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Vivat academia, vivant professores! :| note 
Vivat membrum quodlibet,note 
Vivat membra quaelibet,note 
Semper sint in flore! :|note 
Gaudeamus Igitur, 4th stanza

Student societies come in many shapes and sizes. North America famously has the three letter fraternity and sorority. The United Kingdom has students’ dining club. Sweden has the Studentnation and Finland has the Osakunta. The Netherlands has the Corps. Spain and Latin America have the Tuna, and Italy has the Goliardia.

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Germany, Austria and Switzerland, amongst other German-influenced countries (such as Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and occasionally even outliers like Chile, Russia, Japan and China), have what can be considered the model of the modern concept of a student fraternity: Die Studentenverbindung, also known as Korporation.

As an institution, student fraternities have exerted a great deal of influence on German culture and history, often to the point that - while in many places, student fraternities are at best considered a cultural quirk of their country - in Germany, it is the country that can be considered a cultural quirk of the student fraternities, as they were a major driving force behind the Revolutions of 1848, and thus more or less directly responsible for the creation of a unified German nation.

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Bursen, Nationes and the rest of the Saurierei - A Brief History

The Korporation - Fraternity Flavours

  • Catholic Studentenverbindung or -verein:
  • Corps
  • Burschenschaft:
  • Landsmannschaft
  • Damenverbindung and -corps
  • Christian Studentenverbindung
  • Sängerschaft and Musischer Studentenverein
  • Academic Turnerverbindung and Turnerschaft
  • Academic Fliegerschaft
  • Academic Ruderverbindung
  • Academic Seglerverein
  • Jagdverbindung
  • Forstakademische Verbindung
  • Agronomium
  • Nautische Studentenschaft
  • Schwarze Verbindung

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The Activitas and Philisterschaft - Members and Hierarchy

  • Three basic classes of fraternity members exist:
    • Fuchs: ‘Fox’. Newcomers typically have to pass a probation period, for the duration of which they are 'objects of servitude' and perform the lowest of tasks without many of the rights of full members, while learning all the subtleties of being a Bundesbruder ahead of their Branderung and ultimate Burschung. On the upside, they often drink for free.
    • Bursche: A fully privileged, active fraternity member.
    • Alter Herr or Philister: ‘Old Sir’ or 'Philistine'. Burschen that have either graduated, retired or both, become members of the Altherren- or Philisterschaft, where they're largely freed from the Burschen's usual obligations, but are expected to finance and - to a certain extent - manage the fraternity where their younger, less experienced brothers fail. As per the Lebensbundprinzip, Philister are expected to remain so until death.
  • The Chargenkabinett (ChC) typically consists of:
    • Senior (x): The club president, the senior-most student and the tip of the executive branch. He also represents the fraternity externally.
    • Consenior (xx): Aids the Senior in carrying out his directives. Takes care of day-to-day matters and puts a bit of stick about.
    • Schriftführer (xxx): The clerk. Maintains the flow of communication and keeps the minutes.
    • Kassier (xxxx): The treasurer.
    • Fuchsmajor (FM): Is in charge of the Füchse. It is his duty to put them to work and duly prepare them for the Branderung and Burschung.
    • The Altherrenchargenkabinett (AHChC) usually sets up a parallel structure to form a shadow cabinet and advise the ChC.

Are you even satisfaktionsfähig? - Laws, Rules, Customs and Mores

  • The 4 Principles:
    • Religio
    • Scientia
    • Patria
    • Amicitia

Kneipe and Kommers - Feasts and Ceremonies

  • Stiftungsfest:
  • Krambambuli:
  • Reception:
  • Branderung:
  • Burschung or Burschifikation:
  • Landesvater:
  • Trauerkommers:
  • Convent:

The Cantusprügel - A Selection of Music

  • Gaudeamus igitur: An anthem that is regularly sung by most fraternities at most formal events. At it essence, it lauds students and student life, university, the country, admonishes sadness, mockers, and the devil, and warns the listeners that their lives are short and easily spent uneventfully.
    • Not all fraternities sing the song the whole way through. Some shorten it for sake of brevity, others eschew stanzas out of principle (sororities might do away with Vivat omnes virgines...note , legitimists might do away with Vivat et res publica...note , and so on).
  • Wenn wir durch die Straßen ziehen: The song is, for all intents and purposes, a fraternity student's extended apology to his girlfriend for staying up late, partying hard, drinking copious amounts of booze and eyeing and/or having other girls. Notably, almost every line is expected to be altered, doctored, subverted or plain Mondegreened in some way, making the end result usually a lot more bawdy, patriotic, witty or all at once.
  • Es hatten drei Gesellen: A somber song about three fraternity brothers enjoying life, until two of them die, leaving the third to mourn their loss and drink on by his lonely self. It is usually sung only at two occasions: Upon a someone's admission into the brotherhood, and upon his death.
  • Die Gedanken sind frei: A song about the freedom of thought and how it can never be quelled, but also about desires and personal indulgences. The song cropped up as a reaction to the repressive Carlsbad Decrees of 1819 and massively gained traction during Revolutions of 1848. Like many student songs, it made the jump into general public conscience early and has been often sung in defiance of perceived tyranny ever since (such as in Nazi Germany).
  • Ode an die Freude: Based on the poem by Friedrich Schiller, Ode To Joy celebrates happiness and the unity, brotherhood and the beauty it brings. The most famous version of it, by Ludwig van Beethoven, now serves as the anthem of The European Union. Like Die Gedanken sind frei, it gained traction worldwide as a protest song.
  • Krambambuli: A lengthy song espousing the divine-like attributes of the Feuerzangenbowle, and how there can be no substitute for it. Appropriately, it's sung, with increasing speed and vigour, during Krambambulikneipe.
  • Papst und Sultan: An "I Want" Song discussing a student's typical dilemma: Would he rather live like a pope (who gets the finest wine but is forced to live in celibacy) or like a sultan (who enjoys his Royal Harem but is banned from drinking by The Qur'an). The verdict: Why not be both?
  • Steigerlied: Traditionally a miners' anthem, starting with the traditional greeting "Glück auf!" (meaning 'good luck opening up a new lode'), this song is particularly popular amongst fraternities of technical universities specialising in mining and metallurgy.
    • What makes it even more interesting are the countless number of custom Fakultätsstrophen that have sprung up over the years to celebrate (and mock) people (and students) of other occupations, such as mathematicians, cooks, road workers, teachers, lawyers, etc.
    Veterinarians' stanza: Hat ein Leiden euer Pudel, geben wir ihm gleich die Kugel. :|note 
  • Deutschlandlied:
  • Burschenstrophe:
  • Fuxenstrophe:

The Mensur - Swordplay and Duelling

Controversies

Plenis coloribus: A ‘who-is-who’ of famous fraternity and sorority members:

    Famous (and infamous) Korporierte 

Burschensprache - A Useful Phrasebook:

