A Beating for Generality.

Cyril Connolly talking about his “ideas of mortality, futility, and death” (via Laudator Temporis Acti):

Even when we say “I am happy” we mean “I was” for the moment is past, besides, when we are enjoying ourselves most, when we feel secure of our strength and beloved by our friends, we are intolerable and our punishment—a beating for generality, a yellow ticket, a blackball, or a summons from the Headmaster, is in preparation. All we can do is to walk delicately, to live modestly and obscurely like the Greek chorus and to pay a careful attention to omens—counting our paces, observing all conventions, taking quotations at random from Homer or the Bible, and acting on them while doing our best to “keep in favour”—for misfortunes never come alone.

Does anybody have any idea what is meant here by “generality”? I can find no relevant sense in the OED. And for that matter, what’s a yellow ticket? In Russia it meant you were a prostitute, but that’s hardly likely here.


  1. Connolly, from The Enemies of Promise:

    The captain of the school, Marjoribanks, who afterwards committed suicide, was a passionate beater like his bloody-minded successors Wrougham and Cliffe … in one satisfactory evening Majoribanks had beaten all the lower half of college. Thirty-five of us suffered. Another time we were all flogged because a boy dropped a sponge out of a window which hit a master, or we would be beaten for “generality” which meant no specific charge except that of being “generally uppish”…

    For yellow ticket, there is this.

  2. David Marjanović says

    So “generality” is what gave you 10 years in the Soviet Union?

    New arrival in the Gulag is being processed.
    “How long did you get?”
    “5 years.”
    “And for what?”
    “For nothing.”
    “LIAR!!! For nothing you get TEN years!!!”

  3. Xerîb: Impressive, you cleared up both issues promptly and thoroughly!

  4. David Eddyshaw says

    There should be beatings for generality. That is the whole point of Occam’s razor.

  5. Although you shouldn’t use the razor itself; the blood and scars bring all sorts of unpleasant questions in their wake.

  6. “for generality” ≈ “on general principles,” I would guess?

  7. Apparently so.

  8. PlasticPaddy says

    @hat, dale
    This is not what I get from the Xerib quote. “General uppishness” sounds more like a kind of indirect or passive insubordination in the military, which I imagine can and does lead to punishment. It is hard to give an example, I suppose in schools this would manifest itself mainly as insufficient display of subservience vis-a-vis masters, proctors or upperclassmen.

  9. Long since solved – I was going to suggest searching with “Eton”, which works.
    My blog, which you kindly link, has changed from .eu to .co.uk (I’m not allowed to use the .eu suffix since Brexit).

  10. Thanks for the heads-up — I’ve changed the Transblawg link (and congratulations for keeping it going all these years!).

  11. I’m not allowed to use the .eu suffix since Brexit

    What? Seriously? Is this the Brits being petty or the eu’s?

    Surely your blawg is as much about German as about English(?)

  12. J.W. Brewer says

    Just re “generally uppish,” I thought “uppish” sounded a bit odd or off. Presumably what posh boarding-school Brits say instead of good old American “uppity”? Turns out wiktionary has examples of “uppish” from both Grahame (_The Wind In the Willows_) AND du Bois (_The Souls of Black Folk_). Live and learn, I suppose.

  13. [Brit here] I find nothing odd/off about “uppish”.

    Furthermore I’ve always taken Lewis Carroll to be echoing it in:

    “uffish,” which first appeared in “Alice” [in Jaberwocky] and recurs in “Snark”: “a state of mind when the voice is gruffish, the manner roughish, and the temper huffish.”

  14. @AntC: “Jabberwocky” actually was disseminated in 1855, long before Through the Looking-Glass. That’s significant, because the interval was long enough that by the time Carroll composed Humpty Dumpty’s exegesis of the poem, he may have forgotten some of what he was actually thinking when he wrote it.

  15. David Eddyshaw says

    Like AntC, I find “uppish” quite normal (and I never went to a boarding school.)

    “Uppity”, on the other hand, strikes me as distinctly American, but I suspect that is because it immediately suggests one particular highly unfortunate collocation.

  16. I ran across uppish somewhere recently, I think in a Jeeves book.

  17. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I think we called the offence “attitude” in my day: in other words no particular crime apart from failing to show enough respect for one’s betters.

  18. @David Marjanović: “So “generality” is what gave you 10 years in the Soviet Union?”

    I believe 1984 owes no less to Orwell’s public school experience than to press reports from the USSR and Nazi Germany. The smell of dirty rags and boiled cabbage at the beginning is a memory from his school days but also a very Soviet smell.

