Uniquely Michigan
Deals Button Entertainment Button attractions Learning Button Whole Health Button Miscellania Button
UM-Isms:  "A Growing List of Insider Slang"

The Arb — Nickname for the Nichols Arboretum, a 123-acre "living museum" featuring overlooks and trails through woods and fields, including a stroll along the Huron River. The Arb's collection of Michigan native plants and plants from around the world make it a beautiful place to visit in any season.

The Arch — The archway through West Hall at the southeast corner of the Diag, also known as the Engineering Arch (from days gone by when the College of Engineering was located on the U-M Central Campus).

Big Blues — The name campus bus drivers and many students use to refer to campus buses.

The Big House — The Michigan Stadium is the largest college football stadium in the country. Following renovations made in 2010, the capacity of the stadium is now 109,901. By tradition, the seating capacity at the stadium always ends with a "1." The extra seat is said to be in honor of Fritz Crisler. (Read about the history of the Big House.)

Bo’s Barn —The nickname for Oosterbaan Field House, which is the home field for U-M’s Lacrosse teams and serves as a practice field for U-M’s football, field hockey, baseball, softball and intramural sports teams.

The Brewery — An historic former brewery on Ann Arbor's north side, now home to several U-M departments.

Burlodge — The nickname for Bursley residence hall on North Campus.

The Cube — Just to the north of the Michigan Union (in Regent's Plaza) is "The Cube," by artist Bernard Rosenthal. See also "Spin the Cube."

The Diag — The large area enclosed by campus buildings had humble beginnings: pasture and outhouses. Students used it as a shortcut and cut a diagonal swath in the pasture with their incessant steps. While students may relieve themselves there from time to time, the Diag is a common area in which students meet. Heed the advice of students: "Don’t step on the M."

The Dude — The James and Anne Duderstadt Center, formerly the Media Union, opened in 1996 as a special place to provide faculty and students with the tools and collaborative space for creating the future. Located on the University of Michigan North Campus, the Duderstadt Center houses the Art, Architecture, and Engineering Library, the College of Engineering Computer Aided Engineering Network (CAEN), the Digital Media Commons, and the Millennium Project. The Mujo Cafe provides a space for refreshment and social interaction.

The Fish —
Ray Fisher Stadium, the home of Wolverine baseball.

The Fishbowl —
The glassed-in area facing the Diag where Angell, Haven and Mason Halls meet.

Football Saturdays
— Los Angeles has its ozone alerts, and Ann Arbor has its Football Saturdays. On these Saturdays of U-M home football games at Michigan Stadium (during Fall Term), the town is flooded with football fans from far and wide. Townies know to avoid the area's traffic backups and they pay attention to when the game starts; the city streets and freeways out of town are generally guaranteed safe from pileups for three-and-a-half hours once the game commences.

Fragel —This deep-fried Ann Arbor specialty was a favorite on U-M’s campus for many years. These sweet treats were sold on the corner of Washtenaw Avenue and South University at the Bagel Factory.

The Grad — The Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library.

The Half Ass — A cafe/hangout/music and poetry venue located in the lower level of the Residential College, also known as the Half-Way Inn.

The Halo — In 1998, Michigan Stadium was renovated and expanded. Six rows of seats accommodating an additional 5000 fans were added around the top of the stadium. The new seating area was surrounded by a yellow parapet bearing familiar Michigan icons, including the winged helmet and University seal, and lyrics from "The Victors." This yellow parapet was nicknamed "The Halo" and was cited by many as departing from the traditional style of the venerated stadium. It has since been removed.

The Hill — A campus "neighborhood" of residence halls, adjacent to the Medical Center, including Couzens Hall, Alice Lloyd Hall, Mary Markley Hall, Mosher-Jordan Hall, Oxford Housing, and Stockwell Hall.

Michigan Time The tradition of starting every class, meeting or event 10 minutes late.

MoJo — The nickname for the Mosher-Jordan residence hall located in the Hill/Observatory area.

The Mud Bowl — Since the 1930s, the grassy area at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house at the corner of Washtenaw and South University has been turned into a mud pit to host this event on the Saturday afternoon of Homecoming Weekend. Crowds of onlookers assemble to watch two rival fraternities duke it out in the dirtiest football game you'll ever see! In addition, two sororities play each other during halftime.

