Deciphering Student Association Symbols*

by Andreas Hofferek
Translation by Peter Meinlschmidt

Besides the name and year dates, a variety of additional symbols are often found on a Student Association stein, the meanings of which may not always be clear to the uninitiated. In the past, these symbols were sometimes used as a secret means of transmitting messages, showing the initiated who was who. Let me give you an example. A stein contains the following dedication on the inside of the porcelain lid, or on the pewter lid or on the stein body:

iaB Andreas Hofferek Z!Z!
    (xxx,xx,x,FM)xx s./lb.
Lbb.AH Gary Kirsner Z! (x)
z.frd.Erg. CR W. 1994/95 S.

The individual symbols have the following meanings:

Z! stands for the respective circle (Zirkel), which indicates affiliation to an Association.
xxx Secretary of a Student Association, also called Subsenior.
xx Fencing master of a Student Association, also called Consenior.
FM Supervisor for the new members of a Student Association. A first year member was called Fux, which stands for Fuxmajor.
(...) between parentheses, functions held in previous semesters are indicated; without parentheses, functions held during the current semester (i.e., the semester in which the stein was dedicated) are mentioned.
aF or F stands for Fux, a new member.
aB stands for activer Bursch, a full fellow who pursues his studies.
iaB stands for inaktiver Bursch, a full fellow who studies no longer or must pass an exam.
AH stands for Alter Herr (Old Gentleman), an academician — also called a Philister — exercising his profession.
W.S. or S.S. stands for winter semester and summer semester of a given year, respectively.
Lbb. stands for Leibbursch, a senior member serving as a kind of tutor. Only an active or inactive fellow or Old Gentleman could hold this position.
Lbf. stands for Leibfia, a fellow who had a special relationship with the Leibbursch in the Society and who may be a Fux, active or inactive fellow, or Old Gentleman. This special personal relationship lasts for life and is ideally characterized by close friendship. The relationship starts after the fellow has been elected Leibbursch by the future Leibfia.
z.frd.Erg. stands for zur freundlichen Erinnerung (in friendly remembrance) and is frequently related to certain commemorative events, such as Christmas, Easter, Anniversary of the Society, Marriage.
CR, Ph. coded name of the University. The university town is, however, often also written in full letters or indicated by the abbreviated first letters.

The above example would therefore read as follows:

The stein was dedicated in friendly remembrance by the inactive fellow Andreas Hofferek — affiliated to two societies and who had been a Subsenior, Senior and Fuxmajor presently being a Consenior — to his Leibursch and Old Gentleman, Gary Kirsner, a former Senior, at Heidelberg during the winter semester 1994/95.

It should now be somewhat clearer for the interested reader to understand the background details of a certain student stein. Unfortunately the inscriptions are not always so clear or may differ from the above explanations because of varying traditions among the societies. This is why today individual symbols and abbreviations may not always be deciphered and/or understood.

Let me finally put your knowledge to the test by solving the “problem” below. My own signature reads:

AH Andreas Hofferek Z! (xxx, xx, x,
FM, xx, x FM) Z! (xx) (FM) Z!


*Reprinted from The Beer Stein Journal, August 1995, by permission from Gary Kirsner Auctions.