin is characterized by an emphasis on engineering, construction and operations of projects such as its water reclamation plant and a possible desalinization plant. The Central Basin district has focused on pipelines and pump stations to use recycled water from the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, the study stated. “This is a natural progression,” Fernandez said. “They’re like two siblings who have grown apart.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3022last_img read more

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