Chapter VIII

Howlers and Other Things


EVER SINCE I went to Leeds Grammar School I have taught French and have had numerous amusing howlers. I will tell just a few and will give other howlers from general knowledge papers and from science and divinity lessons. If I sometimes append the initials of the boy he may recognise himself.

I asked one boy to spell in French the word ‘bicyclette’. “B-i-c—pantoufle—I knew it was something funny.”

K. G.—— thought ‘rien’ a word ‘all nasty’. “Nasty because it is not in the vocabulary and horrid because I can’t find it.” He had looked all over for ‘rein’.

Asked “Qu ’est-ce que Rover?”, B. G—— replied “Rover est un Blood”.
In another lesson where ‘Rasins verts’ occurred, I tried to get an explanation of the saying “Sour grapes”. One Clarke told the tale of a painter who was troubled by a fly, threw his brush away and a friend said: “Sour grapes”. I was rather puzzled and said, “Didn’t he say something before he threw his brush away?” B. G—— “Clarke must not use words like that, Miss Christie.”

I have always taught the French negative by drawing a sandwich on the board, the ‘ne pas’ being the bread and butter, the verb being the ‘filling’. One boy said it was queer to think of a sandwich speaking. A quick retort was, “It must have been a tongue sandwich”.

One boy, on being asked, “Avez-vous un cerveau?” replied, “Non, monsieur”.

D. K. J—— told us: “Je sens avec mes pieds”, and J. A. P——: “J’entends avec les yeux”.

Talking about the future of ‘faire’, I said that at one time it might have been ‘fairai’ and that it had since been shortened. A boy said, “Perhaps that was in the days of King Pharaoh”.

J. N. B. M—— in the same form, came up to me at the end of one lesson and said: “Does ‘rester’ go like the rest, eh?”

I can understand Sammy L——’s plural of ‘ce bois’—‘ces buvons’.

Once I tried to teach the meaning of ‘legume’ by giving in French many sentences about it. At last a hand shot up: “Leg o’mutton”. The boy who perpetrated that has, alas, been killed in a Dakota crash. I had breakfast with him when he was at Oxford and he had no recollection of the incident.

Answers to the question: “Quel age avez-vous?”— “J’ai douze ânes”, “J’ai deux ans”.

“Que fait le fermier quand it voit le petit lapin?”— “It mange les choux.”

One boy said: “Le genou est une partie du champ” and M. H—— told me “Je porte des bottines sur la tête.”

F. S. W—— said in reply to “Comment designez-vous une persoone qu’on peut aimer?”: “Des oignons.”

G. H. T—— “On peut manger du garçon”.

W. S. T—— “J’al deux dents”.

G. M. McM—— could not carry out the order “Montrez-moi le filet” because he did not know whether he had a brother or not.

“Avez-vous mal aux dents?”
C. D. C. S—— “Non, je n’ ai pas de dents”.

E. 0—— goes to the door with another boy and says “Je vais à la porte avec le tableau noir”.

“Voici la fenetre de Dinsdale” (touching Dinsdale’s head).

I am grateful for the one-time presence of Jacques du Jardin, a Belgian refugee, who was in the first form I had. F. M—— used to bring him every day by train from Thorner. Du Jardin was a naughty boy and very fond of scrapping. He would appear very late and say: “Blease, Mees Greestee, ze train was lade”. At first I took this excuse, but sometimes I came on the same train, or I could always verify this (or otherwise), from F. M——. Now, and for very many years, I have found this boy’s name most useful for teaching part of the genitive of the definite article.

ONCE, AFTER a drawing lesson, I found a Junior 1 boy had pushed a hole with his finger through the radiator of a motor car he had drawn. He explained that he had done it “to let the air in”.

K. H. M—— told me that a baby was a plant which keeps its cotyledons below ground.

We were talking about Indian ink when W. R. B—— said: “There’s a lot of pneumonia in it”.

About Scribes one boy wrote: “They devour windows” and another: “They love salutions”.

In a Divinity lesson we were learning about the devils sent into the herd of swine. “Mightn’t it be better to be a pig than a man? Well, if you saw a very good pig and a very bad man, wouldn’t you rather be the pig?”

G. L—— was very untidy, and on being asked: “How many blots have you made?” replied: “I don’t know until I have blotted it”.

“Who was the beautiful maiden chained to a rock and placed in the skies afterwards?”
“Grace Darling”—N. P—— (who has recently sent me two pairs of nylons from the Argentine!)