The MUG — The ground floor food court in the Michigan Union.

Nat Sci — The Natural Science Building, designed by architect Albert Kahn and completed in 1915, which originally housed the departments of Botany, Geology, Mineralogy, Zoology, Psychology and the School of Natural Resources.

The Pringle — Part of the Medical School, the ultramodern Biomedical Science Research Building Auditorium (located on Zina Pitcher Place), with its undulating, sloped roof is affectionately known around campus as Pringle Auditorium.

The Rock — The painted rock at the corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Hill Street. If you go by it on your way to the store, it will have been painted something different by the time you make your return trip.

Spin the Cube — Refers to pushing the kinetic sculpture, The Cube, so that it spins on its axis. Watch that its corner doesn't whack you in the head on its way back around! (See also "The Cube," above.)

Stepping on the M — The brass M set in the center of the Diag (see Diag, above) was donated by the University's Class of 1953. Ever since then, students have made a pasttime of avoiding stepping on it. The most common superstition says that if you step on the M, you will fail your first exam at Michigan. Apparently, it's safe to trod on after that.

SQuad — The nickname for South Quadrangle dormitory, located on central campus. One of U-M’s largest dorms and home to over 1000 students.

The Toaster — This curved-cornered, black and stainless steel edifice located on North Campus is home to the UMHS North Campus Administrative Complex.

The U — Shorthand for the University of Michigan. As if there were no other! (None that matter to U, of course.)

The UGLI — Nickname of the Undergraduate Library (Undergraduate = UG, Library = LI), also known as the Shapiro Undergraduate Library. Also sometimes known as the SNUGLI—though where the "N" came from, nobody knows!

The Well — The nickname for Stockwell Hall, U-M’s dormitory named after the first woman to be admitted to the university, Madelon Louisa Stockwell.

Wine’s Mud Hole — The nickname for Wine’s Field House (before it was paved), where the U-M marching band rehearsed.  Renamed by band director George Cavender in the 70s, the practice field is known today as Elbel Field.

WoTo — The nickname for Wolverine Tower, located south of campus at State and Eisenhower, houses a number of University business units including University Human Resources, Finance, Office of University Development and others. Campus "NEO" short for New Employee Orientation is conducted here.

Do you know of a "UM-ism" that
is not listed on this page?

Submit Your Ideas Here Button

(a completely incomplete list)

Being a member of the U-M community, as in any culture, means knowing the language — the verbal shorthand. That's what this page is all about.

Click here to submit your own UM-isms!

The Rock photo
"The Rock," JEREMY MENCHIK/Michigan Daily, 1999
Did U Know?

"The Rock"

"Ann Arbor's most famous Glacial Erratic" is the painted rock at the corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Hill Street. This huge chunk of Canadian limestone, deposited by glaciers in a gravel pit on Pontiac Trail, was discovered in a landfill by Eli Gallup, then superintendent of parks for Ann Arbor. With financial help from the Daughters of the American Revolution, the 25-ton rock was transported to its current location in 1932 to become a memorial honoring George Washington on his 200th birthday.

Buried in the foundation of The Rock is a box containing its history and origin. Originally The Rock was painted grey and had a copper plaque in honor of President Washington. In the 1950s, Michigan State University fans painted a large green "S" on it before a football game, thus starting the tradition of painting The Rock. Ever since, The Rock has become the target of thousands of gallons of paint; a favorite subject of speculation around campus is the rock's true size! According to the Michigan Daily, the plaque was last seen in 1982 and is now buried under at least a foot of paint.

Wave Field photo

Wave Field
"Landscape as Art"

Located in a courtyard on the sourtheast side of the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Building, and commissioned in memory of Francois-Xavier Bagnoud (‘82 Aerospace Engineering) by his mother, Countess Albina du Boisrouvray, Wave Field is an earth sculpture occupying a 90’ square space and representing a naturally occurring wave pattern. Architect/sculptor Maya Lin, best known as the artist who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, and the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, AL, described it as "a very gentle space that exists on a very human scale. It is a sanctuary, yet it’s playful, and with the changing shadows of the sun, it is completely transformed throughout the day. ‘The Wave Field’ expresses my desire to completely integrate a work with its site, revealing the connectedness of art to landscape, or landscape as art."