I was flabbergasted when I saw the headline on this Independent story: “School in Essex bans triangle shaped flapjacks after pupil is hurt.” How on earth could you hurt someone with something as soft and floppy as a pancake, thought I? And how would you make triangular pancakes, anyway? Well, it turns out (as you can see from the picture in the linked story) that in the UK, a flapjack is not a pancake at all, it is (to quote the Concise Oxford) “a chewy, thick biscuit made from oats and butter.” Consider this my little contribution to international understanding. (Also, now I want to try a UK-style flapjack.)


  1. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I think you’ll be disappointed. I used to love them 60 or so years ago, but not now.

  2. marie-lucie says

    I think that those flapjacks must be similar to what in Canada are called oatcakes, although the ones I know are considered a kind of cake and made in individual round molds. They are indeed “thick and chewy” and very filling. I have never seen a recipe but “oats and butter” sound likely, possibly with some milk added to soften the oat mixture before baking. Sometimes they are partially dipped in melted chocolate.

  3. Scott Schulz says

    The lawyer over at the Lowering the Bar blog asserts that they are essentially what Americans would call a granola bar, but he has not actually eaten one, and so I’m not sure that his assessment is accurate: http://www.loweringthebar.net/2013/03/triangular-treats-banned-due-to-risk-of-sharp-corners.html .

  4. When you refer to a “pancake” do you mean a pancake in the sense of Shrove Tuesday or a drop scone? Some people really do call a drop scone a pancake, presumably for no better reason than … oh, I suppose, that’s what their Mum called it.
    But then some people call a drop scone a drop scohn.
    P.S. A flapjack can be a pretty delicious item. But then so can a drop scone or indeed a pancake.

  5. P.P.S. “Critics have pointed out that a square flapjack has more sharp corners than a triangle shaped one.” Yeah but it has fewer than two triangle shaped ones. So, double-sized flapjacks all round! Well, not actually round, obviously.

  6. The beat British-style flapjacks, IHO, are relatively soft and gooey. However, they are often drier, more like a granola bar, as your correspondent suggests.

  7. Chris Booth says

    Yes, a granola bar would be a rough equivalent. A flapjack is very sweet, and often has nuts, fruit,etc added. They are usually baked in a tray and then cut into bar shapes or perhaps the dreaded triangles.
    An oatcake (on the British side of the Pond) is a hard, flat, thin object, made from oats, water, fat/oil (not butter), and a little salt. It certainly does not contain sugar, honey, chocolate, fruit or other sweet substances, although you might spread these on top. They are nicer than they sound…

  8. Chris Booth says

    dearieme: I live in Scotland, and by default a “pancake” is a drop scone. That indeed is what my Mum called it. In other parts of Britain (or if there is ambiguity) it might be called a “Scotch pancake”. But I would of course recognise the Shrove Tuesday foodstuff as a “pancake” too.

  9. mollymooly says

    The Shrove Tuesday pancake would probably be called a crèpe in the US.

  10. Sometime around 1960-63 my mother & grandmother used to take me to a café in Holland Park, in London, for flapjacks: chewy, warm rectangular cakes of oats and butter that were saturated in maple syrup. They said they’d first had them in Saskatchewan, in Canada, in the 1930s.

  11. As an American living in England, I would never have thought to describe a (British) flapjack as ‘like a granola bar’. There is a general familial resemblance, I guess, and some granola bars are certainly more flapjack like than others, but I’d hardly call them generally equivalent items. They’re just their own thing.

  12. Another American in England here. Nelson’s right – flapjacks are not granola bars. I’d say the closest resemblance would be to oatmeal bar cookies.

  13. A flapjack is very sweet, and often has nuts, fruit,etc added.
    Well, now I’m not so interested.

  14. But wait. I’d thought that the Brits had (finally!) evolved beyond the food-as-weapon stage, that some varieties of British food were actually edible, and even tasty. No? Has that whole tale been just one of those little jokes that get played of foreigners?

  15. I’m confused, too. Whatever a flapjack is in Essex and whatever shape it might come in, it doesn’t sound like a very dangerous weapon… Are we sure the story didn’t accidentally run a week early?

