Eton College is renowned for being one of the most elite private schools in the world. So, it's unsurprising that the school has some of the most unique traditions. From eccentric uniforms to niche 'slanguage', we've curated a list of some weird and wacky idioms that Prince Harry and Prince William would have added to their school vocabularies back in their Eton days.
With an alumnae list that spans royals, politicians such as Boris Johnson, actors including Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston and Damian Lewis, and adventurers (believe it or not, Bear Grylls attended the school), Eton has established quite the reputation. Want to learn how to speak 'Eton?' We did some digging so you can. Brace yourselves, it's going to get weird.
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A beak is a term for teacher, who is referred to as 'Sir' or 'Ma'am.' The origins of the term are unknown, but the name supposedly derives from the mortarboards teachers would wear back in the day. Others claim it comes from an old Dutch word that translates to 'authority.'
"Ah, he's on the Bill," is a phrase used to say someone is in detention. At some private boarding schools, detention entails chores such as polishing silverware or cutting out all the 'Gs' from a newspaper. Fun!
Prince William wearing the distinctive Eton uniform
The 'Burning' Bush is a lamppost situated in front of Eton's School Hall. The lamp was designed with Eton's coat of arms in mind. Boys meet by the wrought iron gothic lamppost (sometimes with girls from Cheltenham Ladies College or Downe House, where Princess Kate went to school, on weekends as a rare, cherished form of mingling) in true Narnia style.
Another term for a mid-morning snack, Prince William and Prince Harry would have enjoyed this as pupils. After boys attend chapel every morning, which requires the choral belting of hymns such as 'Jerusalem,' a host of treats known as Chambers are served up around 11am. From biscuits to iced buns and burgers, boys can enjoy some hearty pre-lunch munch. Some boarding houses even have their own chef – luxury!
Prince William in the school kitchen
A sport that is best described as a mix of football and rugby, played exclusively at Eton. Two teams of eleven boys play on a football pitch with small, net-less goals. A smaller Gaelic football is used in place of a softer, normal football. The game also has a scrum and old Etonians come back to the school to play year after year.
Prince Harry enjoyed playing polo at Eton
King's Scholars are the brightest of the bunch. Often descending upon Oxford or Cambridge University after their departure from the school, King's Scholars really rack up the A*s. They live in their own brainy boarding house, which sleeps 70 scholars, and are elected for pristine grades. King's Scholars also often receive reduced school fees and apparently, Eton grants the most bursaries out of any other private school in the UK.
Perhaps the most extra of them all. 'Leg It' is a form of protest that happens at the school every few years. When the school proposes a drastic change that doesn't sit well with students, the boys would flood the streets surrounding the school, while one leading lad will wait for the headmaster to come out from Chambers.
This student, the chosen one, will then hand him a letter stating their thoughts on the proposal and shout, "Leg It." What happens next is a mass exodus, as over 1,000 boys in morning suits quite literally leg it away from the headmaster. How very 'Dead Poets Society.'
'Messing' is like the afternoon equivalent of 'Chambers.' Between 3-5pm, boys return to their boarding houses for a late afternoon snack, usually toast – Prince Harry's favourite. The term derives from the phrase ‘Officer’s mess’, a place where officers would eat when serving in the army.
Prince Harry making toast
No, not the popular kids. If a pupil is in 'Pop,' then it means they are a prefect. 'Pops' tend to be the best all-rounders in the year. 'Pop' members can wear patterned waistcoats, an extra privilege, in addition to their black tailcoats, bow ties, brogues and stiff-collared shirts. Prince William was indeed in Pop, and sported a particularly fetching polka dot waistcoat.
Tom Hiddleston was also a member of Pop
If you're put on 'Tardy,' it means you're late to lessons. Boys who arrive late to lessons have to sign a 'Tardy Book' so teachers can monitor their time-keeping skills. Being on 'Tardy Book' entails getting up early before breakfast for three days and reporting to School Office. Missing a day means an era two days being added onto the early rises.
We saved the best 'til last with perhaps the most complex Eton term. This is a hard one to explain, many students don't even understand the rules, but we'll give it a go. The game is played on a strip of ground next to 'The Wall.' The aim of the game is to move the ball towards the end of the opposition.
Prince Harry playing The Wall Game
Points are scored by throwing a ball at a specific target, such as a tree or garden door. Words such as 'Calx', 'Furk,' and 'Bully,' are thrown around, like the large ball the game is played with and boys paint their faces orange and purple to match their striped sports jerseys. Makes complete sense.
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