How to Speak Happy Valley
As most Penn Staters do, I showed up in Happy Valley on Move-In Day my freshman year with a lanyard, but without a clue. From the second my roommates and I stepped out of our new dorm, people began throwing out terms like “Syllabus Week,” “Late Night,” “Beaver Canyon,” and “fracket.” It became customary for us to nod along, then shoot puzzled looks at one another as if to say “Do you know what the hell they’re talking about? I don’t!”
Like most freshmen, we were reluctant to look like freshmen, so we refrained from asking what these strange new terms meant, trying instead to use context clues (usually to no avail). It wasn’t until the end of my first semester that I began to understand Happy Valley slang — and I’ll admit that I continue to learn new terms from time to time. However, since I’d never wish that pitiful feeling of sheer cluelessness upon any innocent freshmen, I decided to compile a list of these terms. Call it Penn State’s version of Urban Dictionary.
Altoids (noun): These are the students of Penn State Altoona, the nearest Penn State
commonwealth branch campus to University Park. Don’t worry — you’ll see them every weekend. Friday nights, Happy Valley is crawling with desperate Altoids searching for a place to crash as they pretend to live at Penn State University Park main campus with the rest of us.
AW & Sons (noun): A leasing company that owns a bunch of downtown student apartments in State College. They are very cheap in terms of services they provide, and are notorious for making residents register parties, or face the wrath of the nefarious AW & Sons security guards.
Beaver Canyon (noun): Area on East Beaver Avenue adjacent to Canyon Pizza. Known to be the site for all riots, most noteably those which occurred after the death of Osama bin Laden and the termination of Joe Paterno’s position as head coach.
BJC (noun): Abbreviation for the Bryce Jordan Center, a 16,000 seat arena which hosts events of all different calibers, like commencement, concerts, THON, and more.
Bloop/Woop (noun): The Blue Loop and the White Loop, respectively. Both are on campus CATA bus routes. Both have stops along Curtin. The Blue Loop travels down College Ave while the White Loop covers Beaver. Usually filled with scantily dressed freshmen women or rejected freshmen men on the weekends.
Boombox Guy (noun): One of the most recognizable faces in Happy Valley, Boombox Guy is actually Brian Cronauer, a transfer student from Penn State Altoona going into his fifth year here at dear old State. It’s rumored he’ll never leave. For now, though, he roams around wearing an MJ-Style leather jacket with an old-school boombox on his shoulder. It’s inevitable that you’ll spot him on Beaver Ave as you stumble home from a party some Saturday night. A truly polarizing figure, Boombox Guy is either mocked or revered by different sects of the student body.
Buckle Up! (interjection): A common phrase thrown around by the Penn State media. “Buckle Up” originated from this column in the Daily Collegian, written by former blogger Adam Bittner. The column pissed off nearly everyone, and caused a Twitter uproar which catapulted the phrase into the annals of Penn State pop-culture.
Cael Sanderson (noun): Head coach of the Nittany Lion wrestling program. Also, really freaking awesome.
Canyon Pizza (noun): Perhaps the most (in)famous of all drunk dining establishments, Canyon is open almost until the sun comes up serving stale $1 slices of pizza to drunkards. Other prominent drunk eateries include Grillers, Are U Hungry?, Gumby’s, D.P. Dough, and Insomnia (cookies).
Courtney Lennartz (noun): President of UPUA/Student Body President. President Lennartz was elected last spring to serve during the 2012-2013 academic year.
The Daily Collegian (noun): A newspaper.
The Diner (noun): Ye Olde College Diner, located on College Ave, has been a Happy Valley tradition for decades. Get there and try a grilled stickie before you call yourself a Penn Stater. Forget the terrible service and generally unappealing menu, it looks like an old school Diner, so it must be good, right?
The Dorito Church (noun): As its name suggests, Grace Lutheran Church at the corner of Beaver Avenue and Garner Street is a uniquely designed building with the appearance of… well, a Dorito. The chip-shaped church is a noteable landmark for any Penn Stater on their way downtown, and is especially helpful when used as a reference point for freshmen trying to find their way to frat row. (Note: It doesn’t actually look like a Dorito at all.)
Fracket (noun): A cheap piece of outerwear — be it a hooded sweatshirt or a $15 jacket from Forever21 — that girls wear to keep their scantily clad bodies warm on their way to a frat party. This is a dispensable garment which will not cause distress if lost at said party. Because, in case you weren’t aware, frats don’t exactly have coat checks, and the likelihood of any nice jacket making it back out of a frat party unscathed/unstolen is too slim to chance.
Frat Row (noun): Smashed between Foster, Fairmount, Garner, and Locust sits Fraternity Row. Yes, that’s the actual name of a street in State College. Yes, it is home to numerous popular fraternity houses. And yes, it is generally crawling with freshmen; since they’re unable to get into bars, they’re perfectly content to grind up against some Greeks to the sounds of the “dubstep” channel on Pandora while downing can after can of warm Natty Light that they had to show their tits to get.