Over the centuries, Verbindungen have given birth to a fairly widespread amount vocabulary consisting not only of Gratuitous German (being sesquipedalian even by high German standards), but also Gratuitous Latin and Gratuitous French (the other two lingua francas that students historically had to deal with on a daily basis). Many of these words have made the jump into everyday German use, much to the point that their fraternity roots have become largely forgotten.
    Fachjargon for Beginners: Idioms, Synonyms and other Lingo 
  • Bierfuchs!: Never to be confused with “Bierjunge!”.
  • Bierjunge!:
    • Generalbierjunge!:
    • Hängt!:
  • Bierverschiss
    • Corporationsgericht:
  • Büffeln
  • Bursche: Has become a colloquial German term for 'boy' or 'young man'.
  • Cantus
    • Cantusprügel
  • Dixit!:
  • Fiducit!:
  • Fuchsenbesteck:
  • Fuchsenherrlichkeit:
  • Fuchsenziffer:
  • Heil dir/[Fraternity]: A standard phrase to toast a person or fraternity. Unfortunate Implications crop up regularly since it has exactly the same meaning as that other iteration of 'Heil'. But considering that this figure of speech is centuries old, it's essentially become a mixture of "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny and "Funny Aneurysm" Moment.
  • Hoher [Rank/Position]:
  • Löffeln:
  • Kiste:
    • Kistenschinder:
  • Mein Name ist Hase, ich weiß von nichts:
  • Omnes ad locam!:
  • Omnes sedeatis!:
  • Omnes surgite!:
  • Pabsten: The act of being physically sick after drinking one beers too many. Derived from a thinly veiled pun on the German term for (and as an anti-clerical Take That! against) the Pope. Many a Catholic fraternity have long considered substituting it with “Luthern”.
    • Pabst: A specialised elevated sink to ensure a hygienic and dignified round of Pabsten.
    • Papstat: That which is emitted during the act, hopefully to be intercepted and contained by a Pabst.
  • Paulen:
  • Pauken:
  • Peto tempus:
  • Pressen:
    • Presskeller:
  • Sine sine, ohne mit dir kohlen zu wollen:
  • Silentium!:
  • Spießbürger:
  • Stärk dich!:
    • Satis!:
    • Ad diagonalem!:
    • Ad fundum!:
    • Causa:
      • Unakademischer Gesichtsausdruck:
  • Stell’s dir rein!: “Place it inside yourself” - ‘it’ being the Stoff at hand. Often humorously anglicised as ‘...Ryan’.
  • Stoff:
    Paulen for Advanced Inebriates: Insults 
  • Buxe: A pun on Burschenschafter (and the trousers of the Wichs), but can also be used as a riff on fraternal students in general:
    • Ackerbuxen: ‘Pasture Buxen’. Members of an Agronomia (agrarian order).
    • Babybuxen: High school fraternity members.
    • Bibelbuxen: Members of Catholic, Protestant or Christian fraternities in general.
    • Braune Buxen: ‘Brown Buxen’. Far-right or ultranationalist fraternity members.
    • Flautenbuxen: ‘Doldrum Buxen’. Sailing fraternity members.
    • Gewürzbuxen: ‘Spice Buxen’. See Curry.
    • Jodelbuxen: Choir or singing fraternity members.
    • Kaiserbuxen: Monarchist and Legitimist fraternity members.
    • Kleinbuxen: ‘Little Buxen’. See Babybuxen.
    • Kletterbuxen: ‘Climbing Buxen’. Turnerschafter.
    • Legobuxen: Engineering and polytechnic fraternities.
    • Paddelbuxen: Rowing fraternities.
    • Pimmelbuxen: ‘Dick Buxen’. Male-only Fraternities.
    • Schmierölbuxen: ‘Axle Grease Buxen’. Weinheimer polytechnic fraternities.
    • Schrotbuxen: ‘Birdshot Buxen’. Hunting fraternities.
    • Territorialbuxen: Landsmannschaften.
    • Tittenbuxen: Self-explanatory. Sororities.
  • Buxig: Adjective for something negative that can be attributed to a Burschenschafter's typical behaviour.
  • Curry: A riff on Corps students.
    • Grüne Curry: ‘Green Curry’. Fraternities infamous for their disgusting practices or nauseating behaviour.
  • Landser: A riff on Landsmannschafter (and the Nazi-era military rank of the same name).
  • Phritte: Possibly the worst slur a fraternity student can throw at another. Depending on where it’s uttered, it can provoke serious disciplinary measures.
    • Phrittenbude: A Bude full of Phritten. Not to be confused with the identically pronounced ‘Frittenbude’, which just means ‘chip shop’.