  16. A flapjack is very sweet, and often has nuts, fruit,etc added.
    Well, now I’m not so interested.
    That sounds awful, don’t believe it. The ones I had weren’t like that at all. Though you did add maple syrup, as with US pancakes, so sweetness was involved.

  17. Hey I actually know about this! I wrote about it last summer while I was living in England working on my MA Thesis about English compounds.
    This post may be slightly informative or amusing to you, or not: http://tankhughes.com/?p=899

  18. Wow, you certainly do! That post covers just about every aspect of flapjacks through the ages. Thanks.

  19. Mollymooly: Indeed it would, for American pancakes as opposed to crepes have a rising agent, typically sodium bicarbonate.

  20. In the US there is something iconic about pancakes. They are a breakfast food. They are to be eaten with butter and maple syrup. I’m not denying that they would still be pancakes if you put something different on them. I’m just saying that that in that case you would be putting something different on them.
    There are lots of synonyms for “pancake” in the US: flapjack, johnny cake, griddle cake, probably many more. No doubt some people draw distinctions: a johnny cake is made with corn meal, maybe, or maybe something else … But they are all pancakes.
    It is easy enough to see that the French crepe, the Mexican tortilla, the wrapper of the moo shi in the Chinese restaurant, the English shrove whatever-it-is, and so on are akin to the pancake, but they are not pancakes, not to an American.
    I’m not sure what to say about the International House of Pancakes. I think that it represented the view that, although right-thinking peoples all over the world have come up with their own ideas about pancakes, these are all only slight variations on the true-blue American pancake ideal. That is, IHOP was not concerned with the things mentioned in the paragraph above — except of course crepes.
    My impression is that in the UK “flapjack” referred to something floppy (as it did in the US) until some time in the early 20th century.

  21. I recommend Bri’s very enjoyable post; here‘s a direct link.

  22. I myself eat, or rather ate, pancakes with neither butter nor maple syrup by choice. This makes me deeply un-American in this respect.

  23. Pancakes are eaten with a small sprinkle of sugar and a good squeeze of lemon – or at least they are in our house – drop scones with butter.

  24. Since our host not only permits but encourages topic drift, most recently in the comments four posts back, here’s a slightly drifty topic that’s bothered me for years:
    My late grandmother, who split her time between her four sons in the U.S. and her sister in Edinburgh after my grandfather died, used to say about French toast (a) that “there’s nothing French about it”, (b) that it is a Scottish invention, and (c) that the proper name is “eggy bread”. I think she was right about (a): I once served some excellent French toast to a Frenchman and he found it totally unfamiliar and rather repulsive. Anyone care to confirm or deny? And what about (b) and (c)?

  25. Not surprisingly, Wikipedia is a good source on regional foodstuffs and their names. Try Flapjack (oat bar), Pancake, Crumpet, etc. I had to look up the term ‘drop scone’ (never heard of it before), and found (at the article on Crumpet) that it refers to something we would call a pikelet in Australia (or, to quote, a “flat cake, of the type that in Scotland and North America would be called a pancake and in England a Scotch pancake, girdle or griddle cake, or drop scone”).

  26. marie-lucie says

    MH: French toast
    The French equivalent is called pain perdu, literally ‘lost bread’, because it is prepared with dry bread that would otherwise go to waste. I had heard and read the words pain perdu long before I ate French toast in the US, but there was a recipe in my old French cookbook. Syrup is not widely used in France for pouring over food (it is more often associated with soothing a sore throat), so perhaps the syrup was what put off the French guest.
    In my family I don’t remember eating pain perdu but we did make crêpes, especially at the traditional time of Candlemas (la Chandeleur). Usually we would just sprinkle sugar on them, but they can also be spread with jam, apple sauce or whatever, before rolling them up into a cylinder and eating them.
    About eggy bread: not too long after I first arrived in the US as a student, I read in a magazine (perhaps the New Yorker, or Harper’s), a piece about “aigbread”, written by a woman who seemed to be from one of the Southern states. I had no idea what it referred to but eventually connected “aig” to “egg” (without realizing what this bread actually was).

  27. Except in New Orleans, where the French name is applied to the American foodstuff, the difference between French toast and pain perdu seems to be that the former is moistened with egg-with-optional-milk, whereas the latter is moistened with milk-with-optional-egg.

