I Jolly Well Don’t Talk Like That!

Am I the only one who, almost instinctively, associates the word “jolly” with Enid Blyton or some other of her ilk? Not that that’s a bad thing – it was perfectly common language at the time, even among teenage girls – but the fact that some people still expect boarding school girls like me to whip it out  every other sentence really makes me wonder.

So, today, I thought I’d take advantage of this spare time at the end of my oh-so-hectic Monday to tell you about another commonly misconstrued facet of boarding schools – straight from the horse’s mouth. Literally!

Though I’m a boarding girl, I’m really not one to talk about funny accents. In my first two years at my school, people asked me whether I was American, Australian, and once even Eastern European. My History teacher, who has taught me for three years, was also convinced I was Canadian at one stage, because I still hadn’t fully dropped the accent from the time I lived there. Nowadays, you’ll be happy to hear, my accent has calmed itself and settled into a fairly regular tone – it sounds like this. To me, of course, this sounds perfectly normal – everyone else in my little boarding bubble has a similar accent – but, as you can see from some of the comments below the recording, others think it’s hilariously posh!

(Additional note: To any “Demyx Time” fans that may one day be in the audience … Vexen voice, anyone?)

But, strangely, though the accent is a fine part of the boarding school mystery (not to mention an essential part of any half-decent imitation!), it’s not the first thing that people think of when they pretend to “talk boarder” as it were. It’s more words like “jolly”, “horrid”, “awfully”, and “I say!” used in copious amounts that tend to point out that one is a boarder, right?

Wrong.

Well, sort of. While we may be more prone to use of the sort of language you’d expect from Dad’s Army or a contemporary World War One play, for the most part we boarders talk just like everybody else – including all those floral four and five letter words usually reserved for occasions when one’s hip connects in that especially painful way with the edge of a desk. We use common text contractions (well, I don’t, but that’s my inner Grammar Nazi talking), we say “like” in that awful teenage manner, and we even – horror of horrors! – call our parents the normal “Mum and Dad”. Get all those thoughts of “Mumsie” and “Daddy dearest” out of your head this minute!

However, in order not to sound like a total killjoy, I’ll let you know the posh part of our speech too. Where I’m stationed, out in the woolies of Dorset, we’re not terribly up-to-date on the latest teen phrases. If someone said “peng” to me, I’d wonder if I’d wandered into a Star Trek convention, but – according to The Telegraph anyway – every other “average teen” in the country would know immediately it’s slang for “pretty”. There are other phrases like this, but as I’ve yet to go into an area where they’d be used, I can’t tell you what they are. Drop me a comment and see if I can guess the word’s meaning, make a game of it! Hehe.

…. And, alright, we do say “jolly”. Not often, not usually in public, but we do.

Are you happy now?

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Jolly Hockey Sticks! – The Truth about Boarding School

Boarding school (definition): an education centre, usually in the form of an old manor house or castle, where students live all year round. Most of their time is taken up with practical jokes, driving the matron batty and chasing each other around lacrosse pitches. Common phraseology from the students inclues “rather” “awfully” and “jolly”.

Alright, who let you lot at the Enid Blyton?

Strange, really, that here in the UK – where we have a relatively large concentration of boarding schools, relative to some other countries – there are so many bizarre myths persisting about boarding schools. To be fair, I only started boarding five years ago and, before that, the only experience of boarding school that I had was the stories my Dad used to tell me about his boyhood – most of them concerning evil teachers, playing rugby in “sandpaper shorts” and the truly stomach-churning school dinners.

So, lovely charitable person that I am, I’m going to make my first post to this blog by dispelling some of the mystery and letting you in on what really goes on at boarding schools like St Mallory’s.

Now, let’s get started shall we?

Myth Number One: All boarding schools are out in the countryside.

False – though many are indeed set out of towns, many more are very much within cities and towns themselves – my own school is a prime example, we’re a massive landmark in the village, and the much older boys’ school is spread out over the place so much you can hardly tell where it starts and stops!

Myth Number Two: Only rich people go to boarding school.

False, false and false again! This is one of the myths that really irks me, simply because of the bad impression it often gives people of us. While most boarding schools are independent, and thus have high fees, there are plenty of scholarships and bursaries to be had – and it’s a tooth-and-nail battle to get them too, I tell you! Some of my friends’ parents have had to take out loans to pay for the fees, while plenty more have chip-ins from the extended family to take the bite off. Forces brats like me are also in abundance, as half of our fees are paid by the M.O.D as compensation for dragging us all around the planet and, subsequently, making a wonderful mess of our primary school level education.

Myth Number Three: Everybody sleeps in communal dorms.

Not exactly false, but probably not true in the sense you’re imagining. Though dorm layout varies from school to school, you can be absolutely sure that, nowadays, all those stories about twelve girls living in one room with only a bed, a curtain and a chest of drawers to themselves is a big fat lie. We do get some privacy, and even in relatively small schools like mine, communal dorms only have about five or six occupants maximum. Cubicles on corridors, like those you’ll see in St Mallory’s, are also a popular method of squishing as many sardines … sorry, I mean students, into a smaller space, while at the same time preventing us re-enacting Lord of the Flies after a particularly stressful weekend.

Myth Number Four: Everyone plays lacrosse.

A bit of a generalisation, this. True, lacrosse is a popular sport at several boarding schools, there are a good many that don’t play it, and certainly not everyone participates. I know because I’m one of the lucky few that don’t *coughI’mhopelesscough*. And it’s not all we play either – tell that to our hockey, polo, netball, archery, cross-country, swimming, squash and tennis teams!

Myth Number Five: “Girls’ school” is an alternative word for nunnery.

Bahahahaha, I think not! True, while interacting with members of the opposite gender is a little more difficult in a single-sex school, there are plenty of opportunities for interaction. Some schools, like mine, have both a boys’ and girls’ school in close proximity, and even those that don’t usually have weekly or bi-weekly discos or some other form of outing that allows for a little socialising.

Myth Number Six: Younger girls are made to do duties for the older ones.

Tom Brown’s School Days strikes again! Hehe, don’t worry all, this practice – known as “fagging” at the time – died a death several decades ago. On the matter of duties though, there tends to be some sort of setup regarding jobs for different year groups. Of course, this varies from school to school, but in the majority, the Sixth Form (years 12 and 13, to all you normal people) have duties that may include: prep (homework) supervision, putting everyone to bed in the evenings, supervising activities, taking registers at breakfast, organising house events … you get the idea. Oh, and yes, we do have prefects. I know because I am one! 😛

Myth Number Seven: It’s all midnight feasts and pranks!

LIES! LIES I TELL YOU! Though, for once, it’s a lie I wish was true. Forget raiding the pantry at midnight to celebrate a birthday – we’d be put on detention for a week if we were caught out of bed at that hour – we hardly have time for cake eating! Boarding school schedules usually involve a longer day than day schools, as we don’t have parents complaining that they have to come so late to pick us up and they feel they need to “keep us entertained”. We all work our butts off just as much as everyone else, and we don’t find it any easier than the next student. We’ll tease the teachers on occasion, and I will confess to once being involved in a plot involving a whoopie cushion, but all those ingenious wangles like inflatable jackets, popping coins and imprints of “Allo” on the French mistress’ bottom are, regrettably, mere fiction.

Phew! That’s all I’ve got for now – my poor brain still hasn’t quite got over the fever that’s been persecuting me this past week. I hope I’ve covered some good bases up there, but if there’s anything you feel I’ve missed, feel free to drop a comment with your question and I’ll do my best to answer it to your satisfaction.

In the meantime, farewell all, live long and prosper!

– Charley