Multicultural London English.

Rebecca Mead has a New Yorker piece, The Common Tongue of Twenty-First-Century London (archived), about Multicultural London English; we’ve talked about it before (2015, 2019), but it’s constantly developing, and I continue to be interested in it:

Not long after my family settled into a new home, near Hampstead Heath, I went south to the Tate Britain museum, on the bank of the Thames, to see an ambitious project undertaken by the British artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen. He had made a collective portrait of London by photographing its Year Three students—second grade, in the British system. […] London itself belongs to these students, whose parents and grandparents have come from all over. More than three hundred different languages are spoken by the children who attend London’s schools, but, as I listened to their voices at the Tate, I was struck by how similar to one another they sound. Sociolinguists who study the way that Londoners speak have identified the emergence, since the late nineteen-nineties, of a new variant of English among the younger generations: M.L.E., or Multicultural London English.

In recent decades, large-scale studies have been undertaken of language use in Hackney, in East London. Historically, Hackney was occupied by white working-class residents, or Cockneys, whose basic elements of speech are familiar not just to Londoners who grew up with them but to anyone who has watched Dick Van Dyke effortfully twist his tongue in “Mary Poppins”—saying wiv for “with” and ’ouse for “house.” The years after the Second World War brought an influx of immigration that resulted in Hackney becoming one of London’s most decisively multiethnic neighborhoods. In one cohort of Hackney five-year-olds, who were studied between 2004 and 2010, there were Cockneys, but there were many more children with parents from Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Albania, Turkey, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and various African countries. Friendship groups were multiethnic, the researchers noted, and often included children who spoke a language other than English at home, or children whose first language was English of a postcolonial variety, such as Ghanaian or Indian English. In this diverse milieu, the children found their way to a new common language.

Speakers of M.L.E. use notably different pronunciations from speakers of Cockney: “face,” which in Cockney sounds like fay-eece, for example, slides closer to fess. (In linguistic terms, the Cockney diphthong is replaced by a near-monophthong.) Some of M.L.E.’s features are lexical, with vocabulary especially influenced by the language spoken by people with Jamaican backgrounds—one of the first postwar immigrant groups to arrive in the East End. But the shifts in the language of London amount to more than the borrowing of vocabulary or changes in pronunciation: there are structural changes, too. David Hall, a linguist at Queen Mary University of London, has written of the organic emergence of a new pronoun, “man,” which, depending on its context, can mean “I” or “me” or “him” or “them.” As an example of generic-impersonal use, Hall gives the example “Man’s gotta work hard to do well these days.” To describe the second-person use, he cites a command that might be issued to an upset friend: “Man needs to calm down!” I asked Hall to meet me in a café in Mile End, in East London, not far from the university. Over coffee, Hall—who is young and bearded, and uses many features of M.L.E. in his speech—discussed other attributes of the linguistic variant, such as the dropping of prepositions with the verbs “go” and “come” in certain contexts.

“It has to be some sort of familiar or institutional goal, like ‘I went pub last night,’ or ‘I went chicken shop,’” he told me. “It can’t be ‘I went art gallery.’”

This is a feature that M.L.E. has in common with modern Greek, he said, but it’s hard to tell precisely in which foreign languages the novelties of M.L.E. are rooted, because it has emerged from such variegated and fertile ground. “It is difficult to say if there is a direct influence from Nigerian English, or Jamaican Creole, because they are all in the mix somewhere,” Hall explained. Moreover, the London children whom Hall and other scholars have studied are influenced more strongly by the phonologies of their peers than by those of their caregivers. Starting at four or five years old, they pool a set of languages and linguistic features, and settle on some subset of that pool as their common language. They begin to speak like one another instead of like their parents. “Normally, kids, until they are eight or nine, will copy their caregivers, and then they will match the community afterwards,” Hall told me. “But these kids are doing it very, very young. It is language change not from the outside but from the inside—they are building it themselves.”

If McQueen’s cameras had captured the chatter of the Year Three students as they shuffled into place and smiled, M.L.E. is one language that nearly all of them would have been familiar with. Hall explained to me that, when groups who speak in different ways come into frequent contact, people often shift the way they speak, eventually sharing speech styles and modes of pronunciation. If you have an extremely mixed group—one whose members speak, say, ten different languages—speakers will settle on linguistic features that allow them to do what they most want to do, which is communicate. “Ultimately, people want to sound like one another,” Hall told me. Linguists use the term “accommodation” to describe the way that individuals change how they speak to align with one another. “It’s not cultural appropriation, it’s not rude, it’s just what we do,” Hall said. We accommodate ourselves to others’ speech because we want to get along; we want to understand, and to be understood.

Soon after my son enrolled at his new school, a few blocks from our house, he started bringing home words and phrases that his new peers, at the onset of adolescence, use to demarcate themselves from their parents, claiming their status as the future of London. The vocabulary was new to his Brooklyn-raised ears, and to me, who had been absent from London for so long. Whenever he brought such words home, I turned them over with him, like fossils found among stones on a pebbly beach. (“Bare,” perplexingly, means “plenty,” or “a lot of.” “Allow it” means “leave it alone.”) Among his classmates are students with English surnames that sound as if they date back to the Norman Conquest or earlier, but there are also children with parents from Somalia, Syria, Bangladesh, Turkey, Poland, France, and Germany. Some of the students arrived in Year Three from Romania, speaking not a word of English; just listen to them now.

I envy linguists who are studying these changes in detail as they happen!


  1. David Eddyshaw says

    The paper purporting to show that man is a pronoun unfortunately relies heavily on Proof by Obfuscation.

    It also seems to exemplify the Chomskyan original sin of trying to attribute to syntax what actually belongs in semantics.

  2. Sounds a bit like Roadman slang.

  3. ‘I went chicken shop,’” he told me. “It can’t be ‘I went art gallery.’”

    I don’t get what is the difference between “chicken shop” and “art gallery” apart from the obvious. In any case, there is a perfectly good-old-English model for it, “home”.

  4. @D.O.: Huddleston and Pullum point out that home can function like a prepositional phrase for indicating orientation of movement. (In fact, I think they claim that that sense of home actually is a preposition, which takes no object—although I think this is wrong, and the interpretation of home as a preposition is at least as defective as the adverbial interpretation.) Standard English also allows, I went north, and similar directional statements.

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    D.O.’s example is a near-perfect illustration of how this is semantics and not syntax, at least as Chomskyans envisage it. The Construction Grammar people would take it in their stride, as exactly the sort of thing that human languages do all the time: for Chomskyans and their ilk, it’s a mystery, to be “solved” with more epicycles.

