Friday 7 September 2007


As some isolated communities do, the boys of the school developed their own vocabulary, which might have mystified any outsider listening in to our private conversations. Python-worshippers may remember the episode of the squadron leader's banter. But there was nothing intentionally secret about it, and the masters were probably able to follow it.

I've forgotten most of it by now, but a couple of examples come to mind. "Hard ched" meant "hard luck" (by way of "hard cheese" and "hard cheddar"). "The whack" meant being caned.

Because we all studied Latin, we sometimes threw in a few words of pidgin Latin for comic effect, or spoke English as if translating literally from Latin ("The match this afternoon is ought-to-be-watched.").

Once, at assembly, Mr Cromie got up in front of us all (evidently the headmaster had delegated this task to him) and announced that he had heard boys using the word "crappy". He presumed that those boys didn't know what the word meant, and suggested that we substitute the word "tatty" in future.

I don't think anyone took up the suggestion, but we found it amusing and somewhat to his credit that he thought of recommending a substitute instead of simply banning the offending word.

In the main changing room for use after sport there was a large communal shower area with multiple shower heads. On one occasion, a matron accompanying a visiting team was surveying the naked boys in the shower, and was overheard to comment, "They come in all shapes and sizes!" This was felt to be highly humorous and was much quoted thereafter.


Julian Williams said...

I remember the Crappy moment. We had an airfix ship in 5B which we had named HMS Crappy. Mr Cromie taught 5B, I expect that is why he was asked to make the announcement. In 5B (B stream)we did not know what crappy meant, but the headmaster did tell the head boy, Paul Dolin, the real meaning. Paul would not tell us what it meant but said it was an awful word. It took me another year to find out.

The matron who said "I seen them in all shapes and sizes" was at Beaudesert. Stouts Hill had a sort of communal bath which we all sat in after games, with lumps of soap we had to feel about for in the soapy water. We also had a row of communal loos which, when the door was open, could be seen from the changing room.

We used words like Quizz (who wants this) and Ego (I) when giving away things in class.

We called the loo the Twa for some reason. The joke being French for one two three was under Twa.

Anonymous said...

How about 'Sub Bogging'? This was the duty of Sub Prefects, who, on a rota would be responsible for ensuring the changing room areas were tidied up after games but before tea. They would press gang a team of younger boys with the shout of "Sub Bogging!!" If you refused, you went to the Study.
This was in the time of all games kit being communal. ie: nobody had their own to fester in their games bags all term. There were large baskets of freshly laundered kit made available before games, and you just dumped it afterwards when it was covered in mud. Sub Bogging was clearing this kit and cleaning the showers etc.
Another phrase was "KV!" or to "Keep KV". This was either to warn of a Master approaching or to set up a sentry to look for him. Usually this meant some mischief was being carried out.
Alan Davis

Jonathan said...

Alan, I don't think we had communal games kit or Sub Bogging in my time, but your KV is surely Latin: "Cave!" ("Beware!")

I'm reminded of Margery Allingham's The mind readers (1965), Chapter 20:

'... Either that or they're calling the dog.'

As both heads turned towards him he shuffled.

'Well then, pussycat,' he said. 'Name of Cavey, Cavey, Cavey all the time from her ladyship; she doesn't seem to say anything else.'

Luke forgot twenty years of discipline and began to laugh aloud...

Richard Darell 1964 - 69 said...

I remember the crappy moment very well. I also had no idea what it meant and asked Stephen Fry a good pal of mine and always a fountain of knowledge. He knew. I had forgotten about quizz and echo, but still use kv.

Anonymous said...

See The Go Between by JP Harley