Queen’s: Robert de Eglesfield intended the College to consist of a Provost, 12 scholars (‘Apostles’) and 72 ‘disciples’ chosen to undertake an eighteen year course in Theology. Of this worthy scheme, only the Provost remains. The founder is commemorated in the annual ceremony of the needle and thread (the French ‘aiguille et fil’ being a play on his name). The Bursar solemnly presents each Fellow with a needle and a length of red thread, saying ‘Take this and be thrifty’.
New College: So called to distinguish it from Oriel, both at the time being dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. Wykeham founded Winchester College 8 years later to provide undergraduates, and it remained a closed society until the Victorian authorities, alarmed by the Wykehamist habit of awarding their own degrees, insisted on non-exclusive entry. What is now the Long Room was the Mediaeval lavatory block, and it is said that the cesspit was so huge that it did not need emptying for 300 years...
Oriel: So called because of a house, ‘La Oriole’, demolished in the 17th century when the college was entirely re-built. The hall in turn may have been named after an oriel window - a polygonal window protruding from an upper storey and supported from the ground.
Jesus still hoists a bunch of leeks on its flagpole on St. David’s Day, and is the headquarters of the University Welsh Society, Dafydd ap Gwilym. The winner of the 1863 Newdigate Poetry Prize (Subject: Coal Mines) was, appropriately, a Jesus scholar, Thomas Llewellyn Thomas
Wolsey fell from favour during the building of Christ Church - you can still see the unfinished cloisters. But he had put first things first, and the huge kitchen was complete.
Merton scholars are known as ‘postmasters’, a corruption of the mediaeval ‘portionistae’, ie. a poor scholar receiving a defined portion of food.
The Colleges were originally funded by gifts of land, whose rents provided their upkeep. Fellows of some colleges are called upon from time to time to accompany the Head of College and the Bursars on a ‘Progress’. Originally a rent-collecting trip, this is now a tour of inspection of the properties, often enhanced by the hospitality of the farmers. It is said you can walk from St John's Oxford to St John's Cambridge without stepping off land belonging to one or other college.