  6. It seems more like pragmatics to me. Otherwise, agreed.

  7. David Eddyshaw says

    OK: pragmatics is fair enough. I suppose that where you draw the line between pragmatics and syntax is actually pretty much the exact issue at stake.

  8. D.E. and V, you are way ahead of me. I don’t understand what is the difference at all. Is it that some fixed places like “chicken shop” are allowed in the construction or the fact that people go (to a) chicken shop more often than to a gallery? Is it a fixed list of places or a fuzzy set to which c.s. definitely belongs and a.g. definitely doesn’t? Do these places where one goes not “to” is a common set or a personal set (if I go to a swimming pool often, I can say “I go swimming pool”, but if almost never then that would be misleading)? I am not interested in epicycles or heliocentric orbits, just facts.

  9. David Eddyshaw says

    What I mean (can’t speak for V) is that I agree with what I take to be your implication: there is no actual syntactic difference between the acceptable “I go chicken shop” and the (apparently) unacceptable* “I go art gallery.” The difference is in no way a problem in Construction Grammar (which I don’t altogether subscribe to, and in any case this margin is too narrow to explain it), but it is a problem for approaches to syntax which try to exclude meaning as far as possible, because you then either need to set up subclasses of noun phrases which are allowed in the “I go X” frame which have some other justification than the barn-door obvious “I go there much more often”, or you need to hypothesise two distinct “i go” constructions, one for “downmarket” destinations**, one for “upmarket.” You could actually do this: but it would be a whole lot simpler to admit that the difference does not really belong in the realm of “syntax” at all (or that your concept of “syntax” is fundamentally inadequate.)

    * Hey, condescending offensive implications much?! Don’t let the Grammar Man tell you where to go, bro!
    ** OK, I cheated. One for frequent destinations. Still grossly implausible if attributed to syntax as opposed to pragmatics/semantics (trying to keep V onside here.)

  10. My guess is that it is indeed pragmatic, reflecting in this case, perhaps, a societal sense of familiarity. So you’d say “I went c.s.” even if you personally don’t eat c.

  11. DE, but you do have two distinct “I go” constructions, one with “to” and one without. Formally they are distinct.
    Or are you speaking about underlying syntax which for you as a native speaker is the same (felt so) — which I can’t know because I am not a speaker?

  12. you do have two distinct “I go” constructions, one with “to” and one without

    Or you can just say that e.g. “home” and “north” belong to a small set of directional adverbs, not related to their use with this or that verbal construction. They can attach to many different verbs (go, run, face, head), or be used in non-verbal constructions (“Home, James.”)

  13. David Eddyshaw says

    I suspect that what is going on is really good old misanalysis: if “I go X” implies that “I habitually go to X”, then “I go art gallery” would be untrue (rather than ungrammatical) if I am a stereotypical yob, or pretending to be one to fit with the investigating linguist’s preconceptions of what speakers of MLE are like. Nobody likes to disappoint a field linguist.

    I may have to ask my less-Hispanic (London-based) son to do some fieldwork to resolve this issue. However, his degree is merely in Physics. But we work with what we have.

  14. Famous true story: A sly linguist asks some innocent Appalachian yokel: “So, what do you grow here?” I.A.Y.: “Tomatoes, potatoes, … wait, do you want me to say ‘maters and ‘taters?”

  15. The exact quote is, “What are some of the things people grow here in their gardens?” “Oh, potatoes and tomatoes — or did you want me to say ‘maters and ‘taters?” This is from Wolfram and Christian’s 1976 Appalachian Speech, from the authors’ own recording.

  16. Well, I hope (really) Chomsky and co have a way to account for
    ya poshól “I went (m)”
    ya poshlá “I went (f)”
    ya poshló “I went (n)” (when you are an abstraction you can say so… i assume)
    …and noun classes.

  17. David Eddyshaw says

    I hope (really) Chomsky and co have a way to account for

    It’s all Merge. All This is That. And Merge. All Thit is Thas. Tad evam, dude.

  18. I thought the implied difference between, I went pub last night, and, I went chicken shop, versus, I went art gallery, is that for the former examples there is no reason to ask why someone went to the place or what they did there. However, this does still assume that there is a certain degree of interpersonal familiarity with the places. There are, after all, many things one can do at a pub in principle; or inversely, it may be that someone has a known habit of going to the gallery to look at a particular mixed media collage.

  19. David Marjanović says

    This is a feature that M.L.E. has in common with modern Greek, he said

    Turkish strikes again. Fahrts ihr Ankara, oder fahrts ihr Istanbul?

  20. A chicken shop is a small place that sells fried chicken, a sort of knock-off KFC, and like the pub, it is a place people go to frequently, as an everyday thing. Unlike an art gallery. I am pretty sure the distinction is between things that are everyday destinations for any typical person, and things that are not.

    If you search YouTube for The Pengest Munch you will see both many chicken shops and wonderful examples of exactly this kind of English.

  21. As for Dick van Dyke, we all larfed at him and his terrible faux Cockney, and just put it down to upbringing. But now we have the splendid examples of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, and Hugh Laurie as Doctor House (not to mention the omnilingual Meryl Streep), to prove that it is possible to cross the Atlantic in either direction without showing your antecedents. It turns out that actors can do it if they try! So was Dick van Dyke just lazy, or do they just train them better these days?

  22. I remember Harry Belafonte from many years ago and “Matilda, she take me money and run Venezuela”. So this construction has been in use for quite some time in the West Indies.

  23. “Joshua Gone Barbados” is another song, that I believe dates back to the 1920s.

  24. “She take me money and run art gallery” doesn’t quite work (unless she used the money to open and operate a gallery).

  25. Kate Bunting says

    As a British English speaker, when I read ‘Year three students’ I immediately thought of people in their third year at university; it only gradually dawned on me that this is about schoolchildren. Googling ‘Steve McQueen Tate Britain’ revealed that the project was about pupils in their third year of primary school.

  26. David Marjanović says

    This is university, not school“: on related transatlantic culture shocks.

  27. Well, there is not any particular reasn why children should suffer and adult should not. That is, the reason is that it is compulsory education after all.
    But higher education is also in some ways compulsory for some.

  28. pupils in their third year of primary school.

    Yes, countries other than Britain start counting at ‘Year 1’ = first year of schooling, up to ‘Year 12’ = twelfth year after that, even though you’ve changed school twice or three times.

    Since I went through the British system: Infants -> Junior -> Secondary, this confuses the heck out of me in New Zealand. I have to stop and think ‘Year 9’: what age is that? And is there a major round of national exams in that year? British ‘Sixth Form’ means the sixth and seventh year of Secondary = ages 16/17.

