Main piece: There are a lot of terms in rowing that are kind of – I wouldn’t say “outdated” but they are kind of outdated, and they don’t really make sense – um, especially in a modern context, and with the technology we’re using now. Because a lot of the terms we use come from shipping and sailing and stuff like that, which obviously isn’t very relevant now, but it’s kind of stuck around. So like, instead of saying “stop” when we want the rowers to stop rowing, we say “weigh enough” (how much you weigh and then enough), so people will say that like “way nuff” or “way off” and that just kind of like dialect and where you are in the country. Because what terms you use sometimes differs from what country you’re in and [in the United States] what part of the country you’re in. So for example, I say “way nuff” because I’m from the East Coast, but a lot of people from Ohio will say “way noff” like that’s enough.
I think it’s cause it’s just pretentious. Cause rowings’ pretentious. It’s kind of like traditionally a rich white sport, rowing isn’t accessible to many people cause you need to be by water, you need to be able to afford boats which are tens of thousands of dollars, literally. And then oars are expensive. The coxswain technology, like speakers and microphones, those are also very expensive. So it’s very expensive to start rowing. And then there are membership fees and stuff. So the whole thing is very classist. So I think that’s why a lot of the language is still outdated. And there’s a part of “if you know, you know” so like rowers will be talking about these different terms and terminologies in stories and things and unless you’ve rowed you won’t know what they’re saying and it’s kind of like a club.
Background: KP is a sophomore coxswain for The Ohio State University rowing team. After coxing competitively in Maryland clubs for four years, she was recruited to cox at Ohio, which she has now done for two years. KP is a Korean-American woman, who would not describe her financial situation as affluent.
Context: When asking KP about different rowing traditions, she dropped multiple slang terms, such as “unis” and boating terms such as “port” and “starboard”. When she finished recounting the story, I asked her about different terms she uses as a coxswain. She then prefaced her explanation of “way nuff” with the clarification that these things are often outdated. I then asked her why she and other rowers would use outdated terminology.
Analysis: KP seems to believe that using this kind of terminology is for the purposes of exclusion, to isolate non-rowers as a part of its classist history. Even as rowing as a sport has largely moved away from those origins (especially on the non-competitive collegiate level, where anyone can participate), she finds that in the competitive rowing world, those kinds of terms are still used. However, this slang, as she says with “it’s kind of like a club”, also serves to bond the rowers who are in the know closer together, as they are able to tell stories and use slang terms without taking the time to explain themselves. Additionally, these slang terms can also be taught to new rowers or those who are entering the sport, and serve to cement those who are members, as they are then able to use the terms. Or, as KP said, “if you know, you know”.