Ah, I remember frosh week. Well, actually, I don’t really, not my own, anyway; as the actress said to the archbishop – or was it the converse? – it was long ago, and I was drunk. With excitement, I mean, of course. But, ah, to see those lively young faces about to embark on what they mistakenly believe is the beginning of adulthood (no, sweeties, not yet, but you do get to pretend and rehearse) – a step up from high school, at that fountain of knowledge where they will gather to drink (ever wonder how many campus bars are called the Pierian Spring? not enough, probably). So I gladly man the Order of Logogustation table at the local university’s frosh week, even though visitors often include (a) speckly social maladepts in whom I uncomfortably recognize an earlier version of myself and (b) entirely typical youth for whom excessive intellectual exercise is likely to elicit blank looks usually gotten from unexceptional canines being addressed in monotonous Esperanto.
Today I was visited by a tidy pair of the latter sort whom I, in a moment of hope, invited to taste the word frosh.
“Frash?” said the female of the pair. “Oh my gad, is this like some kind of tast?”
“Just say it a few times and say what it feels like to say it.”
“Frash… frash, frash, frash. It’s like, fresh. Fraaaaaaash.”
“That’s cuz it’s from ‘fresh,’” her male cohort pointed out. “Like, it’s so obvious: freshman – frosh.”
“Well, yeah, OK, I knew that?”
“But why?” I asked. “Why go from fresh to frosh? Do we go from mesh to mosh?”
“Mosh pit!” the guy replied. “Yeah, like mesh pit, but mosh!”
“Except that comes from mash,” I said.
“Omigad, how d’you know this stuff?” the girl drawled.
I tapped a few keystrokes into my laptop. “The Oxford English Dictionary tells me that frosh has been short for freshman since at least 1915, and it may have gone from fresh to frosh under the influence of the German word Frosch, meaning ‘frog,’ which was also used in some places to refer to elementary-school kids.”
The guy crossed his arms. “So, like, you’re saying we’re German frogs.”
“At a glance,” I replied, “I don’t think so. Though you might be a bit green around the gills after too many Jäger bombs this weekend.”
“Frags don’t have gells,” the girl pointed out. “They’re amphebians.”
“True enough,” I said. “But anyway, nobody thinks of frogs now when someone says frosh, right?”
“Like, more likely fesh?”
“Fish?” the guy said. “Frosh – fish? Frosh – wash, I think.”
“Cuz, like, you don’t?”
“Sure,” I said, “the sound of frosh is sort of like the sound of a washing machine, ‘frosh-frosh frosh-frosh frosh-frosh.’ Then they tumble you, put you through the wringer, and you come out clean.”
“Clean is so nat what frash makes me think. So far.”
“How ’bout, like,” the guy made a bit of head bobbling as he spoke, “frosh-tration?” He made a sideways glance at the girl.
A relevant pun. I was a bit impressed.
“Oh that’s like, so funny? or not?” the girl said.
“It could also be a dog kind of sound,” I offered, and made fat hound sort of noise: “Frosh! Frosh!”
“Dude, OK” – the guy swept his hand to half-pointing – “you know what that really sounds like?” He mimed an act of emesis over an imaginary toilet bowl: “Frosh!”
“Omigad,” the girl said, very equivocally, “that’s so perfact.”