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stack 2

One fine Tuesday morning, your Bwoggers tried to beat Reading Week boredom with a fortray into John Jay cafeteria. They went to take a surtray of the tray puns they had found etched into trays there. After a few short inquiries, they gained early entrance into the cafeteria—John Jay’s director was equally curious as to what these blue and white etchings would reveal…


What the Bwoggers found confirmed their suspicions: this is an old tradition, and nobody has any idea who started it.


kyser soztray
The earliest tray that can be dated was etched on 3 September 2001: “Mothafuckas act like they forgot about Tray.” Perhaps the history of etchings goes further back, then. Many trays were still in the scullery at the time of surveillance; the record is incomplete, and the truth uncertain. We leave it to you, readers, to seek that truth.


A tray first etched eight days later, with “World Trayde Center 9/11/2001,” shows that Columbia students are disrespectful punks: etched near this touching memorial is the word, “semen.” A student of limited creativity, initialled TD, added “Be-tray-al.” TD, you are not the only one, and you are not the first.

There is a certain immaturity about this art form. Some trays don’t even try: there is, for instance, “Penis.” Some trays seek immaturity: “Statutory traype,” and some seek it inarticulately: “Statuatory traype.” Many authors express a deep-seated sexual repression, and yearn for love and attention:


traydo maso


sexual frust
And they can be crude: one tray cleverly references the nineties’ Wreckx-n-Effect with the inscription, “Rump-trayker,” another musically demands and exclaims in two more inscriptions, “Traype Me,” and “Tray baby!” On one tray, the incomprehensible words, “the buttray,” are made quite comprehensible with the later addition of a “p” at the end.



Here, we would like to observe a moment of silence and, in the finest Bwog tradition, report a ‘bias incident’:


tray for shocc
We appreciate the lasting innocence of the vandal who scratched John Coltrayne’s immortal name into the other side of this unfortunate tray (not pictured).



Some authors’ appeals were more poetic, drawing on Queen with a “Trazy Little Thing Called Love,” and the words of Shakespeare with “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s tray?”

Love and sex are not the only lasting themes in these works of art: there are innumerable references to popular culture, celebrities, the City, French, and politics. One tray blends several categories: an etcher writes, “War protesters are traytors,” and another responds, with an arrow, “Tray idiotic.”
Some manage to do so with pictures:


tray guevara
Pictures may be the future of tray punning. Your Bwoggers also found the NATO seal on a tray inscribed with “North Atlantic Trayty Organization,” and a birthday balloon on a tray that cheerfully offered, “Happy Birthtray!”


And then there is the commentary on John Jay cafeteria, a treasure trove of multifaceted tray gems. Some fixate on the act of eating:



Others focus on media: “Seize the tray,” one tray demands of whichever diner may come across it. “Trays on Campus” is deceptively straightforward. “First tray back” evokes a perverse nostalgia for first-year culinary angst. “John Tray” appears everywhere.


What elitist collegiate institution would be complete without its own meta-commentary? A dialogue of powdered fiberglass runs through John Jay’s most enduring tradition: for every tray that hails the “Traytrix,” “John Trayvolta,” “Wall Street trayder[s],” or “the tray the music died,” there is an egotistical tray, a tray that centers the game upon itself. We are “Vandals in trayning,” one artist declares. Another thinks he’s clever, for a “Tray on words.” In homage to The Shining, a procrastinator gives us:


all work and no tray
Others marvel in their own work, wondering that,



mysterious trays
and lamenting that finding these works of art is like trying to “Find the needle in the traystack.” An engraver says he’s “Sustaining the grand traydition, one tray at a time,” and the most selfish and defiant of all trays declares in a spirit, however, full of undeniable egalitarianism:



trays are belong to us 

John Klopfer and Anna Corke, with special thanks to Mariel Davis and Mark Holden

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  1. Jonathan  

    Wow. This is an amazing collection of puns. We Columbia kids are so damn witty sometimes...

    Thanks BWOG.

  2. um  

    is this post fucked up for anyone else?

    • old blue

      (1) This post is indeed a mess: images are floating above, and blocking, the text.

      (2) Because of the garbled nature of this post, I can't tell whether the B&W is wondering if this tradition goes back well before 2001. In any event, I'm happy to report that it is an old tradition. Back in 1999, before you got spiffy new trays (circa 2004 maybe?), we had ancient trays littered with messages--I seem to recall seeing dates in the 80s on some of the more beat-up ones.

  3. all your base are belong to us  

    all your base are belong to us

  4. tee hee  

    I'm so glad BWOG did this!! I've been wildly entertrayned (sorry) by these for quite a while now...

  5. nevermind  

    'sall good now, g

  6. yeah  

    these are new trays... the old trays had 'em, too

  7. I LOVE  

    Bwog for shit like this!

  8. tray-cool  

    i only take the trays with the funny sayings on them.

  9. M.R.  

    I miss the old pre 2004 trays. If I'd had a say in it the best punned trays wouldve been preserved in homage to Columbia student ingenuity.

  10. wowzers  

    wonderful! and of course only compiled by freshmen.

  11. Trey

    This tradition of writing on trays was started by Tze-ngo Chun, CC '02, as a freshman in 1998. He signed his trays "Z"

    Now you don't have to say "nobody has any idea who started it" anymore.

    • John  

      Er, wow. Where did you learn that? And thanks.

    • an earlier letter of the alphabet

      Tze, is that you subtly taking credit?

      There is some truth to that. I do not remember seeing any trays etched at all before a small group of us living together on the 5th floor of john jay started etching them in 1998. i believe the idea was stolen from wellesley's dining hall and the first one etched was "mom, dad, i'm tray."

  12. tray pissed off  

    this would be way funnier if the people who wrote it weren't the same people who went on a tray-writing binge. It's self-congratulatory and that's annoying.

    • John  

      I conceived ONE of the trays mentioned in this article. You count the rest... Not much to congratulate myself on, there. The 'binge' you refer to was inspired by many of the trays catalogued in this article. Others were created by our friends on the same basis, but the ratio of trays we can trace to ones we can't, for this article, is 1:4, if you include its title in the traceable column.

      So, yes: I give a shit about my subject matter; no, I do not write to put my life and works and friends on a pedestal. A commentary would make a terrible form for that, anyway.

      Also, for what it's worth, I adhere to the belief that critics who aren't creators have no place on any page, anywhere.

  13. Ben Wheeler

    I started at Columbia in 1997, and as I recall there were only about two or three tray-pun etchings. The only one I remember was "tray chic".

  14. gosh  

    the tray guevara one is AMAZING!

  15. 133th4xx0r  

    last 0n3 is 1337 h4xxing 4t it5 f1n3st

  16. I've had  

    the trays with "Kyser Soz-Tray" and "Penetraytion" on them...Bwog rocks for this!

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