    Also ref @David M’s link: no continuous assessment (hand-in work and tests through the year was for the teacher’s enlightenment or something)/ all the pressure was on the exams at the end of the school year. So I learnt to be lazy and cram at the end. Bit of a shock when I got to varsity and found that coursework was 40% of the marks.

    I have no idea how so much of (say) the History syllabus stuck — because I flunked that: couldn’t cram in enough dates and battles.

  29. David Eddyshaw says

    This system has now taken over in the UK as well, in fact.
    I don’t know what the world is coming to. They’ll be decimalising the currency next.

  30. Wait! You mean all that learning 6s/8 is a third of a Pound will become redundant? How are they going to reckon those twelve-sided thruppenny bits?

  31. David Eddyshaw says

    Ah me, yes!
    We recited Aliquot Parts of the Pound every morning at school (yes, really …)

    Two ten shillings are one pound!*
    Three six-and-eightpences are one pound!
    Four five shillings are one pound!
    Five four shillings are one pound!
    Six three-and-fourpences are one pound!

    It has stood me in good stead. I wouldn’t be the man I am today …

    * To recreate the experience most closely, you need to imagine this in Glaswegian. Tü tan shulluns.

  32. The Year 1 to Year 12 (actually, Year 13) system has been used in Britain for over three decades now – I don’t know if its introduction was simultaneous throughout the country, but for me it coincided with starting secondary school, in 1990. ‘Sixth form’ was still used (and ‘Lower’ and ‘Upper Sixth’) at the time I was in it, though, and I’m pretty sure it still is, like the church spire still rising out of the waters of the reservoir. But then, sixth-formers are still doing A (i.e. advanced) levels, in spite of O (ordinary) levels having disappeared even longer ago.

  33. David E.: Was the next line “Seven three shillings are one guinea”? Just to keep everyone on their toes.

  34. BrEng “Year 3” = AmEng “second grade” seems much like BrEng “second floor” = AmEng “third floor,” except in reverse.

  35. David Eddyshaw says


    No. There is no Glaswegian word for “guinea.”

  36. From An English Murder:

    It was ten minutes to midnight. The last rubber of bridge had just come to an end—Sir Julius and Mrs. Carstairs against Robert and Camilla.


    “Sir Julius,” she said with dangerous calm, “would you like me to help you with the scores? You seem to be in some difficulty.”

    “No, no, it’s quite all right,” Julius mumbled through his cigar, shedding ash upon the table. “It was a bit difficult, there was so much scoring above the line, but I’ve got it now. Let me see…. Eight and six is fourteen and carry one…. That makes one pound four and fivepence they owe us, Mrs. Carstairs. My congratulations!”

    “Let me have a look!” Mrs. Carstairs reached across the table and seized the score card before Julius could protest. “I am sure that’s wrong! Seven and four’s eleven and ten’s twenty-one…. I told you so! It should be one pound four and ninepence! Really, Sir Julius, for a Chancellor of the Exchequer!”

    “Well, well,” Sir Julius replied unabashed. “One doesn’t need to be a dab at arithmetic to handle the finances of the State, thank heaven! Why, there was one of my predecessors who didn’t even know what decimal points were, and when he saw them for the first time—”

    “Yes, yes, Sir Julius,” Mrs. Carstairs intervened waspishly. “I am sure that everyone present has heard that story at least once. And I may say that it has been the stock excuse of inefficient Chancellors ever since.”

  37. I’d never heard of any other currency divisible by three — except the guinea.

  38. I’d never heard of any other currency divisible by three — except the guinea.

    There were three akçe to the para.

  39. J.W. Brewer says

    Well, shillings are/were divisible into three four-pence subdivisions. More generally, the pre-Esperanto UK system is usually said to date back to Charlemagne, who divided a monetary pound of silver into 240 denarii and made the intermediate unit 12 of the latter and thus 1/20th of the former. 240 pence obviously divides into three 80-pence thirds, even if there isn’t a conventional name for that sub-unit.

    But a literal no-longer-monetary troy pound of silver is divided into 240 pennyweight(s?), and the intermediate unit (the troy ounce) is 20 of the latter and thus 1/12th (divisible by three) of the former. Neither approach seems obviously more logical or functional than the other and I don’t know why they ended up on different paths historically.

  40. Trond Engen says

    The special thing about the guinea is not divisibilty by 3, which it inherited from the pound (or rather the shilling), but by 7, which is plain and simple accident.

    I wonder if the amount of 1d 8p could be called an “ounce” in the late medieval sixties.

  41. J.W. Brewer says

    @Trond: Burma/Myanmar in the 1980’s famously introduced paper currency in the unusual (by international standards) denominations of 45 kyats and 90 kyats, which were rumored to reflect the numerological interests of the then-dictator. Why buy the cover story that “guinea = 21 shillings” was a “plain and simple accident” rather than a deliberate choice by some sort of Rosicrucian or Masonic cabal enamored of the symbolism?

  42. Its value was officially fixed at twenty-one shillings in 1717. I blame a Jacobite plot.

  43. Trond Engen says

    You’re probably right. I obviously wouldn’t deny the work of the secret cabal, but it didn’t strike me that the motivation behind a century of manipulating fluctuations in the prices of gold and silver would have been the eventual fixation of the rate of the guinea to the shilling at 21.

  44. The royal was a medieval coin valued at 6s8d, one third of a pound

  45. Russia used to have a coin worth 15 kopecks on and off for several centuries (first tries in 1760s then 1832 to 1841 to match Polish zloty, 1860-revolution, 1921-1991). Populary known as “five altyns”. Altyn was used for 3 kopeks and either comes from the turkic for gold or directly from number 6 (1/2 kopek = denga being a thing, Peter I even produced 1/4 and 1/8 of a kopek). 5 kopek coin exists as well, but AFAIK doesn’t have a colorful name, just a straightforward пятак. The name *threepyatak is not attested, which I guess is another failure of Chomsky.

  46. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Scottish schools still go determinedly from one to seven and then one to six again.

    I think year 3 might be primary 4, because England doesn’t actually start counting at 1, in case anyone might start thinking they know what they’re doing.

  47. Trond Engen says

    Me: 1d 8p

    1s 8d. Dinari. I knew that, It’s even detailed out in this thread

    mollymooly: The royal was a medieval coin valued at 6s8d

    So four ounces then.

  48. @D.O. : “Russia used to have a coin worth 15 kopecks on and off for several centuries (first tries in 1760s then 1832 to 1841 to match Polish zloty, 1860-revolution, 1921-1991)” During Lenin’s time there was a 3 kopeyki coin. IIRC I think I had one at one point.

