I wonder if anyone ever says the word “Sillibrary” without irony.
For those of you who lived on Old Campus freshman year and have virtually no knowledge of the ways of the English language, the Sillibrary is Silliman’s library. Walk around the college and you’ll hear a veritable chorus of Sillimanders:
“I’m going to go head over to the, uh –“ÊThis is the key moment of the exchange. At this point the speaker inevitably pauses, as if to connote finger quotes.Ê
He or she continues: “Sillibrary,” feeling both exaltation and shame, like a person who’s just let out a whoop at seizing Commons’ choicest square of Tofu Apple Crisp.
There are two exceptions to this, and their names are Lydia and Eve. They say “Sillibrary” without irony all the time.
It sure sounds stupid, though.
As you’ll no doubt have guessed, one sillified word was quite enough for me. Too much, even. But to add sillinsult to sillinjury, the names of other historic Silliman locations have been soiled by the presence of a prefatory “silli-.” There are the newly revivified sillidining hall, where sillistudents eat three sillimeals a day, and the sillitowers, atop which they drink themselves sick before falling off the silliunbarricaded seventh story sillibalcony to their deaths. There’s nothing silli about that.
But there is more to the sillilife than asinine prefaces. Still, most Yalies from the South Side (of Wall Street, that is) seem to know nothing about what goes on inside the barbed-wire gates of the tenth oldest residential college of Yale in the world.ÊIn fact, the Gentiles (non-Sillimanders) I’ve spoken to seem to regard Silliman somewhat as they would a secret society that just can’t keep itself secret, a sort of pitiable society on a mad tapping binge, one that offers its members little power but much free clothing, entirely devoid of mystique, looking for cachet in all the wrong places.Ê
And indeed, this perception is not entirely inaccurate: far away and difficult to find, surely designed as much to intimidate as to repulse, its water usage equal to that of the rest of Yale combined (yes, the rumors are true), Silliman looms on the outskirts of New Haven like a strike breaker at the next staff Christmas party, craving affection.
But beyond the bleak facade, literal and figurative, lives a world as warm and balmy as Vincent Scully’s body on a cold December night after an exhausting day of hurling fruit at intransigent projectionists. On any given day you may see a sophomore whom I know as Hambone, but whose name is almost certainly not Hambone, fly-fishing in the courtyard.Ê
Fly-fishing in the courtyard, I tell you. As though he’s ever going to catch anything out there. And yet, on he goes, indomitable and righteous, like that woman in the pantsuit who tried to teach us about stereotypes (ask a freshman; it was dreadful).Ê
Often you’ll find our beloved Master, Krauss by name, standing atop the balustrade of her porch, a bullhorn in her hand and the fire of inspiration in her eyes, loudly berating anyone who prefers other campus dining halls to that of Silliman (“Oh, yeah? What exactly do you like about Berkeley? The lines?”).
And on special nights, particularly weekend nights, particularly after frat house rush events, you might glimpse our resident football star, whose name I intentionally omit, bemoaning the sorry state of his romantic affairs.
“I used to have a girlfriend,” he’ll say to you, his voice as affectless as that of any Yale “cheerleader,” “but then I said I didn’t like Madeleine Albright.” Madeleine Albright? you’ll ask. “Madeleine Albright,” he’ll nod with resignation, his face as solemn as Lydia and Eve’s will be in about eight years, when they come to the inevitable conclusion that they sounded stupid all along.
What I intend to convey is that Silliman is a lovely place, and if you can locate it, we’d be delighted to see you.