  28. (c) that the proper name is “eggy bread”
    Michael Hendry, when I was growing up in 1960s London, my mother (who incidentally had a café) used to call it either egg-bread or eggified-bread. But she never put syrup on it, so it took me a while to realise it was the same as the US’s French toast.

  29. the difference between French toast and pain perdu seems to be that the former is moistened with egg-with-optional-milk, whereas the latter is moistened with milk-with-optional-egg.

    Spanish torrijas go all the way and use both, first soaking the bread in milk and then dipping it in egg batter before frying.

  30. I am a bit confused: if flapjacks are pancakes in American, than what are pancakes? In the American film Matilda makes pancakes, not flapjacks?
    I love flapjacks. My wife and daughter make wonderful flapjacks. You take a generous amount of oatflakes (flocons d’avoine), e.g. Quaker, mix with melted butter and a bit of golden syrup until thick, thicker than porridge, then spread on a baking tray and bake at medium heat until hard. When ready cut into bars or whatever shape you fancy. They are chewey but heavy and can hurt if thrown.
    The point of the story is to berate the school officials who decided to ban the triangles rather than to enforce discipline. I am sure that’s how it was taken by Brits, including at our home.

  31. What is “French toast” and why are the French blamed for it?
    Come to that, what are “English muffins” and likewise?

  32. Sashura, in American English, ‘pancake’ and ‘flapjack’ mean the same thing. There might be regional variation, but where I come from (upper Midwest US) ‘pancake’ is the normal term, and ‘flapjack’ is a kind of folksy or colloquial term – the sort of thing I’d associate with Paul Bunyan stories.
    So Matilda makes a thing you could call either a pancake or a flapjack.
    They’re definitely one of the bits of American cuisine I miss the most in England. I can certainly cook pancakes (they’re pretty easy), but getting decent maple syrup is hard (and expensive). On the occasions my parents visit they usually bring over some syrup they’ve cooked down into maple candy, and I can reconstitute that into syrup. But coming from a household that made its own maple syrup and had pancakes or waffles every Sunday without fail, I’m left feeling a little deprived.

  33. …but we did make crêpes, especially at the traditional time of Candlemas (la Chandeleur). Usually we would just sprinkle sugar on them, but they can also be spread with jam, apple sauce or whatever, before rolling them up into a cylinder and eating them.
    I have delicious memories of eating crepes at little creperies behind the grandstands at the Rouen motor racing circuit in Normandy in 1969-70. They were served with sugar and liberal lashings of Grand Marnier – the only way to eat crepes IMHO!
    We have always translated crepes as pancakes though we understand English pancakes are somewhat thicker. Drop scones are small and thicker than pancakes.

  34. About the pronunciation of “scone”: My experience is that Americans pronounce it to rhyme with “bone”, “lone”, “stone”, and so on, while others, those who consider themselves to be in the know about this, pronounce it if it were spelled “con”, i.e. with the “ah” vowel.
    What I always wonder is whether vowel mergers is muddying these waters. In my dialect there is the “ah” vowel and there is the “lawn” vowel. For many Brits there is something in between. For me, coffee and cough both have the lawn vowel but for them coffee has the in-between one. For me condom has the ah vowel, but for them it has the in-between. Maybe the true British scone vowel is that one that intermediate one that so many of us in the US don’t have?

  35. What is “French toast” and why are the French blamed for it?

    I don’t know, but French drains are named after Henry French of Massachusetts, just as German chocolate cake is named after Sam German, who worked for Baker’s Chocolate (who make chocolate for baking).

  36. my mother (who incidentally had a café) used to call it either egg-bread or eggified-bread
    My mother used to call it eggy-fried bread. Or at least that’s what I heard it as. I can see how the wording might evolve rapidly by being passed on orally from one generation to the next.

  37. My mother used to call it eggy-fried bread.
    How interesting, I’ll have to ask my mother if I misheard it. I had no idea everyone else was using this term too, I was under the impression that she’d invented it.

  38. I might have supposed French toast was “French” because, as a way of using up stale bread, it suggests the stingy and dishonest character of England’s rivals on the continent (in the manner of other phrases beginning with “French” or – more often – “Dutch”), except that a) ordinary toast is often a way of using stale bread anyway, and it’s surely at least as good as that; and b) the earliest citation in the OED (from 1660) calls for it to be made from “French Bread”*. So it seems probable that it’s French toast because it was invented by the French, or thought to be.
    Maple syrup may be more expensive in the UK than in America, but I don’t know why Nelson’s having such trouble getting hold of it. In my experience it’s available at any large supermarket.
    * Also for it to be steeped in wine and served with sugar and orange juice.