Tropes associated with Studentenverbindungen:

  • Absurdly Powerful Student Council: Brought to its logical conclusion, considering just how vertical the power structures are. Naturally, they are private clubs rather than associated with the universities themselves, so it doesn't usually translate into student life, especially since academic pursuit is the one thing that all fraternities agree outranks fraternity obligations.
  • Altum Videtur: If something can be said in German plainly but sounds more splendidly when uttered in Latin, chances are it is uttered in Latin. This is more or less mandated by tradition, since that fraternities intended to show off what excellent education they have been privy to at their respective universities.
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats: Ignoring the hats themselves (see Nice Hat below), the average Studentenverbindung's dense volume of traditions, protocols and high requirement of expert knowledge can even put some Masonic lodges to shame. This pseudo-secretive behaviour was of course enforced at several points in history, as fraternities were often outlawed and its members persecuted, making it necessary to invent means to organise themselves right under the authorities' radar and spot any informants.
  • Bling of War: Their Vollwichs is usually styled after 19th century cavalry uniforms with some 16th century Landsknecht attire thrown in. But usually with more and brighter colours and a lot more flairs - which, considering the source material, is saying something.
  • Dueling Scar: Pretty much the Trope Codifier.
  • Germanic Depressives: The culture of Kneipen, and the celebratory side of fraternity life in general, was conjured almost specifically to defy the archetype of the Spießbürger that was originally associated with new German middle class during the (extremely conservative, post-French Revolution, post-Napoleonic) Biedermeier period.
  • Germanic Efficiency: In theory, it is enforced through its reasonably complex system of etiquette, hierarchy and even a certain amount of due process. In practice, the ideal of efficiency is rendered moot by the sheer volume of traditions and the cavalier attitude associated with fraternity students.
    • It also manifests itself in a particularly odd way through '§ 11': The stipulation that the drinking must never abate.
  • Initiation Ceremony: Come in several flavours, often marking different stages of their fraternity progression. Apart from passing the examinations, the most popular ones include chugging an entire mug of beer ad fundum (popular at Receptionen), chugging a really big, multi-litre mug, chugging a disgusting Brandergetränk, the Branderung itself, singing, reading a poem, and (of course) the Mensur (ie compulsory fencing).
  • In My Language, That Sounds Like...: The American beer label Pabst causes no end of hilarity amongst Verbindungsstudenten since (while technically a perfectly acceptable German surname) it has quite a different (though still beer-relevant) meaning for them.
  • Mildly Military: Several traditions are lifted straight from military culture, such as the act of carrying bladed weapons, dueling, marching in cadence, the Military Salute, uniformal headgear, cavalry inspired Vollwichs, or the carrying of flags and standards with a dedicated colour guard. Beyond that however, military rigour is (usually) pretty much nonexistent.
    • It helps that, historically, Verbindungen often formed skirmisher units in times of war (the most prominent example being the original Lützow Free Corps), which even then often turned out to be military units in name only.
  • Nice Hat: Every Verbindung (that isn't a Schwarze) has its own type of headgear in their own colours. The most popular variants are the Cerevis (pillbox-type forage caps worn on the forehead - standard head cover for most fraternities' Vollwichs) and the Deckel or Tellermütze ('lid' or 'plate cap'; peaked caps; also widespread in Scandinavian Studentnationer). Other popular designs are renaissance-era plumed berets, Stürmer ('stormers'; kepi-style forage caps with propped-up tops), Tonnen ('tonnes'; pillbox-type forage caps worn on the scalp), and Hinterhauptcouleur (‘back-of-the-head Couleur’; smaller Deckel worn on the scalp).
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The Convente have an almost legendary reputation for veering into petty squabbling and minor drama - if enough people bother to turn up at all, anyway.
  • Pet the Dog: Many fraternities celebrate a Fuchsenkneipe, during which the seniority of all members is reversed, along with all the privileges it implies. The slave-like Füchse become top dog for one evening, with the youngest Fuchs becoming Senior.
  • Serious Business: The upholding of core values and the Comment is treated by most fraternities with various degrees of seriousness, especially in the face of outside ridicule. Particularly Corps and Burschenschaften have reputations for being sticklers for protocol.
  • Sigil Spam: Members of farbentragende fraternities have the tendency to sneak their coat of arms, their Zirkel and particularly their colour combinations into the weirdest of places - not just uniforms, flags and official signatures, but also mugs, rings, lapel pins, ties, t-shirts, smartphone covers, hip flasks, wristwatches, pocket watches, coasters, tiles, bricks, bumper stickers, and so on. Also this practice has its roots in their requirement of secrecy (as detailed under Brotherhood of Funny Hats).
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness:
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: Compared to their American counterparts, the Studentenverbindung's much more formalistic nature and pseudo-martial image makes them natural snobs. In reality, the rift is often however purely aesthetic.
  • Staff of Authority: Many fraternities and sororities who chose to forego the militaristic imagery of carrying Schläger and sabres often opt for Bummler, massive (usually wooden) knobbed canes that generally serve the same ceremonial purpose as Schläger.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Oftentimes, a strict adherence to naming protocols is enforced, where members are expected to address each other by their position.
    • Even though the traditional etiquette amongst (non-fraternal) university students allows them to address each other with the informal "Du" even as total strangers, many Comments still consider the formal "Sie" a must. Any ascent to the fabled "per du" must first be earned.
  • Wacky Fratboy Hijinx: While somewhat more restrained than in many American fraternities, it is customary to steal unattended Couleur (and, occasionally, kidnap unattended Füchse) and then have them bailed out with copious amounts of beer. During Kneipen, it is also possible to steal unattended blades from the Praesidium and initiate a Contrakneipe until the original Praesidium pays up.

