Camp Lingo Only Southerners Would Know

It won’t be long until you sound like a true BNOC.

roasting marshmallows campfire bonefire
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For many Southerners, the end of the school year and the arrival of long, hot days meant one thing growing up: camp time. No matter if you went away to spend weeks in the bunks with your best friends or simply went for the day, summer camp was a special summer tradition. It meant long days of adventure, catching up with old friends and making new ones around the campfire.

Whether you went once or a million times, you probably picked up on some of the classic summer camp lingo. Even if you never spent a night under the stars, you may know some of the old favorites that aren't exclusive to summer camp, like "buddy system" or "BNOC" which stands for Big Name on Campus (or in this case, camp) and has roots in higher education. Maybe you participated in "vespers" at the end of the day, which is borrowed from various religious denominations' evening services.

Some reach far beyond the South, like "the blob," the widely-beloved activity you'll find on lakes across the country. One camper jumps from a platform onto a floating, semi-inflated "blob" followed by another camper, therefore launching the first camper into the air. Someone who may eventually become a BNOC is a "CIT" or "LIT", aka, a Counselor in Training or Leader in Training. Until then, you may be a "gopher" or "hopper" in the mess hall, where you would be called to "go for", or retrieve, things like "bug juice", a sugary-sweet camp refreshment.

But some are special to the Southern summer camp they originated in. Take for example "Attawaytogo," which Texans will know originates from Camp Longhorn in the Hill Country. "Attawaytogo" is the defining spirit of the camp, encouraging campers to try new things. At Camp Fletcher in Alabama you'll find the catchphrase "Wohelo," all around camp, including carved into the entrance sign. The phrase stands for "work, health, and love." Up the road at Alabama's Camp Riverview, in line with the buddy system, all campers get assigned a "nutty buddy," who is their sister for their stay (and often a life-long friend after).

West Virginia campers might know "The Woofus", a mythical mascot of sorts who lives in the trees near Camp Greenbrier and is a friend to all, watching over the young campers. Next door in Virginia, for campers at Camp Carysbrook, "Green" and "Brown" are more than colors; they're the two teams campers will be assigned to for the duration of their stay. There's even a poem to break it all down.

Competition is common source of insider lingo. At Camp Greystone in North Carolina, "Jimball" is a local spin on gaga or gaga ball, a gentler version of dodge ball and summer camp favorite. (And in lieu of "Green" and "Brown," they create allegiances via "evens" and "odds"). At Falling Creek Camp in North Carolina, the game goes by the name "Warrior Ball."

Ultimately, whether the day ends with vespers, "evening embers," "tuckins," or something else entirely, learning the secret lingo of a Southern summer camp is a right of passage just as much as your first jump on the blob or sip of bug juice. So tell us, what was your secret camp slang?

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