  39. I’m with Nelson on maple syrup on pancakes. Great stuff. But it is indeed available in supermarkets in England and France. Usually next to golden syrup.

  40. I’d also like to ask the assembly, what are bliny, blinis or blintsy as opposed to pancakes?
    Here in France, blini are the fatter smaller in circumference panckanes that they sell ready-made in the fish/sea food sections to go with smoked salmon/herrings and creme-fraiche/smetana, while thin larger crepes (bliny to me) are sold in ham/sausage/salami sections.

  41. *pancakes

  42. dearieme (7:12am):
    This is my recipe for French toast, which I think most Americans would find familiar, even if they make it slightly differently:
    Start with stale white sliced bread, and cut each slice in half. (You can leave fresh bread out on the counter for a few hours to get stale, but it’s not nearly as good that way.)
    In a bowl, beat some eggs and stir in a roughly equal quantity of milk, a little salt, some cinnamon, and a dash of vanilla extract. (A triple dash of rum is a good substitute for the vanilla. How many eggs? Enough to do the job: maybe one for each 3 or 4 slices of bread.)
    Dip the half-slices in the batter just long enough to soak them and then put them straight in the pan. Fry them in butter until they are semi-crispy, dark brown around the edges, and roughly half yellow and half dark brown on the rest of the surface.
    Serve immediately with butter and maple syrup. Since real maple syrup is expensive, I like to make them one-third with syrup, one-third with raspberry jam, and one-third with orange marmalade, but, as with American pancakes and waffles, butter and maple syrup are the canonical condiments.
    To save time, improve butteriness, and give me something to do while I watch them fry, I often put the bits of butter on the toast as soon as I turn the slices over, so it’s all melted when they come out of the skillet, and I only need to add the syrup or jam, but that’s not necessary.

  43. Thank you, Michael. While on the subject of using up stale bread, do Americans make bread-and-butter pudding?

  44. Something called bread pudding is known in America, but I don’t know if it’s the same thing as bread-and-butter pudding.
    Once, when I was about 13, I slept at a friend’s house and had breakfast with his family. His mother made French toast. On the table there was maple syrup, of course, but there was no butter. I asked about butter. It turned out that in that family the view was that French toast gets sufficiently greasy in the pan that no further butter is required. Needless to say, the experience scarred me for life.

  45. I’d also like to ask the assembly, what are bliny, blinis or blintsy as opposed to pancakes?
    I would call them crepes. (My wife is making her fabulous ham-and-cheese crepes for Easter, and I’m very much looking forward to them; they are not blini, but they are infinitely closer to blini than to pancakes.)

  46. One Wikipedia article says:
    Blins or blini were symbolically considered by early Slavic peoples in pre-Christian times as a symbol of the sun, due to their round form.[1] They were traditionally prepared at the end of winter to honor the rebirth of the new sun (Butter Week, or Maslenitsa, also called “pancake week”).
    Another says:
    Pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent because they were a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent.

  47. I’ve mentioned before that the best way to learn how to make French toast is to watch Dustin Hoffman make it for his son in the 1980ish movie “Kramer Versus Kramer”.

  48. Among the things I am missing most from my time in Scotland there are a stroll in the Pentland Hills, the rhubarb crumble and the flapjacks. The flapjacks I ate by the ton there were like small mud bricks — delicious mud bricks. I hadn’t checked where they lied on the Brinell scale, but they weren’t as hard as biscuits, their hardness being somewhere between the consistency of rahat lokums and that of “napolitans” or soft chocolate or very soft nougat. You could certainly choke on them, if in your gluttony you had stuffed too much of it in your mouth, but you could certainly not injure yourself with a flapjack, no matter what shape it had.