“What had Perseus been doing when he met Andromeda?”
“Fighting in the Great War”—R. E. B——.

“Who was the father of Andromeda?”
“Cassabianca”—D. D——, M. C. M——.

One boy told me he had a book at home and in it was a picture of the embezzled body of Joseph.

IN AN ART lesson a boy came with a message to the effect that all boys “who may be leaving at Christmas are to see the Headmaster”. At the end of the lesson R. T——, an artistic, dreamy boy, came to me and said: “Shall I go to the Headmaster because I believe in Father Christmas?”

The same boy always called scissors, ‘shears’, and small pots for water, ‘water jugs’.

“Name a mollusc which clings tightly to the rocks.”
“A cow”—A. G. C——.

Self, rather in despair in an arithmetic lesson: “If you are driving cows into a field, and one won’t go in, does it suddenly become a rhinoceros?”
“What is it then?”
“A halfpenny”—M. C——.

Before November 5th each year I would tell the smaller boys how to make tops from the middle of used Catherine wheels. After a long explanation from me, A. B. L—— said brightly: “And set the firework off at the same time?”

“What do animals do when they go to sleep for the wintertime?”
“Evaporate”—A. B. L——.

“Hands up those boys who came by train this morning?”
“Cunningham did, but he is absent.”

“What do you know about a cuckoo?”
“A cuckoo is a bird which goes about with a bell round its neck”—B. C. S——.

“What is a chameleon?”
“A man that makes you laugh”—C. H——.

B. B—— told me: “I swallowed a whole sweet because I was frightened of Orion”. T. H—— said: “When I was looking at Orion I swallowed a tooth”.

B. A. A. B——told me: “The sun sets at 12”. “At night?” “No, in the morning”. “What time did it set yesterday?” “It didn’t set at all.”

G. B. W——: “I put my head back to laugh and I got it in the inkpot behind, and it’s all running down my neck.”

M. M. C——: “A Haredale is an enemy of the hare.”

“I can’t eat this orange stuff. It’s trying to make me sick.”

Steele-Childe in Junior 4 on learning that ‘eau’ is French for ‘water’ asked if that was why their milkman always called out “Milk . . . Eau”.

A pathetic cry from A. R. C——: “I want to know what is the good of verbs.”

I corrected one boy about the pronunciation of the word ‘butcher’. He was rather hurt with me and said: “We say ‘bŭt’, so we ought also to say ‘bŭtcher’. Mr. Tough wants us to talk like Londoners, so we must say ‘bŭtcher’ and ‘cŭshion’”.

ALL MY LIFE my tongue has had a habit of getting mixed, especially if I am in a hurry. More than once I have said “After breakfast” instead of “After prayers”.

I started a poetry lesson (always called rep. in the old days) by asking “Who has began, begun the Bottle of Atterbourne”. The boys were probably affected. P. S. K——s effort was: “When he saw proud Fercy pa.”

F. Y—— told me: “There are two things I like Bridlington for, the boathing and bating.”

“Who can tell me about a storm they have felt on the earth?”
W. M. F——: “The flood . . . when the earth was flooded.”

In the corridor: “Which way are you going?”
F. B— “Some of us are going both ways.”

“Where are the bulbs we set last time?”
W. J. M. R——: “On the mountains.”

“A clock loses three minutes a day. How much in a month?” J. P——: “I left it in inches.” The same boy asserted that the form and I could not live without eating worms.

F. B. L—— thought it correct to say “3.0 o’clock mid-day” and “3.0 o’clock midnight”.

J. P—— told us: “I am like the Daddy Longlegs because I am attracted by the light and when I get on I singe my wings”.

P. D. T——: “I get mixed between myself and Thomas.”

Recently I was discussing with J. T. T—— the decline of the game of conkers in favour of preparations for Bonfire Night. He told me: “Well, I’ve never found those horse chestnuts very playful”.

HERE I SHOULD like to tell of an incident which happened in Canon Wynne-Edwards’ time. During a divinity lesson a certain master threw doubts on the authenticity of the first few chapters of Genesis. One boy’s mother wrote very indignantly to the Headmaster about the matter. He interviewed the boy, and naturally put up a defence for the master. The boy said: “Mother says that if the story of Adam and Eve is not true, how can the rest of the Bible be true?”

The Head went on to talk of evolution and mentioned fossils, which drew from the boy the comment: “Mother doesn’t hold with fossils”.

FROM GENERAL Knowledge papers:

“Our ... is but a sleeping and a forgetting.” Missing word —servant.

