Bancroftian Language in 20th Century

In 1887 F.E.Box produced a “Bancroft’s School Dictionary.” A hundred years later it seemed that the time was ripe to ask OBs to remember the slang that they used whilst at the School. And so, in 1989, a list appeared in the Old Bancroftian Magazine. It evidently invoked many memories for a considerable number of OBs wrote with additions, and a second list was published in 1990. More additions followed, and it was intended to combine the lot in one document. With the advent of the OBA website, and having some spare time, it has at last been done - only 13 years later! One regret is that some of the contributors have died in the meantime, and will not see the 20th C. “definitive” dictionary.

If you detect a bias towards School House, i.e. the boarders, you should not be surprised. Living on site for the greater part of the year perhaps they needed more light relief than the dayboys!

Any corrections/additions will be gratefully received, and might even be published rather sooner than 2016. In particular the “Current” column is liable to be incorrect because many of the “Terms” are likely to have had a longer existence than shown.

Slang-Term Translation Current
All in The call to meals given by a School house monitor by shouting “all in” with a single lung full while walking from the entrance next to the main porch along the corridors to the dining room 1910s - 60s
Assy Asphalt – Big assy - North of the Chapel before the Great Hall was built 1910s - 30s
Small/little assy - see below, Jack’s assy 1910s - 30s
Chapel assy - between Great Hall & Chapel 1930s - 60s
Main assy - behind Science block, now encorporated in new buildings 1950s
Gym assy - by the old gym, now squash courts  
Jack’s assy - between quad & Chapel (next to Jack Kershaw’s classroom  
Assy football Soccer played with a tennis ball on the assy between the bogs and the science lab. 1930s - 60s
Bags To claim or reserve a right to something - the top of a boiled egg, for example 1910s - 40s
Bath lot Organised swimming group under the supervision of a qualified lifesaver 1940s - 50s
B bags Swimming trunks 1910s - 20s
Beats Corporal punishment administered with a cane (2-6 strokes) to the rear of a boy bending over and holding his knees for stability. 1950s
Mon beat - administered by a monitor  
House beat “ “ House Master  
Sid beat “ “ Head Master after Sidney Adams  
Beauty Parade Inspection by Nurse of all boarder new boys for their first three weeks or longer if they were not properly washed 1930s - 50s
Berlin wall The barrier of lockers placed across the walkway in the locker room to divide ‘juniors’ from ‘seniors,’ thus reducing or preventing bullying 1960s - 70s
Binning Putting a member of a ‘foreign house’, who had strayed into the wrong locker room, into a dustbin, tying him in and depositing him in the quad – see also muckering 1970s – 80s
Black hole Space under the stairs up to Houston’s room (the lecture theatre, now full of computers) into which small boys were stuffed 1940s
Blags Blackguards. Boys from Woodford who attempted to invade Big assy which resulted in Blag fights. 1910s - 20s
Blig A local boy (not a Bancroftian) 1930s - 40s
Bliggo Ditto 1920s - 30s
Blood A comic strip magazine 1930s - 50s
Boarder bug A boarder 1930s - 40s
Bodger’s Buns A delicacy sometimes fed to boarders on a Thursday at tea 1940s – 50s
Body Breakfast sausage 1930s - 40s
Boothole Basement room off the main porch, an ante room to the armoury, where boys shoes were cleaned – in the 1950s also the depository for boxes 1930s - 60s
Bog Lavatory, or use of same 1930s - 60s
Box A cabin trunk 1930s
(also) A tuck box (kept in the boothole 1950s
Bradshaw sidestep A rugby manoeuvre whereby a player ran straight through an opponent – the term arose from an incident in a School v. Old Boys match in which an old boy (and current Art Teacher), Bradshaw, was running with the ball towards a School player when a boy shouted from the touch line “side step him Brad.” at which point ‘Brad.’, who was not a small man, flattened’ his opponent; probably died when the last of the witnesses left school 1950s