  49. marie-lucie says

    Crêpes vs. pancakes
    Most French crêpes are special, for dessert rather than breakfast. There is no leavening in crêpes. They are made with a very thin, eggy batter that you pour on the pan without covering the bottom, then you skillfully manoeuver the pan in order to THEN cover the bottom with an even layer of batter, let it cook until all the liquid element is evaporated, then you seize the pan handle with your best hand and shake it in such a manner as to flip the crêpe over without having it fold on itself or, worse, jump out of the pan onto the floor. (“Shake” is not the right word, but I don’t know what other word to use – you have to have seen it done). If all goes well until then the crêpe is ready to be let slide off the pan onto a plate in a matter of seconds.
    These are the French crêpes, not the crêpes bretonnes from Brittany which are made with buckwheat flour, on a large round griddle. These tend to be used instead of bread to make a kind of wrap with various garnishes inside.
    Some version of crêpes was formerly used in French Canada and stored in barrels for travel – but I don’t know much about those.
    Pancakes on the other hand are made with a thicker batter containing a leavening agent, and they rise a little in the pan. You can make three small pancakes in the same pan at the same time, but you could not do that with crêpes.
    Crêpes with alcohol
    Those are very good, especially with some kind of orange liqueur, but they are mostly an adult dessert for special occasions. They are spectacular in both appearance and taste as crêpes flambées where the (small amount of) alcohol is set on fire right on the plate. It burns very rapidly, the fruity taste is preserved but the alcohol evaporates (if that is the right term).

  50. marie-lucie says

    Ø : .Blins or blini were symbolically considered by early Slavic peoples in pre-Christian times as a symbol of the sun, due to their round form.[1] They were traditionally prepared at the end of winter to honor the rebirth of the new sun
    That must be the reason that French crêpes are traditionally eaten at la Chandeleur (from the word chandelle ‘candle’, hence Candlemas). As with most religious (or formerly religious) feasts the timing of this one has to do with what is happening in nature, with the sun or moon, etc.

  51. Marie-Lucie,
    My impression is that, in France, crêpes are mostly sweet while crêpes bretonnes are mostly savoury. At fairs, the standard choice of crêpes is butter, sugar, jam and nutella chocolate spread.
    That’s interesting, so Russian blini (or blinchiki) are not pancakes then, but crepes, and what’s called pancakes in English are, in fact, oladyi (оладьи, on wikipedia here.) But my OED says, blini – pancakes made from buckwheat flour and served with sour cream. Which makes them crêpes bretonnes.
    Confusion again. And how come oladyi are called blini in French?

  52. The pancakes we make are done in the style of French crepes, including the high-frequency low-amplitude shoogling of the pan and the adroit flipping over of the comestible. But no jam, and heavy with the lemon.

  53. marie-lucie says

    Sashura: My impression is that, in France, crêpes are mostly sweet while crêpes bretonnes are mostly savoury
    Your impression is right. The French ones are also much more elastic, I think because they have a lot more egg in them.
    Blini: I first read about “blinis” in my old French cookbook, a reprint of my mother’s cookbook that she was given as a bride, delightfully written before WWII by a Polish expatriate who included several Eastern European recipes. Perhaps the word “blini” was adopted rather than “oladyi” because it was translated as crêpes, as well as looking and sounding much less foreign than “oladyi”. Crêpes bretonnes could not be a suitable name for a foreign word denoting a food that had no connection with Brittany. Also, in my experience the crêpes bretonnes are typically very large, while “blinis” are small.

  54. J.W. Brewer says

    Blini in my limited personal experience definitely seem more crepe-like in their consistency and gauge (although so do the things called pancakes you get w/ moo shoo pork at a standard US Chinese restaurant) but they also serve the same seasonal last-meal-before-fasting function as Shrove Tuesday pancakes.

  55. marie-lucie says

    dearieme: the high-frequency low-amplitude shoogling of the pan and the adroit flipping over of the comestible
    Great description! Shoogling was just the word I was looking for (not even knowing its existence).

  56. marie-lucie says

    clapjacks vs oatcakes
    Earlier I thought that perhaps Scottish flapjacks were the same as Canadian oatcakes, but after reading some of the comments I realized that I was wrong. Oatcakes in Canada have a more even texture, and they tend to crumble if you cut them with a knife. I have never seen any with sharp corners, they are mostly round, sometimes square but with rounded corners.

  57. marie-lucie says

    Oh, sorry, of course I meant Flapjacks for the first word.