  49. David Marjanović says

    Austria: “first class” to “fourth class”, then “first class” to “eighth class” in the longest school type. Equals “first” to “twelfth school step” (Schulstufe; try “level”) as used in bureaucracy for comparison across school types.

    University is different, first, in that years don’t exist: the largest unit of time is the semester (winter: October through January; summer: March through June). If a rare course in a small field is offered only once every 2 years, that’s called once every 4 semesters. Second, when in the course of your studies you take any particular exam matters only in that you need some to be able to take certain others. You don’t have to take them in any particular semester. There aren’t even fixed durations for the sections of your studies (by now they all end in degrees: bachelor, master, doctor). There are only minimum durations. (However, after the minimum duration plus one semester the subsidy for non-rich students runs out.) All this makes it impossible to introduce anything like the American names for students that are in particular years (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior); there is a term Erstsemestrige (f.) / -r (m.), but it refers to first-semester students as inexperienced in how university works, much more than pertaining to how far their studies are advanced.

    1/2 kopek = denga

    Oh, so that’s the singular of “money”! I had been wondering for 15 years…

  50. Trond Engen says

    The Norwegian system counts 1-10 in primary school and then 1-3 in secondary school*. When primary school was extended to six-year-olds and the twelve years became thirteen, the extra year at the bottom was given the natural number 1.

    * Secondary school is three years for academic programs (formerly gymnas) and two years of school and two of apprenticeship for vocational programs (formerly yrkesskole).

  51. Trond Engen says

    David M.: “first” to “twelfth school step” (Schulstufe; try “level”) as used in bureaucracy

    Norw. klassetrinn or just trinn: Not only bureaucratic or teachers’ nerdview anymore. With the dissolution of the classic classroom model, schoolkids and teachers alike increasingly identify with trinnet rather than klassen, although it will vary quite a bit with how modern the school is, both pedagogically and architecturally. Or so is my impression very much from outside.

    I would have read Schulstufe as “old countryside schoolhouse” = Bokmål/Da. skolestue, Nyn. skulestove.

  52. Oh, so that’s the singular of “money”!

    And stressed on the last syllable, just to add a bit of confusion.

  53. V, I am not an expert on coinage (and a bit pressed for time right now), but I guess until about 1921 there were no Soviet coins at all. 3 kopeks/altyn existed in Russia since forever (which in Russian context means about 1400s)

  54. The Russian contribution into school number systems was that in 80s we decided to make it 11 years rather than 10, but if before such transitions 7>8>10 were done by adding 8th or 9th and 10th years and make children learn more, this time they decided to extend the primary school.

    That is, make it 4 years rather than 3. There already was 0-grade in some schools. Possibly the motivation was helping those students (many) who were struggling in elementary school. No one did so, primary schools remained 3 grades and we learned 1-2-3-5-6-7-8-9-10-11.

  55. Умом Россию не понять,
    Аршином общим не измерить…

  56. I’d never heard of any other currency divisible by three — except the guinea.

    1/3 drachma = two obols, enough to get you and a friend across the Styx.

  57. David Eddyshaw says

    Oh, so that’s the singular of “money”!

    The singular of Kusaal ligidi “money” is la’af “cowry.”

  58. @LH, they teach here in the first grade that “there are only numbers from 1 to 100”.
    In the second: “1 to 1000”.
    In the third: “1 to million”.
    And they claim explicitly that there exist ONLY such numbers.

    And then (in my case):
    “in the first grade you were taught that there are only numbers from one to 100. In the second grade you were taught that there are only numbers from one to thousand. In the third grade…. But tell me: what if you add one to million?” “million one?” “yes, Vova, million one. Now I will tell you something you can not expect: WE LIED TO YOU!!!!”.

    I do not know who invented this koan:) Grade 1-3 is an actual Method. I heard about this from students from many schools, from teachers, and the teacher who said “We Lied!!!” also was addressing audience from different elementary schools. Teachers are taught to make an explicit false claim that there the only numbers out there are those in the range 1 to 100 when they could make no such claims whatsover.

    “We lied to you” can be a part of the method or her own invention. She read aloud the Hobbit during her lessons, so maybe it was her own idea.

  59. Do they say врали or лгали?

  60. David Marjanović says

    I would have read Schulstufe as “old countryside schoolhouse” = Bokmål/Da. skolestue, Nyn. skulestove.

    That’s Stube “comfortable heated room”, supposedly related to Romance and perhaps Greek “steam” words.

    And stressed on the last syllable, just to add a bit of confusion.

    I was getting comfortable…!

  61. @LH, as I said this can be Marina Georgievna’s own idea. The part about grades 1-3 is what teachers are (were?) taught to do, about this part I am not sure. The method is already mad, so if “we lied” is a part of it it will only be less crazy. But M.G. is M.G. I remember this all well and “Vova” is the actual name of the boy who answered “миллион один?”.Her words were either “мы вам врали” or “мы все вам врали” (we all lied to you).

  62. For those elsewhere who might be unaware: The old American school system had twelve grades (one through twelve) starting at age six. However this was extended to thirteen by the addition of another grade at the bottom, for which we used Friedrich Fröbel’s term, kindergarten. The expansion was gradual, however. When I started school, it was optional—although almost all students attended it—and generally only half a day. One of my younger brothers did not attend public school kindergarten, but a private one that was offered by the daycare center he had previously gone to; such private kindergarten options did not then need to be certified like private schools for older students. By the time I was in middle school, the local elementary schools were offering both half and full day kindergarten options, and when my daughter was five in 2009, the full day was essentially universal around here, and by the time my youngest was old enough, attendance for five-year-olds was compulsory (subject to the usual exceptions for home schooling, of course). The transition is not quite complete, nationally, however; some states still offer half day kindergarten (as well as full day), and it is not always compulsory.

  63. David Marjanović says

    Kindergarten, like university, is not school over here (contrast école maternelle, which is in fact a quite different beast); Vorschule “preschool”, a year for those who aren’t schulreif “ripe for school” at age 6, isn’t counted either.

  64. The old American school system had twelve grades (one through twelve) starting at age six.

    This is still true; the existence of kindergarten doesn’t affect the numeration. (For that matter, neither does preschool, which is becoming semi-obligatory.)