Branding Holding a boy’s hand firmly to a very hot radiator 1940s - 50s
Bring down Luke When those in the bunkers got bored they sought relief by creating a noise under the room of R.S.Lucas, usually by lifting and dropping one of the heavy tables - so ‘ bring down Luke.’ 1910s - 20s
Bumfreezer Eton jacket – still extant though rare by 1925 Up to 1920s
Bunkers Cubicles in the first floor dorm 20 senior boys of School House (usually 6th formers) slept (one to a cubicle) 1910s – 60s
Burning off A fiendish trick whereby a mass of burning paper was floated along the central channel of the outside lavatories causing occupants of the stalls to leap for their lives 1920s
Buster A slice of bread and butter or margarine; in 1887 a buster was simply a crust of bread 1910s – 40s
Buster Sludge Bread and butter pudding 1930s – 50s
Caley bonkers Favoured sweet sold in the Tuckshop. One source states this not to be so, and that these sweets were only obtainable at one of the schools (?Parmenter’s) against which Bancroft’s played football. Hence the demand on members of XIs to bring back supplies. 1910s - 20s
Camel dung and floorboards Apricot tart, a term coined in the early fifties but in use for only a few years 1950s
Cave Look out! 1880s – 50s
Cheese cut Beating with a downward stroke instead of the conventional stroke across the backside – so cheese cutting, - perfected in the fifties, for ad hoc corporal punishment in the junior dayroom and dorm, with the use of a tie straightener in one notorious case and more commonly with a table tennis back 1930s – 50s
Chiggers Chigwell School 1910s - 20s
Colts Under 15s (years old) sports teams 1950s
CR Boarder monitors room - short for Committee Room. It was located immediately above the main entrance Up to 1970s
Cross country definitions Round the Owl. A run which started at Rigg’s, went through the forest almost to the Owl PH, then back to Rigg’s. 1930s - 50s
Great Triangle - via Ranger’s Road 1950s
Large Triangle - via Brook Road 1950s
Small Triangle - via Whitehall Lane 1950s
Competition Hill - Rigg’s to the Royal Forest Hotel 1950s
Dabday A pernicious custom which permitted boarders of 4 or more terms to inflict physical chastisement on fags of 3 or fewer terms on the last day of term. 1910s - 20s
Dabs A delicacy obtained by dipping sardines into a tin of condensed milk. In 1887 “dab” meant “good.” 1910s
Daybug A dayboy. According to N.C.Suckling, 1915-22, the term daybug was a retort to dayboys dubbing boarders as bugs. 1910s - 60s
Dob Cricket A favourite game for the younger members of the Boarders (the junior dayroom); each letter of the alphabet represented a score or a dismissal, teams of famous players were chosen and their scores arrived at by conning an extract from a newspaper or by ‘dobbing the letters in a book 1920s – 50s
Dorm Dormitory – e.g senior dorm 1930s – 60s
Dorm beats Corporal punishment meted out in the dormitory using a cane, or a lam stick (1-6 strokes) 1950s
Draper’s half Half day holiday granted at the request of Governors on Visitation Day. When Vis Day was at the end of term requests would be made by the Head Monitor on the Francis Bancroft anniversary, and on Empire Day ( May 24th.). Not always granted! 1930s – 40s
By the 1950’s this had become a whole day and was requested by the visiting ‘celebrity’ speaker 1950s
Driers Room off the main porch (up a short flight of steps) filled with frames of hot water pipes, where sports kit was left to dry 1950s – 60s
Duty Fagging for the CR 1930s - 60s
Fag See “kid” 1930s - 60s
Feast Organised (i.e. a group) illicit meal consumed after lights out 1950s
Fingernail pie Apple pie (the fibrous pieces of apple core were considered to resemble fingernails) 1960s
Flick leave Occasional official permission for boarders to visit a cinema 1950s