  58. While maple syrup is widely available in the US, it is definitely a specialty item, and is almost never available in restaurants. Most Americans put artificially flavored corn syrup on their pancakes. The only IHOP that serves maple syrup is the one in Vermont, because Vermonters are sticklers for real maple syrup.

  59. Yes, I had to look ‘shoogle’ up, too, and found this enchanting page illustrating exactly what is meant:

  60. That’s a great fact about the Vermont IHOP. It seems to be true, too.

  61. It must be because the discussion of food is so deliciously distracting, but no-one has commented on the use of the word pupil in the newspaper story.
    I have fruitlessly (bootlessly?) mourned the loss of this word in B. C. It used to describe schoolchildren below the age of puberty, which for some time have been called students. It’s part of the phenomenon of eliminating words of subtle distinction or nuance. ‘We don’t do nuance in Dallas.’ I suppose there is some kind of satisfaction or comfort in limiting the size of the mind, but I have always found the expansion exhilarating.

  62. My Mum and Granma always pronounced scone like scon, but since everyone is using the pronunciation scown (like own), for what I was taught is simply a baking-powder biscuit (Am. not Eng. sense), I think I’ll adopt scown until I run across someone who makes scones.
    As we see, diversity boggles.

  63. iakon, I thought that a pupil was a student in the pupating stage: the final year of school, before university. I’m sure I read this somewhere.

  64. Iakon: Originally a pupil was anyone under age, whether a student or not, but student has been in use (in the U.S. at least) for those attending primary or secondary school for more than a century. The traditional British term, now somewhat archaic, for students in school was neither student nor pupil but scholar, which is now more usually applied to those who have become learned rather than those who are still learning (though one hopes the former are also the latter). The first usage of scholar dates back to 1000, the second to 1400, so neither can be called newfangled.
    Per contra, budding barristers have always been called pupils, although they are certainly adults.

  65. marie-lucie says

    I remember being rather shocked years ago when I ran into a newspaper story which referred to children in kindergarten as students! I don’t remember if it was in Canada or the US. To me student was the equivalent of French étudiant(e) which only referred to university students. Any other type of learner, of any age, in an institution of learning or with a private teacher would be called un(e) élève, for which I had learned the English word pupil.
    There is a French word un(e) pupille which refers to a person under age in relation to a guardian. This guardian is usually a person (called le tuteur/la tutrice) but can also be an institution: in France there are special boarding schools for pupilles de la nation who are orphans whose soldier fathers died in wars, and who are provided for by the state.

  66. Trond Engen says

    I also learned ‘pupil’ as the translation of Norwegian ‘elev’, so I’ve imagined ‘student’ for children to be a recent invention of private schools and kindergartens competing to be perceived as the most ambitious by parents.

  67. The traditional British term, now somewhat archaic, for students in school was neither student nor pupil but scholar
    I stand amazed but enlightened. Many years ago I was disturbed by a sign on Australian buses which said that scholars should give up their seats to adult passengers (I forget the exact wording). I found it very strange that school students or pupils should be referred to as ‘scholars’. Now it appears that my feeling was based solely on ignorance of traditional usage.

  68. marie-lucie says

    scholars at a young age
    I forgot another French word: écolier/écolière ‘schoolchild’ (boy/girl). This word now refers to primary schoolchildren, but in the Middle Ages écolier, like scholar, referred to a university student (eg l’écolier limousin mentioned in Rabelais’s Pantagruel, which was discussed here not too long ago).