  65. @LH, actually лгали is a word I almost exclusively meet in books. ложь is more common (враньё is unambigous colloquial register) and present forms (лжешь) occur too, even though it is an elevated register. Both are not neutral. When you are accusing someone you are already impolite and you do not have a reason to avoid colloquial register. Врёшь-врёт drifted towards most common and casual tone. Yet you can use more solemn лжешь-лжёт. For example: when you are serious, the matter is serious and someone did something morally bad (and you do not just accuse her in being casually dishonest), you may prefer the word from books.

    I am not sure if I hear “лгал-лгала”, I guess for phonetic reasons. After all there are also говорили неправду etc.

  66. Trond Engen says

    David M.: That’s Stube “comfortable heated room”

    I know, but that’s still how I would have read it if seeing it in the wild. I think I would have taken it to be a doublet.

    Stufe must be related to Eng. steep, but I don’t know how.

  67. J.W. Brewer says

    I am so old as have been in the very last annual cohort (kids whose dates of birth meant they were scheduled to start first grade in September 1971) that did not, in that particular part of the United States, have even the option of attending tax-payer funded kindergarten. I went to kindergarten at a private (but certainly not very expensive or socially posh) preschool run in the back of the Methodist church that was more or less across the street from the elementary school I would go on to attend, using the Sunday school classrooms that would have otherwise been unoccupied during school hours on weekdays. When the state legislature authorized public school systems to add kindergarten the following fall, and I suppose helped provide the appropriate incremental funding, the elementary school hired the teacher I’d had and she came across the street with us to teach the kids one year younger than us at public expense, probably getting a union contract and better fringe benefits than she’d had before.

  68. Here kindergarten is kindergarten. In my time there was also “preparatory class”. What we learned there were палочки и крючочки “little sticks and little hooks”.

    A hour or two a few months before grade one: it is all about muscular memory for movements of Russian cursive. A little stick is a sloped I ,a hook is J. And I rememebr somethign about “little sun” so maybe there were coloured pictures or the teacher tried to discuss it or… it was just sunny (I attended it in spring-summer). Wonderfully, this experience of doing something utterly dumb and repetetive is my only (almost) positive or neutral memory of school. They were not too demanding. They did not give bad grades, never insulted anyone, and it was just a hour AND I was actually learning something (I wanted to learn cursive). I would may be rather do something else, but was not a torment either.
    Also, perhaps, it was the only time I actually learned anything.

  69. @LH, actually лгали is a word I almost exclusively meet in books. ложь is more common (враньё is unambigous colloquial register) and present forms (лжешь) occur too, even though it is an elevated register. Both are not neutral.

    We had a discussion about those verbs in 2015, starting here.

  70. You defined it better than me:-/

    But the point is that : I do not expect to hear this exact form, and I guess it is because of /lˠg-/ as opposed to /lˠž-/. Cf. кы- хы- гы-

    Also this teacher invariably preferred informal tone. It was not a solemn speech, rather enthusiastic and slightly humourous (her tone etc), but she intentionally chose loud words.

  71. Thinking of this , лы- (лыжи, лыко) is a funny sound too.
    I think I heard people joking about the word лыжи, and the reason why лытдыбр (дневник is lytdybr when you forget to switch from Latin to Cyrillic. Лытдыбр is a transliteration of lytdybr, adopted for those diary entires that actually are diary entries about your personal life rather than your clever ideas about proto–Indo-European) is funny.

    So maybe it is not as bad as гы-гы-гы used for evil laughter, but.

  72. languagehat: This is still true; the existence of kindergarten doesn’t affect the numeration.

    I don’t agree that there are only twelve grades. There are thirteen now, and their names have become nondescriptive. First grade is not the first grade of elementary school, any more than sergeant first class is the first class of sergeant; both have been superseded in those positions without being renamed.

  73. I… don’t understand that line of argument, but whatever works for you. (It would be interesting to do a survey and see how many people agree with you.)

  74. I agree with Brett more. There are 13 grades K-12. I am not sure whether the fear of number 13 has anything to do with it. I went to a 10-year Soviet school, but graduated from the 11th grade. My life can be a source for a riddle.

  75. Expressions like “grades K–3” are commonplace, treating kindergarten as a “grade.”

  76. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Yes, as far as I can tell reception in England is the equivalent of primary 1 in Scotland – a class, in a school, for people new to school, which you’re required to attend.

    Most children do go to a nursery attached to a primary school for a year or two before starting school in Scotland, but it’s not obligatory, and you can use an independent nursery, or no nursery – and it’s not school.

    So English schools go reception, 1, 2, and Scotland goes 1, 2, 3.

    If kindergarten is more like reception, I think I would be with Brett.

    (Although NY is apparently one of 7 states which don’t require a kindergarten year, so maybe hat is geographically more inclined to see it as a separate thing rather than a school year?)

  77. treating kindergarten as a “grade.”

    @Hat, No I don’t get it either. Kindergarten was not a thing in my schooling.

    Even now that they (or “pre-school” or “play school”) are commonplace because most mothers go out to work, they’re not State-directed compulsory schooling. Why start numbering from a non-universal phase?

    Or is Brett talking about some culture where kids are crammed through a competitive education system from the moment they’re weaned?

  78. David Marjanović says

    Oh, so “K-12 education” is K12, grade K to grade 12! *lightbulb moment*

    Have I ever tried to express the depth of my loathing for whoever decided not to put dashes on… if not typewriters, then at least the first computer keyboards?

  79. Pre-decimal Austrian and Hungarian currency was divisible by 3.

    1 forint or Gulden = 60 krajczar or Kreuzer

  80. I agree with Brett more. There are 13 grades K-12.

    I just asked my wife, to see if I was completely nuts, and she said “How can kindergarden be a grade when it’s not required?” Which seems to me unanswerable.

  81. January First-of-May says

    V, I am not an expert on coinage (and a bit pressed for time right now), but I guess until about 1921 there were no Soviet coins at all. 3 kopeks/altyn existed in Russia since forever (which in Russian context means about 1400s)

    The coin issues of 1921-23 were nominally of the RSFSR rather than the USSR, and the lowest denomination was 10 kopeks. The first officially Soviet coins, and the first post-revolution 3 kopek coins, were issued in 1924, probably after Lenin’s death.
    (I’ve read somewhere that the 1924 copper coins were minted on leftover pre-1917 planchets for the same denominations. Not sure if that’s true. Starting from 1926, the same denominations were made in brass and much smaller.)

    As for the medieval altyn, it is actually attested from the 14th century, but it could not have been equated to 3 kopeks before the creation of the kopek (circa 1534).

  82. Lars Mathiesen says

    In Danish the preparatory class before 1st grade is now grade zero (nulte klasse) and has been required for a number of years. It used to be called “kindergarten class” (børnehaveklasse) but it was in school buildings, not kindergarten ones and kindergarten teachers were not qualified to teach it. Børnehave proper is earlier, ages 3-6 or so. I think that’s called day care in the US but maybe that can start earlier.