Gating Punishment for boarder – confinement to school premises 1930s - 60s
Ghost night Halloween – when traditionally ghosts appeared in the junior dorm. Actually older boys, dressed for the part 1930s - 50s
Goldfish bowl Boarders prep. room near the Great Hall 1970s – 80s
Grove, The West Grove playing fields 1950s - 60s
Heaven A sweet consisting of blancmange surmounted by pineapple slices in jelly. Served only to those players in the one day matches between the 1st XI and Essex Club and Ground, Brentwood, and the Old Bancroftians. The special lunch was cold steak and kidney pie (delicious) with new potatoes and salad, followed by Heaven. 1930s
Hockey dice A team game played similar to ice hockey in the junior dayroom (usually in the break between two periods of prep.); benches were turned on their side to form a rink and short, homemade wooden bats were use to propel a wooden puck at high speed 1950s
Hole A cellar entered through a door in below the stairs to the dormitories where a secretive club, also known as The Hole, conducted its clandestine activities 1950s
Hot piping A ‘punishment’ handed out to younger boys in the 1960s built locker room where bare heating pipes ran at low level along one wall. One was forced to sit upon the pipe for as long as humanly possible, to the amusement of one’s seniors 1960s - 70s
Hollybushing The practice of abducting a small boy (usually a kid) by a group of ‘not so small’ boys to Reed’s Forest where he would be thrown, debagged or not, into a holly bush; frequently carried out on a cold day when the mortifying effect on the flesh was greater 1960s
Impot An imposition- a punishment involving writing a line of text repeatedly; given out as two sides, or four sides or more depending on the heinousness of the crime committed; in the fifties pre-printed impositions were introduced which required the copying of a line in ‘copperplate’ script. The texts were about such weighty matters as the origin of resin or the properties of attar of roses. 1910s - 60s
Jibber Gravy 1920s - 30s
Johnson Meat served, from ‘Johnson,’ the horse used to pull the mowers on rollers before the advent of motor mowers 1930s
Kid A new boy with less than one year at the School; a monitor in School House would also select a kid to act as his personal servant, unpaid but subject to sporadic tipping, hence ‘so and so’s kid’ 1880s - 1960s
Kid duties Duties to be carried out by all School House kids, on a rota basis, for their monitors – four kids to clear up the monitors room before breakfast (by getting up early), two at lunchtime, two after afternoon periods or rollcall and two after tea. 1930 - 50’s
Kid hunt ‘Open season’ (during the season of darkness) on kids during the half hour between the end of ‘Quiet Hour’ and cocoa on Sundays; a type of ‘hide and seek’ in which the penalty for being found ran from debagging to boot-blacking the genitals 1950s
Lam stick Piece of a broken wooden chair used by Boarder Monitors for ad hoc corporal punishment, particularly in the dorm 1930s - 40s
Lamming A beating. In 1887 a “lambing” (sic) was a “good thrashing.” 1910s - 30s
Leper’s arm Suet roll encrusted with dates; the term was sometimes applied to the dish more usually known as ‘Rubber from Malaya.’ Also ‘Dead man’s leg,’ ‘Cannonball’ or ‘Dog.’ 1960s
Lockers Locker room 1930s - 60s
Ma P Mrs.Pepper - School Matron 1930s - 50s
Man’s room First room on the left off the quad, used by the four boarder monitors 1910s - 20s
Mon hole Dayboy monitors room 1930s - 60s
More A second helping at meals 1930s - 50s
More more A third helping at meals 1930s - 50s
Mucker A dustbin or wastepaper basket 1930s - 60s
Muckering See ‘binning’ – also placing an item in a mucker (e.g. a small boy would be given rubbish and told to mucker it 1960s
Newbug A new boy who was not also a kid 1930s - 50s
Pa Brown’s A small general stores at Woodford Wells, where ‘Pa Brown’ sold rather disgusting cakes, among other things 1930s - 40s
Palace New lavatories which replaced the outside facilities 1930s