  69. Here are the OED definitions and dates for the three terms:
    1. Chiefly Civil Law. †An orphan who is a minor and consequently a ward (obs.). Also (Sc. Law): a person below the legal age of puberty (now rare or hist.) In Sc. Law the legal age of puberty was formerly 14 for a boy and 12 for a girl, at which point the child became a minor (cf. minor n. 3); these divisions were abolished by statute in 1986. c1384—1999
    2. a. A person who is being taught by another, esp. a schoolchild or student in relation to a teacher. 1531—2004
    b. Law. A trainee barrister undergoing pupillage. Cf. pupillage n. 2b. 1832—2004
    1. A person who is engaged in or addicted to study. Const. of, in, or with defining word prefixed, indicating the subject studied. Also with adj. of degree, as close student, deep student, †good student, great student, hard student. 1398—1885
    2. a. A person who is undergoing a course of study and instruction at a university or other place of higher education or technical training. Also const. of, in (a subject); often with defining word prefixed, as art student, law student, medical student. c1430—1895
    b. A scholar at an institute of primary or secondary education. orig. U.S. 1900—1976
    c. An inexperienced user of illegal drugs; spec. one who takes small or occasional doses. U.S. Drug-users’ slang.
    3. a. At Christ Church, Oxford: A member of the foundation, corresponding to the ‘fellow’ or ‘scholar’ of other colleges. Since 1882 the title has been restricted to the senior members. Before that date the two groups were distinguished as Senior Students and Junior Students respectively. 1651—1858
    b. A person who receives emoluments, during a fixed period, from a college or other institution, or from a special fund, to enable him to pursue his studies and as a reward of merit. 1800—1888
    †4. Const. for. One who strives after or studies to attain (an object or end). Obs. rare. 1545—?1615(Show quotations)
    1. a. One who is taught in a school; esp. a boy or girl attending an elementary school. Often qualified by prefixed word, as Sunday, infant scholar, day-scholar n. Now somewhat arch. c1055—1888
    b. One who is receiving, or has received, his instruction or training from a particular master; a pupil (of a master). Now arch. or rhetorical.
    c. transf. One who acknowledges another as his master or teacher; a disciple. 1577—1842
    d. With qualifying adj.: One who is quick (or the reverse) at learning. a1626—1733
    2. a. One who studies in the ‘schools’ at a university; a member of a university, esp. a junior or undergraduate member. Now hist. and in official use. 1303—1868
    †b. In the Elizabethan period, often applied to one who had studied at the university, and who, not having entered any of the learned professions or obtained any fixed employment, sought to gain a living by literary work. Obs. 1597—1597
    3. a. One who has acquired learning in the ‘Schools’; a learned or erudite person; esp. one who is learned in the classical (i.e. Greek and Latin) languages and their literature. c1400—1886
    b. with qualifying word indicating the degree of one’s attainment. c1290—1823
    c. In illiterate use, one whom the speaker regards as exceptionally learned. Often merely, one who is able to read and write. Freq. in vulgar or dial. form scholard, schollard, etc.
    4. A student who receives emoluments, during a fixed period, from the funds of a school, college, or university, towards defraying the cost of his education or studies, and as a reward of merit. At the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge and in the University of Durham such students wear a distinctive academic dress, and have special seats in hall and chapel. 1511—1857

  70. Thanks, all, for the very thorough enlightment.
    I would like to instigate (foment) a fogey revolt for the return of the words pupil and scholar, but it would be useless (bootless, fruitless) effort. The word student will remain universally applied here because our education system, along with other institutions, have succumbed to the invasion of American culture. This is because the majority of Canadians have now been raised on American television (it’s even a babysitter), which has captured their hearts and minds. This is the tragedy of my country. As we were searching for an identity, our offspring found one. Be not surprised when this country disappears.

  71. I still use pupil.
    When I get stares, I stare them down back.
    And I use nanny instead of babysitter. Two different things. Just had a long discussion with a Russian friend living in America. Apparently babysitter has pushed out the nanny. Outrage! In the land of Julie Andrews-Mary Poppins!

  72. LH had this strange bandwidth problem, so I’ve saved this re. scones:
    I can’t tell how long a mileage I got from scones at today’s Easter lunch with friends from Yorkshire.
    Here’s the summary.
    In Lincolnshire, from where the host hailed, the skon pronunciation is considered ‘posh’, while scown is standard.
    In Yorkshire, it’s the other way round, skon is standard while scown is posh and a bit weird.
    Other English speakers agreed: it’s skon, not skown.
    Make of it what you like.
    And a question: could it be that the orthography of the word had influenced the American pronunciation (as ‘own’)?

  73. J.W. Brewer says

    I know the older usage of “scholar” to mean younger/pre-college student only via the nursery rhyme “A dillar, a dollar, a ten o’clock [i.e. quite tardy arriving at school] scholar,” confirmed when I learned German by the Schueler/Student distinction maintained there. I think I’ve heard “pupil” in US settings, but it always sounded like a mix of bureaucratese and archaism. I don’t think I ever myself had a teacher who began class “Good morning, pupils,” but I may have seen such in movies – it would sound odder in real life than my high school Latin teacher beginning by saying “Salvete, discipuli.”