Complete: “Consider the lilies of the field. . . ” —“they grow just as well as those in the valley.”

What distinguished Old Boy is an M.P.?—Oliver Cromwell.

Which animal is the ship of the desert?— Noes Ark.

Kind hearts are more than . . . —tarts.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your . . .— money.

A snake in the . . . —lake

A flea in his ... —bed, —coat, —hair.

No smoke without. . . —coke, —tobacco.

Who was the commander of the following?
The Red Shirts?—Chief Red Skin.
The Ironsides?—Bufflo Bill.
The Thin Red Line?—Chief Eagle.
The Ten Thousand?—Tom Blake.

What is a cockade? Where people fight in.

What is a Cockney? A small horse. A man from Scotland.

People who live in glass houses should . . .
—draw down the blinds,
—not eat glass.

Honi soit qui . . .
—dans le vestiaire.

Does your mother feed you at home?
J. R. T—— “No”.

Coffee is shrivelled-up tea leaves.

Rubber is grown at Para
—— a place on the River Aire. B. M——.

Miss Christie, I brought mine to an end before I started—D. W. J——.

Hats were in the air; everybody was in confession— M. M——.

In China there are great winds called cartoons— M. M——.

Definitions of a mammal:
A horse with hoofs,
a big elephant,
a thing that can work,
a thing that is 1,000 years old.

With a long tail I saw a monkey.—T. A. R. E——.

Are young birds taught about migration by their parents? No, they have a sense of humour.

The early worm catches the bird.—P. M——.

What does our food change into? (wanting the answer: flesh, bones and blood).
Turkey changes into gooses.—P.H——.

What limbs have elephants?
—They have clogs.

J. G—— and D. J——both said they had soap for their meals in winter.

P. D. W——said he had been absent the first day of term because he had not brought his licence (health certificate).

G. O. P——gave me a Christmas present of a box of chocolates and said: “It’s one left over from our party.”

Even a worm can . . .
—rigle, —should be careful, —can slide, —has blood, —is sensabule.

What is the meaning of Tercentenary? 100 years ago, when Leeds was built. It comes every 64 years.

Meaning of millennium.
—To have a lot of money.

—South Parade Garden.

—Blue bus conductor.

One example of amphibian.

One example of a wingless bird.

An extinct animal.
—Horse. Dog.

Which Archbishop of Canterbury was burnt to death?
—Joan of Ark.

Which was beheaded?
—Charles I.

When in Rugby do you score points for a kick beneath the crossbar?
—When you lay on it.

For what is each of the following famous:
—Eggs. Catching flies.
—Building nest. Flying low.

A little . . . is a dangerous thing.
—motter car, —snake, —rat, —bite, —gas.

Tomorrow to fresh . . . and pastures new.
—work, —grass.

I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not. . . more.
—fairies, —gold.

They also . . . who only stand and wait.
—fall, —dream, —slack.

Who was:
The Lady of the Lamp?
—Lady Lamplit. Aladdin.
Old Noll?
—War Sea King. A witch.

What do the following stand for:
—Cod. Cough only Draughtly. Corporation of Doctors. Comrades Optimist Drill.

—Forbid. Father of batshalists.

—Diosis of South Olympia.

Feminine of fox.
—Cub. Wolf.

Feminine of bachelor.
—Marie. Bacheloress.

Feminine of colt.
—Calif. Cow. Horse.

How would you begin a letter to the following:
English Bishop?
—Dear Clergy, —Dear English Bishop, —My Dear Friend.

An Archdeacon?
—My lord Deacon.

English Judge?
—Your Majesty. Kind Sir.

—Dear Lady. Dear miss.

—My dear.

What professional man would be consulted if there had to be:
A school planned?
—Carpenter. M.P.

A bridge built?

A will made?
—A judge. Parliament.

A new area mapped?

An offending molar removed?
—Removers. Bishop. Mayor.

What is the name given to the young of the following:
—Stag. Sheep. Colt.

—Swasling. Swanlet. A duck.

—Eelet. Worm.

—Gesse. Gander. Hen. Quacklings.

One boy, a good Yorkshireman, wrote that the famous cricketers A. C. MacLaren, W. G. Grace, Lord Hawke, Colin Blythe, all played for the county “Yorksher”; but for Ranjitsinhji he wrote ‘India’.

What person in the Bible:
Ate grass like an ox?

Carried the gates of Gaza?

Was carried up to heaven in a chariot of fire?
—Oden, Noah’s Ark.