    (One right-wing Minister of Education wanted to renumber the system so 6yos would start in first grade, and the optional last year before high school would be grade 11, in the hopes that that would sound so embarrassing that kids would skip it and become productive members of society a year sooner. I suspect such an effect would have been immeasurably small, only irritating petty-bourgeois uncles would have been on kids’ cases over it. (That extra year is often spent at a boarding school experimenting with sex, beer and drugs, which they do need to learn about at that age).

  83. Lars Mathiesen says

    I don’t know if anybody seriously thinks you can distinguish K-9 (kindergarten to grade nine) from K9 (police radio sign for dog patrols, or just for working dogs in general) just by the hyphen. I usually guess at the wrong one of the two meanings when I see it. (And I have seen both meanings).

  84. Lars Mathiesen says

    Three örtug to the öre, eight öre to the mark. And 10 penninge to the örtug IIRC. This was before the debasement of the early 12th and the shift to Hansa money (lybsk).

  85. “How can 11th and 12th grades be grades when they’re not required?” (“Required” in the sense that someone who has turned 16 can in many/most parts of the U.S. drop out w/o legal penalty.)

    Maybe there is still some regional and/or class etc. variation, but I am aware of approximately zero parents of my generation who did not send their kids to kindergarten even absent a legal requirement to do so. In fact, if you just present your kid to your local school district here in New York state at “first grade” age, it’s not clear to me that they won’t by default enroll the kid in kindergarten and/or at least make you jump through various bureaucratic hoops if you want the kid to start in first grade. Having kids, especially those born late in the calendar year and perceived as not quite as intellectually or socially developed as their potential peers, delay the beginning of kindergarten for a year past when the school district would first take them has become a reasonably common phenomenon. (This is sometimes called “red-shirting,” which is an analogy that will be clear if you follow U.S. college football and probably won’t be if you don’t.)

    Thus, there was a proposal in N.Y. a few years back to drop the beginning age at which school attendance is legally mandatory from 6 to 5, which the legislature passed but the governor vetoed. And the debate apparently was not so much about whether kindergarten should be required but whether parents should have the option of delaying kindergarten until age 6.

    In sum, kindergarten is a “grade” that for historical reasons is unnumbered because it was integrated into the standard U.S. K-12 system late and renumbering the rest of the system would have been a hassle.

  86. In sum, kindergarten is a “grade” that for historical reasons is unnumbered because it was integrated into the standard U.S. K-12 system late and renumbering the rest of the system would have been a hassle.

    Such is your interpretation, and I will defend to the death your right to maintain it, but until such time as kindergarten is officially called a grade and universally acknowledged to be such (requiring no strained analyses involving historical reasons and hassles) I will maintain my own view.

  87. Put another way, the first grade curriculum at our elementary school (and I dare say at the modal American elementary school these days) presupposes that the generic non-outlier student will have previously completed the specific kindergarten curriculum taught down the hall in the same specific building. That was not true when I started first grade (in a different state) a half-century ago, when the first-grade teachers needed to assume a wide and unpredictable range of levels of preparation (or lack thereof) for whatever they were going to try to do, but shows that the substance of things has changed even if the nomenclature has not.

  88. Huh. Well, if it’s common for kindergarten to be taught down the hall in the same building as what I think of as elementary school and the curriculum to be standardized in preparation for first grade, I may have to soften my position.

  89. Lars Mathiesen: I would read read “K–9” as “K through nine,” avoiding confusion. However, I would actually read the range dash as “through” in virtually any grade range, including much more commonly seen ones, such as “K–3” or “K–12.” Some people (especially people involved in education, it seems) do say things like “K twelve” for “K–12,” although I suspect that even many of them would avoid reading “K nine” for “K–9” to avoid the homophony with “canine.”

    Incidentally, among law enforcement officers and dispatchers, the pronunciation of the pun code “K9” seems to vary. Some seem to treat it as a genuine alphanumeric code an enunciate it the same way they probably would something like “P7.” However, plenty of them simply pronounce it as the word “canine,” which obviously differs in the stress pattern.

  90. AFAIK, kindergarten is considered an educational and not child care arrangement for federal tax purposes. Parents may deduct child care from their taxes, but not what they pay for K, obviously in the jurisdiction where parents still pay, at least partially, for it.

  91. (This is sometimes called “red-shirting,” which is an analogy that will be clear if you follow U.S. college football and probably won’t be if you don’t.)

    And will be especially puzzling to those who are Star Trek fans.

  92. >>this was extended to thirteen by the addition of another grade at the bottom

    >the existence of kindergarten doesn’t affect the numeration

    I’d think you could see a way to be more broad-minded about this. At the very heart of your intellectual specialty you’ll find the concept of 0 grades.

  93. Irish grades are, primary school: junior infants, senior infants, first to sixth class; secondary school: first to third year, optionally transition year, fifth to sixth year.

    Education is compulsory from age 6 but most start at 5 and some at 4 though not as many as in my day. So first class used to be aged 6 but now more often 7.

    There is no “fourth year”. There used to be three state exams: Day Vocational Certificate (Group Cert), Intermediate Certificate (Inter Cert), and Leaving Certificate taken after 2, 4, and 6 years. Free vocational schools only did the Group Cert and maybe the Inter Cert; fee-paying secondary schools did the Inter Cert and the Leaving Cert. When universal free education was introduced in 1967, there was only funding for five years, so in free schools brighter kids did the Inter Cert after 3 years and the Leaving Cert after 5, skipping fourth year. In the 90s the Inter and Group Cert were merged into the 3-year Junior Cert, so nobody does fourth year. Transition year was introduced about this era, after the Inter Cert but before you start studying the Leaving Cert; you are supposed do short modules to broader your horizons without exam pressure. Some schools sneakily start on the Leaving Cert syllabus during this year, which gives their students an Unfair Advantage.

  94. “Although I have chosen to avoid for the most part the complexities of
    statistical calculations, their prevalence in the computer room provokes
    me to recall two of their classic if less graceful moments. The first
    was an educational survey of pupils in grades 1 through 8 that had been
    completed and recorded on punched cards before somebody decided to include
    kindergarten. Zero having been preempted for some other function, this
    new grade was encoded as 9 — a fact soon conveniently forgotten. The
    subsequent regressions of age-sensitive factors against grade were, well,
    peculiar! And in the same vein, the person who encoded verbal responses
    of YES, NO, DON’T CARE as one, two, three, respectively, got the sort of
    correlations she deserved.”