Pav pitch The pitch nearest to the pavilion which was used for House matches 1930s - 40s
People Parents 1930s - 40s
Period A lesson 1920s - 90s
Pink Death Pink blancmange 1930s - 50s
(also) pink sauce on fishcakes 1940s - 50s
Po pud Boiled suet pudding (jam or beef) served in an enamel basin which bore a similarity to a bedroom utensil 1930s - 40s
Prep Work set by teachers to be prepared outside normal school hours – also the sessions when boarders were supervised to do the work; junior boarders did one and a quarter hours prep. per day, senior boarders did two hours (except Sunday -one hour). Before 1927 fifty minutes prep. was done before breakfast) 1900s - 60s
Prompters Lower 4ths responsible for supervision and discipline of the Removes and 3rd formers - ie mini mons 1950s
Putty and varnish Treacle pudding served invariably on Fridays 1920s - 30s
Quad The main quadrangle around which the School was originally built 1900s 80s
Quad walk A punishment requiring a boy to walk around the quad at a brisk pace for a specified time 1930s - 60s
Quis A cry indicating either “whose is this?” or “who wants this?” to which the correct response was “ego” – indicating mine or me 1920s - 60s
Report Exeat for boarders on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, i.e. excused attendance at 16.00 roll call. Uually only granted when accompanied by parents 1930s - 50s
(also) A form of monitoring whereby a boy carried a form to be completed by each teacher to indicate that he was performing adequately in class: a failure to improve resulted in a beating 1930s - 50s
Rigg’s A very rough rugby pitch down Whitehall Lane 1930s - 40s
Rubber from Malaya Suet roll encrusted with sultanas 1960s
Sea scouts Parts of the original Troop room were known as the “Bridge,” Ward Room” and “Stores.” 1940s - 60s
Schooly Basic jam served to boarders at tea 1940s - 60s
Scrape Supposedly butter - spread on bread before applying Schooly (q.v.) 1940s - 60s
Shifter A mixture of three dried fruits stewed together – apricots, figs, and prunes 1940s
Sickers Sanatorium (sick rooms) 1910s - 60s
Sides More usual expression for Impot (q.v.) 1930s - 70s
Six Six junior boys at table who formed a group to share jam and other goodies from home; a strict rule being that egg tops had to be auctioned with the cry of “quis” and awarded to the first response of “ego”. 1920s - 30s
Six feast Held at the end of term 1920s - 30s
Skilly Porridge 1930s - 50s
Skiv/skivvy Maid who served in the dining room 1920s - 40s
Slosh Tea. In 1887 it was a mixture of coffee and bread. 1920s - 30s
Slosh pot A mug 1920s - 30s
Smally boy A younger boy befriended by an older boy 1940s - 50s
Sneak A teller of tales 1880s - 1960s
Soup The word shouted by the players of assy football when the tennis ball was skied over the lavatory wall and landed in the open channel bog 1920s
Stiff Dick Jam turnover 1930s
Swappers Changing rooms for gym or sports 1930s - 60s
Swag Sausage 1930s - 40s
Swag roll Sausage roll 1930s - 50s
Thames mud Chocolate semolina 1940s - 50s
Toe jam The muck that collected on the floor of the swimming pool towards the end of the summer term 1920s
Trick Very (i.e. terrifically) as in “trick good” 1930s - 50s
Trick gangs deadly super lusty Yes, all five words combined – something really excellent 1930s - 40s
Trinder A haircut – named after Mr. Trinder, the barber from the Ville who came to cut the boys hair between 7 and 8a.m, i.e. before the first roll call. 1930s - 40s
Tuck Food from home (mainly confectionery) or bought from the tuck shop, of course 1950s
Ville Area around the Castle Public House 1930s - 50s
Washers Wash room, e.g. bunkers wash rooms 1930s - 60s
Wog To steal, e.g. who’s wogged my ruler 1970s - 80s
Yearer One who had survived the rigours of a whole year as a ‘kid’ and then had smaller fry to persecute; likewise ‘two yearer’ 1930s - 60s

Compiled by Geoff Crome (1939-47)

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