  74. iakon: How about if we instigate a fogey revolt against the use of “foment” to mean “instigate” rather than “treat with a hot compress”?

  75. JWB: As did my Latin teacher! However, it is not true that old Latin teachers never die but just keep on declining. He, indeed, suffered a fatal heart attack (after my time) while teaching a first-year class.
    Sashura: Mary Poppins is British, Julie Andrews is British, P[amela] L[yndon] Travers was born in Australia but moved to the U.K. at age 25, some ten years before the first Mary Poppins book. Americans have nothing to do with it, except for that misbegotten movie with Dick van Dyke’s misbegotten pseudo-Cockney accent.

  76. Rodger C says

    I’m surprised it hasn’t come up that “pupils” is etymologicaly “little dolls,” a plain example of pedagogical irony.

  77. J.W. Brewer says

    FWIW, usage of “nanny” v. “babysitter” where I live in the NYC suburbs seems very uncertain/contested at present (as applied to someone who works more or less fulltime taking care of a specific household’s children – someone who takes care of the kids more casually/intermittently when the parents go out for the evening etc is unequivocally a babysitter). It’s not that one has crowded the other out, it’s that both seem potentially loaded with problematic baggage (“nanny” too snobbish; “babysitter” perhaps too casual and thus potentially disrespectful to the person who does it for a living), so one is worried about bad vibes whichever way one goes and perhaps sometimes seeks phrasings that avoid the need to choose either.

  78. Not to mention that when the child is not a baby one doesn’t want to insult the child, hence the simple “sitter’.

  79. marie-lucie says

    back to flapjacks: Canadian oatcakes
    Today I stopped for coffee and carefully examined the pastries on display in the shop. I paid particular attention to the two kinds of oatcakes, all of them round, but some of them smallish (about 6-7 cm in diameter), others bigger (about 10-11 cm) and thicker. The smaller ones were also smoother and finer in texture, while the bigger ones were rougher looking. Except for being round, the bigger ones looked very much like the photo of Scottish flapjacks on Wikipedia. If I buy an oatcake to eat with my coffee I usually buy the smaller, smoother kind, because the large ones are too much for my appetite. That must be why I only thought of the small smooth ones when I described Canadian oatcakes.

  80. John Cowan: I know, I know, I was just hamming it up, the film is American. Besides van Dyke, the Robin ‘feathering its nest’ is the American Robin not the European Christmas bird.
    In Britain we also have a child-minder as a word to avoid the casualness of a babysitter, but more often it refers to professionals or semi-professionals who look after small groups of children during day-time.

  81. Of course, the term ‘scholarship’ is also related to the old sense of ‘scholar’, I suspect.

  82. I’m surprised it hasn’t come up that “pupils” is etymologicaly “little dolls,” a plain example of pedagogical irony.
    Perhaps not so very ironic. In one of his addresses, Tolkien referred to his students as his “pupils”, but then (ever the etymologist) added, “rather in the sense ‘the apples of my eye'”, the traditional English expression for both the pupil of the eye and something immensely treasured.
    In any case, Latin pupillus is ‘ward, orphan’; the sense ‘child’s doll’ belongs properly to the root word pupa.

  83. dearieme says

    In Cambridge, the undergraduates whom you ‘supervise’ (i.e. teach individually or in groups of two) are your pupils, though I dare say that the word will be replaced by “supervisee”.
    In my secondary school (in the 60s) we were all “pupils” whether in long trousers or short. Or indeed skirts.

  84. When you supervise pupils in Cambridge, are you their ‘tutor’? Or is that just at Oxford?
    In the US a ‘tutor’ (of a university/college student) is more likely to be someone (maybe a fellow student) hired or, anyway, employed to give one-on-one help to someone who is having great difficulty with a subject.
    And ‘scholar’ is never used to mean ‘someone who holds a scholarship’, although the word ‘scholarship’ is common in the relevant sense. As well as the sense of ‘serious academic-type work’. Although ‘fellow’ is used to mean ‘someone who holds (one of the various kinds of awards called a) fellowship’.
    We don’t have awards called studentships.

  85. I take it back: you can say National Merit Scholar, can’t you?

  86. I certainly can.

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