    (Forman S. Acton, “Numerical Methods that Work”, p. 250)

  95. David Marjanović says

    I’m too tired to look up if lycée in France still ends in tertiaire (3ᵉ), secondaire (2ᵉ), primaire (1ᵉ), terminale (Tᵉ).

    That extra year is often spent at a boarding school


  96. I thought lycée _meant_ (high) boarding school? Certainly my friends who went to them thought so.

  97. David Marjanović says

    No, it means Gymnasium. I guess some of those outside France might be boarding schools, but Vienna’s Lycée français is not.

  98. Here’s my two bob’s worth for the school system in Australia, specifically Western Australia – each state of the Commonwealth has its own rules.

    The system is described as K-12. But kindergarten is not compulsory. There are 2 years of kindy: 1 day a week kindy for children who’ve turned 3, and a 5 day fortnight for kids aged 4.
    Compulsory schooling starts at Pre-primary (PP). This is at age 5. It used to be the case that the intake year aligned with the calendar year, but it’s now aligned with the financial year (in Australia the financial year starts on 1 July). So, a child who turned 5 in the financial year starting 1 July 2021 started Pre-Primary in January 2022.

    The school year starts in January and ends in December. There are 4 terms of about 9-10 weeks each, separated by a couple of weeks holidays. The summer holidays start in the second week of December and end around Australia Day.

    Primary school has 6 grades + kindy & pre-primary. These are called Kindergarten, Pre-Primary, Year 1, Year 2….
    High school has 6 grades too. These are called Year 7, Year 8, … Year 12.

    Four things about Croatia, in no particular order:
    1) In the olden days, rustics used to refer to each grade as ‘škola’ (literally ‘school’). So someone who made it as far as the third grade was referred to as having had ‘three schools’. Evidently way too overeducated.
    2) A first year uni student is called a ‘brucoš’. There are no particular names for other years.
    3) Middle school (srednja škola) is equivalent to an Australian ‘high school’ ie. it’s in between primary school and uni.
    4) There used to be a rhyme describing the first 4 years of primary school. I wonder how many will understand it:

    Prvi razred cvijeće bere
    Drugi razred mačke dere
    Treći razred postolar
    A četvrti gospodar

  99. In the olden days, rustics used to refer to each grade as ‘škola’ (literally ‘school’). So someone who made it as far as the third grade was referred to as having had ‘three schools’.

    I like that a lot.

  100. Lars Mathiesen says

    @DM, Denmark has a tradition of højskoler (not unconnected to the cooperative movements of the early 19th) where (mostly rural) young adults were allowed to have a year away from the village and get a glimpse of general education (music, literature, philosophy) and whence many of them went on to teachers’ seminaries and nursing schools. They still exist but now cater mostly to pensioners. The efterskole phenomenon is similar but for 9th/10th grade kids.

    That Croatian verse would be about what so many schools will let you become — three schools a shoemaker, four schools a gentleman? Maybe shoemaker was a learnèd profession, like Welsh letter carriers.

    The Danish Lycée in Paris is not a boarding school either, FWIW, but of course the kids have to find accommodation in that city.

    And in the old days, the first quarter of Uni was spent on a general theory of science course (BRING IT BACK!) called the filosofikum — passing which was your ticket to the commencement festivities and academic citizenship, complete with hat. Prior to that you were a rus, allegedly short for depositurus because you were to put away your uncouth burgher ways when donning the hat, thus elevating your soul. Kierkegaard might have something about it, his time was when that stuff was important. (But my mom still has her letter of academic citizenship issued in the mid-1950s).

  101. It’s clear from Brett’s posts that he’s considering the case where Kindergarten is compulsory, as it is in 19 states and the District of Columbia according to: (Less than 1/2 of states, still, but I don’t know what percent of the U.S. population that represents.)

    The argument that kindergarten can’t be a grade because it’s not required doesn’t apply in those states where it is required.

    And, seems to me, accepting that argument (where it applies) for schooling before the 1st required year of school doesn’t not necessarily mean the same argument applies to years after the last required year of school.

  102. The argument that kindergarten can’t be a grade because it’s not required doesn’t apply in those states where it is required.

    True, of course, but my point was not meant to be that categorical (it can’t be a grade) — it just seemed clear to me that it wasn’t a grade, and that seemed an argument in favor of that point of view. Now it seems less clear to me, and I presume people in states where it’s compulsory (and especially if it’s closely linked to first grade both physically and in terms of prerequisites) may well think of it as a grade. I doubt I ever will, though.

  103. Different conceptions. I’ve apparently internalized the definition of class that gives “freshman class” and “underclassman.” I’ll say to one of my daughters Emma is in your class, meaning she’s among the 4th graders, and get the annoyed correction “No she’s not. She’s in Ms Anderson’s class.”

  104. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I can never remember whether the class of X started in that year, or expects to finish in that year. (Possibly I’ve never known it to remember.)

  105. As Ukrainians say, “didn’t know, didn’t know and when it is needed, forgot”

  106. J.W. Brewer says

    @JenInE: the latter is so ubiquitously the American usage that Americans would be puzzled by your (perfectly fair) notion that that’s not actually intuitive. I don’t know if it works differently in Foreign Parts.

  107. Kindergarten being de rigueur anywhere I’ve ever been, it hadn’t occurred to me it wasn’t compulsory. But this table suggests that in Pennsylvania and Washington state, you’re not required to send your kid to school till they turn 8.

    Maybe 1st and 2nd aren’t grades either!

  108. @J.W. Brewer: I remember when I first encountered “class of ‘[XX]” as a child, and at the time I thought it was a particularly nonintuitive way of referring to an age* cohort. I can’t have been the only person to have that reaction; it’s just that the labeling is so universal in our culture that many of them soon forget that they ever found it confusing.

    * It’s not strictly a matter of age, of course, and I remember that sometimes groupings of kids that were nominally based on “grade” or “class year” actually turned out to be based instead on age. I was angry that my grades 5–6 youth soccer team included another kid who I played with on the previous year’s 3–4 team, who was my age but was a year behind me in school (apparently because he had flunked** an early grade). He was treated as the team’s big star, not really because he was particularly good, but because he was Hispanic, and his family was heavily into soccer; being a real loudmouth (which was mostly why I disliked him) probably helped him too.