FTK (adjective): An acronym which stands for “For The Kids,” this has been the THON slogan since 1977. Everything done for THON is done with the goal of conquering childhood cancer in mind; in other words, everything THONers do is For The Kids, or FTK.
GDI (noun): One who, for whatever reason, opted not to be a part of Greek Life. The acronym is believed to stand for “God Damn Independent,” although this is probably apocryphal. A GDI is derogatorily referred to as a “geed” by the Greek Bourgeoisie… Although no one’s feelings have ever been hurt by being called a geed.
Greyhound/MegaBus (noun): Two different bus services that help Penn State students get from State College to Philadelphia, New York, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and other moderately close major cities for a relatively inexpensive fee. They are two separate companies, and offer service to different areas at different prices. Check both out before you make your parents drive hours and hours to come get you every time a holiday rolls around. Make sure you suck up to a friend with a car to pick you up at the MegaBus station at Walmart.
Humans vs. Zombies (noun): Organized by the Urban Gaming Club, you will see these people running around campus with colorful headbands and Nerf guns annoying the hell out of everyone.
Jersey Chaser (noun): A female student with a ‘jock itch’ she’s looking to scratch. She prefers starters over bench players, football over wrestling, and doesn’t know the rules to any of the sports she professes to love. You’ll find her frequenting State College’s sports bars; her favorites are the Den and G-Man.
IM Building (noun): The Intramural Building is located on the corner of University and Bigler, and is the site of all intramural sports, clubs, and activities. It is surrounded by the IM fields, in which the aforementioned sports, clubs, and activities are played. The IM Building is also home to a fitness center, an indoor track, a weight room, and courts for volleyball, racquetball, and basketball.
IndiBro (noun): Male frequenter of State College’s favorite establishment, Indigo. Typical attire includes jeans, a button down with vertical stripes, and far too much cologne. A true IndiBro never waits in line, but arrives early for the hand stamp, then slinks back into the club later. Favorite line, whispered huskily with beer on his breath: “Hey, do you come here often?”
IndiHo (noun): A female Indigo-lover. It is believed that the promiscuous attire associated with Penn State night life loosely originated with the IndiHo. Anticipate midriff and/or cleavage bearing tops, skirts that barely cover her constantly-grinding-against-some-dude’s-crotch ass, and heels so high that she’ll have to teeter-totter her way back and forth from the bar to her gaggle of fellow IndiHoes. And glitter. So much glitter.
Involvement Fair (noun): Something every student who wants to do anything on campus other than drink their face off for four years should probably go to, where the copious amount of organizations on campus set up booths and hand out information about their club to interested students. If you’re looking to do anything like writing at Onward State (shameless plug), swing dancing, singing in an a cappella group, and so much more, this is the place to do it.
Irving’s (noun): Popular locally owned cafe on College Ave where you’ll almost always bump into at least one Onward State writer. Try the Joe Papaya smoothie. Sure, it’s $4.50 (bullshit, I know), but it’s well worth it.
Late Night (noun): a) Buffet-style high calorie meal served from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. in Redifer, the dining commons in South. b) an event occurring in the HUB which — to quote their mission statement — exists “to make available to students quality late night entertainment during prime social times, namely 9:00 p.m. through 2:00 a.m. (Friday and Saturday) and 9:00 p.m. through midnight (Thursday).” In other words, if you have no friends and want to trade Digimon cards, this is the place to be!
Lion Ambassadors (noun): Best known for their spectacular ability to walk backwards as they lead eager tour groups around campus, the Lion Ambassadors are one of the oldest organizations on campus. The LAMBs are dedicated to maintaining University traditions and know more about Penn State than nearly anyone else on campus.
Lion Shrine (noun): This Penn State icon is located across from Rec Hall on the West side of campus. Every student, at one point or another, stops to get their photo taken with this little beauty before they graduate. Just check your friends’ Facebooks to verify that statement. It is one of the most photographed landmarks in Pennsylvania, and certainly at Penn State.
Lion Tutors (noun): A tutoring program on East College Ave. Their website boasts that they offer “comprehensive exam review sessions tailored to your specific Penn State courses.” In other words, pay them and they’ll give you enough material to never need to go to class for the entire semester.
McLanahan’s (noun): Another point of reference for students trying to meet up with one another downtown, McLanahan’s sits on the corner of College Ave and Shortlidge and has been there forever. This is the store where you can get pretty much anything you could need, including food, cleaning supplies, Penn State apparel, school supplies, and so much more. (That’s the main McLanahan’s, anyway; a second McClanahan’s sits halfway down Allen Street. Pop in for a sandwich when you get the chance. You won’t regret it.)
Meridian 3 (noun): One of the three Meridian apartment buildings. While Meridian 1 and 2 are easy to find, somehow Meridian 3 is impossible to locate, especially in a state of any kind of inebriation. This elusive building elicited a Penn State meme which stated, in exasperation, “One does not simply find Meridian 3.” Boromir had it right on that one.
