Confusion Corner: Exploring virtues of twampiness

Confusion Corner columnist JR Herman takes us through the most important attributes of a 'twamp.'

We all know the definition of a twamp: a “typical William and Mary person.” But let’s be honest — that’s not a very helpful definition. What truly defines a twamp? My hall’s orientation aides posed this daunting question to us, and we were stumped. We could not agree on a single, all-encompassing definition, but some answers included: hard-working, quirky, intelligent, curious, creative, overcommitted and even nerdy.

But is a twamp defined by a few higher order character traits like those that make up personality psychology’s Big Five? I say no. From my experience, I would argue that a twamp cannot be defined by mainstream adjectives and character traits — a twamp’s essence is complex and anything but typical. In an attempt to help highlight and identify the twamp, I have compiled what I believe is a helpful identification guide, based on seemingly ordinary behavior — at least at the College of William and Mary.

“I would argue that a twamp cannot be defined by mainstream adjectives and character traits — a twamp’s essence is complex and anything but typical.”

Thus, I present you with a curated list of twamp traits. You know you’re a twamp when…

  1. You browse the internet — not during class, but during your free time. You view not just random memes, but also intellectual memes and then send said memes to your fellow classmates and friends. Your friends not only do not judge you for browsing nerdy memes, but they also appreciate the humor and send you some in return. Bonus points if you make the memes yourself.
  2. Your idea of “flexing” is much of the rest of the world’s idea of “anti-flexing.” Instead of showing off how little you studied, you flex about how much you studied. You may even complain about how terribly you did on a test. Bonus points if you then get an A on the test you thought you failed. Extra bonus points if you get an A on the test that you complained about to someone else.
  3. You are so passionate about various niche academic subjects that you get into hard-core debates at any time, on any subject, no matter how small. Even a simple question like “Who is your favorite emperor?” can turn into a heated discussion or a vicious debate at 11:33 p.m. on a Tuesday night.
  4. You’re not totally sure if some of your friends are just really, really passionate about their niche subjects or if they’re low-key in the process of starting an academic cult. You might be an even bigger twamp if you’re interested in joining said cult.
  5. You go into battle mode whenever a Kahoot or class team activity starts because winning means eternal glory.
  6. You’re sorted into Zoom breakout rooms, and even though the professor isn’t there watching you, you still talk about what you’re supposed to… just because.
  7. You check your College email at least six times a day and actually read every message thoroughly — even though half of them are form letters — just because you don’t want to miss something.
  8. You’re a member of five clubs and two other organizations, in addition to having a full and rigorous academic workload. Bonus points if you go to the meetings for more than the food and are actively involved. Extra bonus points if these clubs are academic clubs.
  9. Hitting the books at Swem on a Friday night to get ahead for the next week doesn’t seem like a torturous activity. It seems like a normal — dare I say even enjoyable — way to spend your time.
  10. You can barely remember the long, long ago time before the sleep deprivation set in.
  11. You are filling out a club’s Google Form and are asked questions such as “if you were turned into an aardvark tomorrow morning, what would you do?” and “if you were a protist would you continue to stay a single celled organism or would you combine with other protists to be multicellular?” yet you aren’t fazed. You think, “Oh, ok,” like it’s not awkward or strange at all — as if that’s an expected question on an application. Bonus points if you were the one who put those questions on a form.
  12. You are asked to describe yourself and instead of explaining your favorite hobbies or sports, you mention your hatred of bananas, the fact that you once got a burrito thrown at you by a drunk Navy guy, your fascination with a particular Greek god or how you once raised six guinea pigs at one time.
  13. You’ve made at least one good friend just from bonding about how stressed you are about an upcoming exam.
  14. You don’t believe in the term “overachiever.” How can one overachieve?
  15. Your professor tells the class that you don’t have to read a certain section of the textbook because you won’t be tested on it, but you still read that section anyway because you really, really want to learn the specialized features of demonstrative pronouns in Middle Egyptian.
  16. You show up to your Zoom classes seven minutes early.
  17. You frequently employ the em-dash in texts to friends.
  18. You love the College logo so much that you have attempted to draw the interlocking ‘W’ and ‘M’ — most likely unsuccessfully. Bonus points if you scoffed at my referring to it as the logo rather than its proper name, the cypher.
  19. You actually use the term twamp on a weekly — or even daily — basis. Bonus points if you write a Flat Hat article using the term.
  20. You didn’t finish reading this article because you had to go study for a test that isn’t for another three days.

And lastly, a disclaimer — the word twamp is not and should not be considered derogatory in any sense. I proudly identify as a twamp and find that students at the College are some of the most interesting and welcoming individuals I have ever met.

J.R. Herman is a Confusion Corner columnist and she wants you to embrace your inner twampiness — she sure has. Email J.R. Herman at


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