Studentenverbindungen in fiction:

General

  • In Wilhelm Meyer-Förster’s play Old Heidelberg, a young heir to a throne somewhere in Imperial Germany is sent to university in Heidelberg, incognito, and decides to join a Corps so that he can have the time of his civilian life. Received several adaptations, such as Ernst Lubitsch’s The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg.
  • In Heinrich Mann’s satirical novel Man Of Straw, the cowardly protagonist Diederich joins a fencing fraternity and begins to antagonise his fellow students so he can earn his Schmiss Dueling Scar and get ahead in Imperial German society. It was adapted into a film in 1951 and a BBC mini-series in 1974.
  • In Royal Flash, Flashman is forced by Otto von Bismarck to impersonate a Danish prince who touts a Schmiss Dueling Scar. In order to maintain the disguise, Flash is also subjected to the proper way to earn them: Mensur (by some accounts, badly). It too received a film adaptation in 1974, starring Malcolm McDowell.

Film

  • In the Get Smart Movie, Ziegfried reveals that he got his Schmiss Dueling Scar fighting Mensur in Heidelberg against his own brother.

Literature

Live-Action TV

  • In an episode of Münster’s Tatort, a skeleton of a member of a local schlagende Burschenschaft is found. Investigator Boerne himself turns out to be a member of that same Burschenschaft, much to his colleagues’ horror. Hilarity Ensues.

Music

  • When Johannes Brahms received his honorary doctorate from the University of Breslau (modern-day Wroclaw), he returned the favour by composing the Academic Festival Overture (Op. 80), which is essentially a potpourri of fraternity drinking songs (such as the Reception anthem Was kommt da von der Höh), with Gaudeamus Igitur forming the triumphant finale. The jury's still out on whether Brahms was secretly making fun of the university by basing the overture on something so reasonably bawdy.

Western Animation

  • In Batman: The Animated Series, villain Arkady Duvall earned a Dueling Scar in his Heidelberg university’s “fencing club”. While that seems to allude to Mensur practices, it is (erroneously) referred to more like an extracurricular sports activity.

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