Struck the rock?
—Michael Anglo.

What is or was, by profession or occupation, each of the following Leeds Grammar School old boys:
John Ireland?

P. Munro?

J. B. Seaton?
—Artist. He built ediston lighthouse.

What is the correct name for a collection of:

—Ferzant. Fouls.

—Cattle. Lamb.

—Insects. Wasps.

One boy bracketed the lot, and wrote: ‘Poultry Farm’.

One boy wrote that Mr. Hilton had painted St. Francis and the Birds, The Parish Clerk, Georg Giske, The Hare, The Vision of St. Helena.
Another boy assigned three of them to Mrs. Hilton.

Supply the name of a living creature to complete each of the following:
The distance as the . .. flies.

He made a. . . line for home.

One . . . does not make a summer.
—rain, —fly,—lion, —bee.

Like a ... with a sore head.
—pig, —spurrow,—lady, —wasp.

Do not ... for compliments.
—ask me, —singe.

The term ‘cannon’ appears in the sport or game of war.

What cities are referred to by the following:
The City of Fairs?

The Window of Europe?
—New York.

The Queen of the Adriatic?

The Coal Hole of the East?

London by the Sea?

Complete the names of the following characters in fiction:
Long John . . .
—Longfellow, —Little.
. . . Shandy, Handy, Jack, MacTavish, Dr.

What instrument or machine is generally used for:
Showing the pace of a car?
—Oromomiter. Speed barometer. Rolls Royce. Horsepower.

Extracting teeth?
—Plyers. Toothbrush. Pincers. Twesers.

Measuring great altitudes?
—Tellescope. Tape measure.

Give another name for:
The Bluecoat School?
—Leeds Grammar School. Baton School. Patchwork School.

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street?
—The Thread-needle of the Old Women.

The Venice of the North?
—Ingledue College. North Pole. Merchant of Venice.

What is the scientific name for the food which:
Causes growth?
—Mold. Cabig. Ice Cream.

Repairs wear and tear?
—Leather. Shoes.

Produces warmth?
—Heat. Sun. Fur. Porrage.

Regulates the organs?
—Water or gin. Medicon. The blood. Orginist.

Keeps rickets and scurvy away?
—Hiarcream, Oranges.

Who said:
“Be content with your wages?”
—The emploers. Boss or manager. Mr. Baldwin.

“The half of my goods I give to the poor?”
—The Taxer.

“What is truth?”
— Bunyard. Charles III.

e.g. stands for ‘egg’ or ‘either go’.
p.m.—punctual to minute. Member of Parliament.

The instrument with which a farmer breaks the clods is a ‘dubble base’. A whaler uses a ‘harp’ to kill a whale (quite near!). A dentist extracts teeth with a violin or picklow.

“There’s a breathless hush in the ‘middle’ tonight.”

Mr. Winn Edwards and Dr. Terry Tom were both given as the founder of the school.

The river running through Wetherby is the ‘Weth’ or the ‘Wips’; through Knaresborough the ‘Knare’ and through Whitby the ‘Whit’.

An animal that is supposed to go mad in March is a Hatter.

A.D. stands for Before Christ and B.A. After Christ. C.I.D. means ‘Christ is dead’. K.G. is King George.

Faint heart never won . . .
—the battle, —by shaking.

To be or not to be, that is the...
—way, —worst, —end.

I wandered lonely as a ...
—hair, —wolf, —cow,—child,—road.

With my crossbow 1 shot the ...
—arrow, —dear,—apple, —wolf.

Horatius said “Up guards and at ’em”.

What is the name of the constellation sometimes called:
The Lady in the Chair?

Seven Sisters?
—Severn Arches. Circus poeple.

The Huntsman?
—Jockey, Prince of Wales.

The origin of Beefeater is a battering ram and of a crayfish a lobster. The Red Triangle is emblamatic of Bass wine.

All excepting one of these ‘howlers’ are taken from papers set when the whole school used to do the same paper. So some of the questions were very much beyond the Junior School. I used to tell my form to do all they were certain of, then go through the paper again and make some good guesses. Nowadays the papers are graded according to the age of the boys, a much better arrangement, but we on the staff don’t have so much fun.

YESTERDAY (2nd December 1949) I decided to stay after school to read piles of A.A.M. literature rather than bringing it home. I had just lit a cigarette and there was a knock on the door. A boy in my form: “Are you still here? I was waiting to carry your bag for you.” The least I could do was to stub out my cigarette and make all haste to join the boy waiting for me downstairs. I had tried to dissuade him but he was persistent. I thought it extremely good of him.