Mike the Mailman (noun): Michael C. Herr, is the larger-than-life University Park Post Office window technician and the nicest guy there has ever been. Period. The next time you need to send something via snail mail, be sure to bring him some cookies.
Monkey Boys (noun): A Monkey Boy is a pitcher of alcohol and sugar made at The Saloon, a downtown bar on Hiester Street. Their most popular flavor is “Bong Water.”
Mounting Nittany (noun): An innuendo that stemmed from a particularly racy and poorly written piece in the Daily Collegian by Kristina Helfer, which caused quite an uproar on campus last year. The sex column titled “Let’s talk sex, hugs and handjobs” is just as ridiculous as it sounds.
The Nat (noun): The McCoy Natatorium, located on the corner of Bigler and Curtin, is more than just a pool. They have plenty to offer Penn State students, according to their website, including ” scuba diving lessons and certification programs, swim club activities, aquacise classes, American Red Cross swimming lessons, recreational swim times and specialized springboard diving instruction,” and more.
Nittanyville (noun): The tent village outside of Beaver Stadium, where students camp out sometimes a week in advance to guarantee themselves front row seats for the Nittany Lions’ home games. Officially founded in 2005, the whole shebang used to be called “Paternoville,” but, well, yeah.
Onward State (noun): Oh, you’re here already! Congratulations, you’ve already found the best resource for Penn State news and commentary!
Patrick Chambers (noun): Head coach for men’s basketball team. Best known for his (to put it lightly) passion and upbeat energy while standing court-side all season.
Phollegian (noun): A newspaper produced by Phroth, is a play on the Daily Collegian that makes fun of the daily going-ons at Penn State. It comes out three times a year — Phroth’s website says it’s usually around Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and April Fool’s Day. Pick a copy up this October and let the laughter commence.
Pokey Stix (noun): Delicious even sober, but life-altering when intoxicated, Pokey Stix are the most tantalizing treat that Gumby’s (and maybe even State College) has to offer. Basically consists of pizza dough, garlic butter, and cheese. Dip them in ranch to achieve true carb euphoria.
ResCom (noun): Short for “Residential Computing.” The Penn State equivalent to the Geek Squad, these technologically gifted folks take care of all of your computer needs. Expect to interact with them a lot. Especially since no one seems to know the timeless mystery of how to set up Penn State wireless internet .
SPA (noun): Pronounced like the whirlpool, the Student Programming Association organizes dozens of free concerts, speakers, and other events each year as part of our student activity fee budget.
State College Spikes (noun): Local minor league baseball team. The team plays at Medlar Field and is affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The HUB gives out free tickets to all the games!
Syllabus Week (noun): The first week of classes during which little of the curriculum is expanded upon, providing little to no out-of-class work (or, to be blunt, a week during which there is nothing to motivate students not to spend their out-of-class time doing keg-stands and shot-skis). Common derivatives of this term are the phrases “sylly week” and — if you’re unintelligent — “get sylly.”
THON (noun/verb): THON is short for the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, which is the most ubiquitous event on campus. The stated mission of THON is “to conquer pediatric cancer by providing outstanding emotional & financial support to the children, families, researchers, and staff of the Four Diamonds Fund.” THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, and raised over $10 million for cancer research last year. Explaining the intricacies of this enormous organization would take an article of its own. Just know that THON is something that Penn Staters hold very near to their hearts. There are a plethora of ways to get involved, whether behind the scenes or on the floor. It can also be used as a verb — people often talk about “why they THON,” which is just an explanation of why they participate in THON.
Toon Town (noun): The informal term for Penn State Altoona’s campus. This is where your friends who maybe partied just a litttttttle too much in high school wound up after graduation. Its name also implies that what goes on there is cartoonish and a bit surreal.
Townies (noun): Year-round residents of State College who tend to roll their eyes at the rest of the collegiate inhabitants of Happy Valley. Just don’t piss in their yard.
UPUA (noun): The University Park Undergraduate Association is the officially recognized student government of Penn State. They have no real power, and you will not care about them, but they exist. Maybe you can at least get a free pair of sunglasses from them.
The Willard Preacher (noun): A man named Gary Catell with a reputation for being a religious zealot. He is a member of an Orthodox church in the State College area and can be seen frequently ranting about his beliefs in front of the Willard Building, primarily on Thursdays and Fridays, usually with his trademark red hoodie. You would think most students mock Catell, but his antics are generally respectful and well received. Consider him a human landmark.
There you have it — a solid beginning to the Penn State edition of the Urban Dictionary. Let us know what we missed in the comments!
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About the Author
Penn State alumni Maria Umana and Trey Cody will search for their perfect wedding venue on “I Do To The Venue” at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 18 on FYI Network.
Podcasters Cody Ko and Noel Miller are coming to State College to perform a live show on November 7.
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