  19. David Marjanović says

    What? Seriously? Is this the Brits being petty or the eu’s?

    This is ICANN: to use .eu, your website must be based in the EU, end of story.

    (Incidentally, the Basques seem to have jumped at the opportunity.)

  20. Lars Mathiesen says

    It’s the EU being petty. Well, actually the relevant wording in (Article 3 of) REGULATION (EU) 2019/517 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 19 March 2019 dates from before Brexit was a done deal, but it may well have been meant to exclude British businesses if Brexit happened.

    Actually Article 19 seems to say that anybody who registered a name under .EU before September 19, 2019 gets to keep it (and until that date, registration was wide open), BIANAL.

    EDIT: I never heard of ICANN demanding geographical association for domains under a ccTLD (of which .EU is notionally one, even though EU is not a country code). I just registered an IT name, for instance, and .nu and .tv, even .co, are widely used by companies that think the ending fits their business. But this may be a special case where ICANN can be blamed.

  21. David Marjanović says

    .nu and .tv were actually sold by their countries.

  22. Lars Mathiesen says

    So if the ICANN didn’t mind Niue selling their domain to the Swedes, the rule can’t be that general innit? (TIL that the recently deceased premier of Niue thought they got cheated, but that’s a different story and I don’t think ICANN rules figure in the court case).

  23. J.W. Brewer says

    I’m now wondering if “uppity” and “uppish” are actually not synonyms, with “uppity” meaning more “acting as if you occupy a higher rung in the social hierarchy than you in fact do” and “uppish” meaning more “acting consistently with the worst stereotypes about those who occupy the fairly high rung in that hierarchy you do indeed actually occupy.”

    The good old American “uppity” figures in a non-racialized family story I love about how my father in his teens was absolutely forbidden by my grandmother from doing something (lest the neighborhood think the Brewers were uppity) that I myself ended up doing in my own teens a generation later with my father’s blessing. It is certainly possible that our family’s rung on the ladder had shifted during the intervening generation, but it is also possible that my dad and his mother had just had divergent opinions on what was or was not unacceptably uppity for the denizens of such-and-such rung (and/or that the class-hierarchy symbolism of the act in question was different in the ’80’s than it had been in the ’50’s).

  24. I was suspended from school (a state grammar school in the south of England) for my attitude once. Admittedly it was a pretty bad attitude. The headmaster told me he was minded to beat me (i.e., cane me), but had decided not to. I suspect that he realised that an attempt at a caning would have ended badly for both of us: for him in being physically assaulted, and for me in expulsion, and he didn’t want either of those things.

  25. ICANN is not to blame: the policy for the .eu domain is set by the European Commission in its role as the executive branch of the EU, and delegated to the trustee (ICANN accredits a trustee for each ccTLD), which is a Belgian company named Eurid. To register in .eu, one must be:

    1) a citizen of the EU (which for the purpose of these rules is taken to include Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway);

    2) a non-citizen resident of the EU;

    3) an “undertaking” or “organization” established in an EU country (what this distinction is I don’t know), provided the relevant national law permits it.

  26. Lars Mathiesen says

    I suspect that an undertaking is some form of private business and the organizations are public such. The hedge about national law only applies to organizations — national law might conceivably restrict publicly funded institutions in what ccTLD they have to use.

  27. The word uppish appears once in The Lost World (1912), by Arthur Conan Doyle:

    “By the way,” he continued, coming back to his chair, “what do you know of this Professor Challenger?”

    “I never saw him till to-day.”

    “Well, neither did I. It’s funny we should both sail under sealed orders from a man we don’t know. He seemed an uppish old bird. His brothers of science don’t seem too fond of him, either. How came you to take an interest in the affair?”

    In this case, it seems like uppish means nothing more than “arrogant.” Challenger is assured of his own superiority, but he feels no obligation to express it according to conventional English norms.

    I sometimes find Doyle’s science fiction hard to read. His writing shows the author’s real knowledge of the biological sciences. (He was a trained physician.) However, this knowledge sits side by side with his remarkable credulity.

  28. my gut feeling for the distinction is that “uppity” is “acting above one’s station – which is insulting to those in the Natural Hierarchy”, but “uppish” is more or less a synonym for “showing attitude”, so “insufficiently respectful to the Natural Hierarchies and those higher in them”. a subtle distinction, but meaningful (unless you’re getting beaten for generality).

  29. David Marjanović says

    An “undertaking” must be a strange back-calque of enterprise (like… Unternehmen) and refer to for-profit corporations.

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