    ** When I was in first grade, I remember taunting another student on the playground (who has picked on me a lot the previous year, but who had been held back to repeat kindergarten) for having “flunked kindergarten.” Our kindergarten teacher happened to be nearby and heard this. She took me aside and told me that, actually, it had just been felt that it would better for the other boy if he repeated kindergarten again. She asked if I understood and my response was that—Yes, of course I understood; that was what “flunked” meant. She didn’t argue with me further at that point, and I didn’t elaborate further that obviously, the way she put it was trying to put a positive spin on things, whereas I had been intentionally pejorative.

  109. PlasticPaddy says

    The word “retard” comes to mind (and no doubt formed part of young Brett’s oratory, although maybe not when there were teachers around).

  110. второгодник. secondyearer.

  111. In 1983 I saw this poster for the movie “Class of 1984”, tagline “We are the future and nothing can stop us!”

    I inferred that the title characters travelled back in time from a Mad-Max dystopia.

  112. People do sometimes speak of the “class” of members of Congress elected in a particular year, so in that case the year refers to the start (or actually the year before they start serving) rather than the end.

  113. @Keith Ivey: Freshman Senator Dies In Hazing Incident

    We had a printout of that Onion story up on the wall of The Tech newsroom; it seemed relevant, coming not so long after that actual pledge death at MIT.

  114. Each ÉNA promotion picks the name of a Great Person; dunno how widespread that is generally in France.

  115. David Marjanović says

    I’m intrigued by the notion of repeating kindergarten as opposed to just staying in it longer. Does it have, in the US, a curriculum that can be repeated?

  116. @David Marjanović: Yes, It’s a grade with a year-long curriculum, the same as the other elementary grades. It’s not just preschool for five-year-olds.

    My daughter was somewhat surprised by the structure of the kindergarten year, after her experience in preschool of moving up a class whenever she had a birthday. She was sort of expecting to advance to first grade as soon as she turned six.

  117. Currently, the German system is grades 1-13, starting from elementary school. Kindergarten and university don’t count as school, even though Hochschule is a synonym for university. Of the three school types Germany has, only Gymnasium goes to grade 13 (in some states, only to grade 12 – a couple of years ago there was a fashion for reducing the life time spent at school). The other types (Realschule and Hauptschule typically end at grade 10.
    There was an older system of counting gymnasium classes which fell out of use some point after the war; my grandparents (born before the war) used it when talking to us, but my parents (born in the 40s) already didn’t. That system counted from the higher grades down:
    Oberprima – 13th grade
    Unterprima – 12th
    Obertertia – 11th
    Untertertia – 10th
    Quarta – 9th
    Quinta – 8th
    Sexta – 7th
    The system didn’t extend to lower grades, presumably because that would have been Volkssschule in the old system. You’ll find this system in books up to the middle of the 20th century, also references to Sextaner as the epitome of immature school boys and Primaner for pupils in their late teens, stereotypically portrayed as opinionated without real knowledge and experience and writing bad poetry.

  118. stereotypically portrayed as opinionated without real knowledge and experience and writing bad poetry.

    Sounds about right. Certainly applies to me at that age.

  119. David Marjanović says

    Hochschule is a synonym for university

    It applies to all tertiary education, including to institutions that are never called Universität, e.g. Fachhochschule “university of applied sciences”.

    The other types (Realschule and Hauptschule typically end at grade 10.

    Quite different in Austria, where Hauptschule (recently renamed to Neue Mittelschule)* ends at grade 8, but Realgymnasium and Gymnasium are usually in the same building, only separate from each other after grade 6, and end with grade 12 together.

    …but some of the Hauptschule graduates go on to an Oberstufenrealgymnasium for the next 4 years (Unterstufe = grades 5–8 in (Real)gymnasium, Oberstufe = 9–12).

    * Mittelschule “secondary education”. The Social Democrats have long wanted to abolish this two-track system that separates people so early and correlates so strongly both with their later careers and with their parents’ backgrounds. The conservatives have always wanted to keep it, so as not to drag the faster learners down. After a few decades, the problem found an Austrian Solution™: Hauptschule is renamed, and that’s it. It must be mentioned, though, that in Vienna – home to 2 of the country’s not quite 9 million people – almost everybody goes to (Real)gymnasium anyway. The reason is the same as the existence of the mesolect: to imitate the local upperclass.

    an older system of counting gymnasium classes

    Oh! Yes! That’s mentioned in a lot of literature, but never explained because of course the originally intended readership knew it.

    stereotypically portrayed as opinionated without real knowledge and experience and writing bad poetry

    Interestingly that’s not the image one has of Maturant:innen anymore.

    (…Yes, the Swedish/Finnish colon was suddenly introduced 2 years ago and immediately became de facto standard. Was overdue.)

  120. Interestingly that’s not the image one has of Maturant:innen anymore.

    They don’t write bad poetry these days? What’s the world coming to??

  121. J.W. Brewer says

    Do I have to be the one to ask the obvious question about the old Gymnasium-grade system? WHAT HAPPENED TO SECUNDA? Was there an infamous-in-its-day scandal back in the era of the Karlsbader Beschlüsse or something, followed by a clumsy attempt to hide the evidence?

  122. David Marjanović says

    They’re not writing good poetry either. They’ve interpreted enough poems in school that they’ve had enough.

  123. @JWB: Nothing to do with Karlsbad, just my own sloppiness*). Thanks for paying attention!
    Here the correct list:
    Oberprima -13th grade
    Unterprima – 12th
    Obersekunda – 11th
    Untersekunda – 10th
    Obertertia – 9th
    Untertertia – 8th
    Quarta – 7th
    Quinta – 6th
    Sexta – 5th

    *) I did feel that something was amiss when sexta came out as 7th grade, but I didn’t think of checking whether I might have forgotten a grade or two. I can only apologise.

  124. Roberto Batisti says

    The Italian “Liceo Classico” is now five years (ages 14-19) like other kinds of high school (recent ‘experimental’ attempts to cut it down to four years notwithstanding), but the traditional numbering of grades is 4th-5th-1st-2nd-3rd. This is a relic from the times before a unified middle school for ages 11-14 was introduced in 1962, when pupils who wanted to undertake ‘Classical’* studies attended a five-year Ginnasio followed by a three-year Liceo.
    Having attended a Liceo Classico myself, I’ve always found it difficult to adjust to the absurd notion that a terza/o** student is in his/her third, not fifth, year of high school.

    * The point of Liceo Classico was never to train an army of little Classicists, but give a humanistic education to the future ruling classes. The fact that I did actually end up a Classicist, but very definitely not part of a ruling anything, proves just how much the times have changed…

    ** terza implies classe, terzo implies anno. Maybe it is regional — I grew up with the feminine, but now that I’m a teacher myself I see that many colleagues use the masculine.

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