Friday, September 26, 2008

Ivy League

West College, Princeton.

I am always hungry for silly little anecdotes, especially ones about the derivation of words, and I was told one yesterday by a colleague. Where does "Ivy league" come from? I had always assumed it described the ivy covered buildings of the New England colleges, but no, I was told that it referred to a football (not proper football but that strange American version of Rugby where you wear body armor and are allowed to pass the ball forwards) league started by Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia. The league of four was known by the Roman numerals IV (hence Ivy).

Sounds nice, but probably not true. The term "ivy colleges" was coined by the New York Tribune sports journalist, Stanley Woodward thus "A proportion of our eastern ivy colleges are meeting little fellows another Saturday before plunging into the strife and the turmoil. ” October 14, 1933, describing the football season and the first use of "Ivy League was in the Christian Science Monitor two years later.

The eight Ivy League Colleges are Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Browns and Dartmouth.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, that is a fun one, that. I read about this theory years ago but as I remember it wasn't settled fact, but just the leading theory.

The derivation of the word 'Posh' has never been resolved, nor the phrase, 'the whole nine yards' which may be American.

No, posh is not port out, starboard in, which most people think it is.

Anonymous said...

Brown not Browns. . .

Terry Hamblin said...

I apologise to all Brown people.