Jefford Vahlbusch told the Appalachian he simply "got tired of listening to female students say freshman. It just didn't seem to be right that we didn't have a non-gender specific way of talking about college students."
At that time a few years back, Vahlbusch was director of the University Honors Program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and he told the paper he was searching for "a non-sexist way to talk about freshmen."
Vahlbusch told the Appalachian he began using "freshmore" instead — as it eliminates that problematic "man" or "men" suffix, thereby becoming non-gender specific.
"I just started using [freshmore] and encouraging students, prospective students, and parents to use it, and it kind of caught on," he told the paper.
Have 'freshmore' will travel
When Vahlbusch was named dean of the Honors College at Appalachian State University in July 2017, he brought "freshmore" with him.
And while the paper said it hasn't become a universal term on the Boone, North Carolina, campus, the new dean noted that Honors College students and faculty have embraced "freshmore."
"I think that certainly the freshmore class this year is using it more often," Vahlbusch added to the Appalachian, noting also that "it's something that people have found fun and useful at the same time."
He noted that while "it would be interesting" to try using "freshmore" on an "institutional scale, but I don't know that mandating it is necessarily the way to go. I like change that comes from below, rather than change that comes from above."
What did one student have to say about 'freshmore'?
First-year Honors College student Marlen Cardenas told the paper she appreciates the sentiment behind using "freshmore."
"I don't mind being called a freshman," Cardenas added to the Appalachian, "but it's nice that they're making an effort to make sure everyone feels included."
What happened at an administrators' meeting?
Vahlbusch told the paper someone uttered the word "freshmen" during a high-level administrative meeting, and that person apologized for not having a better word to use.
"I think that we are really all rewarded when we strive for inclusive language and inclusive practice," Vahlbusch added to the Appalachian.
'The power of language'
Vahlbusch told the paper using a term like "freshmore" demonstrates awareness of language's power.
"We have women and men as college students," he told the Appalachian, "and I think having a non-gender specific way of talking about them, of addressing them, just shows that we're aware of the power of language."
Other meanings apparently connected to 'freshmore'
Um, about that "power of language" concern, the College Fix said "freshmore" has been to describe a student who didn't do well enough in first-year classes to take all the sophomore classes — so that student ends up taking first-year and second-year courses to catch up.
Indeed, the Urban Dictionary defines "freshmore" as a "student in his/her second year of high school who has failed too many classes to be considered a sophomore."
It isn't clear if Vahlbusch or the Honors College is aware of the not-so-auspicious roots of "freshmore," but we'll stay tuned.