A little time ago I was very hard pressed at home, my housekeeper ill in bed and life was very worrying and far too full. I mentioned a little of this to one form, and one very small boy, by name Marshall, offered to help me in any way he could. He said he would clean shoes, do shopping, wash floors or do anything I asked. I never used this ‘Marshall Aid’, but I shall never forget the boy’s kind thought and offer.

In the great snow of 1947 there were no trams running down Headingley Lane one morning. I joined two boys who had been in my form the year before and we walked or slithered all the way together. We were quite half an hour late in arriving. As I left them at the Main School, I told them that if they got into trouble for being late I would write a note to the form-master and explain. E. H— said quickly: “Thank you. Miss Christie and if you get into trouble we will do the same for you!”

Last year I was walking one day behind D. W. E—— and G. H. B—— both in Junior 2. They were gesticulating wildly, and as we had just been reading The Wind in the Willows, I thought they were imitating some of Toad’s antics. So I enquired. Reply: “No, I was just describing how I would like to be killed.” The next day, queerly enough, I heard a bit of conversation in the crocodile going to Sheafield from the Chapel: “The best way of being killed . . . ”.

DOCTOR TERRY THOMAS came as Headmaster in January 1923. There seemed to be all the difference in the world in having a Headmaster just a few years older than oneself and one who was old enough to be one’s father. During the first year he was there, I surprised him by doing as he told me! It was at the time the William Sheafield Dramatic Society were performing the Romantic Age.

I had rather a large part, and was somewhat flustered and busy, just before the performance. This I give as an excuse for my carelessness! I had received my monthly cheque one day, and was certain I had left it in my cardigan pocket. The next day it was not there, nor could I find it in any drawer or cupboard in the mistresses’ room. So I went to the Headmaster, who was very busy and unwilling to be disturbed, and told him I had lost my cheque. He asked the name of my bank and told me he would telephone and stop the cheque. I went to my form-room, in the first drawer I opened was my cheque! Covered with confusion and blushes I rushed back to the Study and said, “I am very sorry—I have come to go down on my knees to you.” The Headmaster said “All right. Go down.” So I did, much to his surprise! He remarked that he wished he could make parents do the same!

In recent years Doctor Terry Thomas has worked very hard for the independence of our school and that of the High School. Now, thanks largely to his efforts, we are independent. May we be always so.

ON 29TH JUNE 1927 we had a holiday as there was a total eclipse of the sun. Many boys slept on mattresses in the gym (the old one, not the present one) and went by train to Giggleswick, accompanied by masters. They were lucky there, because there were no clouds over the sun at the time of totality. I went to Middleham Moor with Mr. and Mrs. Cudworth in their car. We started off about 2.30 and went via Harrogate. I shall never forget the thrill of that ride; how dark it was, and how we could see an endless stream of red tail-lights in front of us. Unluckily, clouds covered the sun just at the time of the total eclipse, but we saw the sun soon after and watched the moon pass across its face. Then we had breakfast! I must have worn very unsuitable shoes, I merely thought my feet were very cold, later I found they were wet. As a result I developed bronchitis and was unable to go to school for about a week. The Headmaster sent me a message to the effect that he would not allow me to go to the next total eclipse. As that will take place in 1990 something, he will not be here to forbid me, neither shall I be here to go!

LIFE HAS ALWAYS been very full at Leeds Grammar School. Apart from the daily round, there were various school functions to attend—the Literary and Debating Society, which used to have weekly meetings; there were end of term entertainments, dances, various concerts, and in the summer we had very good tennis in the masters’ garden.

The school grew apace; in 1937 the Junior School was, alas, moved to Sheafield in Clarendon Road. Until then Sheafield had been the Headmaster’s house. Mr. Ince was the master-in-charge and he did his best to soften the pain of separation from the Main School. He was always helpful and considerate and was much liked by the boys. He retires this Christmas (1949), he will be much missed by boys and masters.

We had the bad war scare in 1938, we had drills with gas masks, and made all haste to the cellars, in practice for any air raid that might occur. What a wonderful relief when Mr. Chamberlain raised our hopes and we all thought that war had been averted.

Before we broke up in July 1939 the Headmaster had made provisional arrangements in case of the outbreak of war. Then of course it came and everything was horrible. Even Sheafield seemed much preferable to having to shut up one’s home and go off into the unknown.


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