public school; language attitudes

William Stone W-Stone at NEIU.EDU
Fri Jan 28 15:39:02 UTC 2000

Although I'm in full agreement with the second answer given below, there are a
few inaccuracies in the first.

1. Eton, not Eaton, and the royal family have traditionally been educated
privately, i.e. at home, until Prince Charles went to Gordonstoun.  The first
member of the royal family to go to Eton was, I believe, Prince Edward.

2.  Many private schools are boarding schools.  The difference between a private
school and a public school is more to do with a combination of age and
prestige.  Public school are older and more prestigious (and more expensive).
The term 'public school' dates back to the Middle Ages when all education was in
the home by tutor.  The public schools were for any member of the public who had
money to send their children to school.

3. Comprehensive school is a relatively new term for a general secondary
school.  These schools came into being in the state system in the late 60s and
early 70s.  Prior to that date children sat an exam at the age of 11; those who
passed went to a grammar or high school.  Those who failed went to a secondary
modern school (about 75%).  The comprehensive schools are more akin to U.S.
junior high/high schools where children of all abilities go.  However, several
counties in England still maintain the old system.

Having attended a state grammar school and taught in a comprehensive school and
a private cathedral school, I can assure you the situation is even more complex
than it may seem.

William Stone
Linguistics Department
N.E.Illinois University

"Aaron E. Drews" wrote:

> On Thu, 27 Jan 2000, Nancy Elliott wrote:
> }1. If U.S. 'private school' is  U.K. 'public school,' then what do you call
> }a public school in the U.K.?
> >From what I understand, a "private school" in England is the equivlant to
> a private school in the U.S.: where children spend their time between,
> say, 8am and 4 pm, e.g. St. Mary's R.C. school (although a private school
> is not neccessarily religious). A "public school" in England is a boarding
> school, e.g. Eaton (where most of the royal family has been educated). So,
> both are "private" - a.k.a. fee-paying schools (a catch-all phrase in
> current use) - despite their modifiers.  In Scotland, the distinction
> between the two terms is blurred, probably due to the lack of many
> boarding schools.  The general term up here is "private school", with
> "public school" generally referring to the aforementioned boarding schools
> in English, and usually coupled with contempt.
> A non-fee-paying school is a state school, as has been mentioned.  An
> older term is a "comprehensive".  I use "local" schools, but that worked
> against me with the American community in Aberdeen, where the local school
> happened to be an American (er, 'International') school.  Native British
> English speakers would understand "local" schools as being community,
> state-funded institutions, but I don't think it would be used.
> }
> }2. What do British English speakers think when they hear someone use
> }American syntax in "Do you have any....?" and "I don't have any..."?
> I don't think this formation is specific to American.  "Have you any" or
> "I haven't any" isn't all that common, although I'm not sure what is
> prescribed at the public schools.  "I haven't any"  might have slightly
> more currency, but still isn't widely used any more, at least in my
> interaction.  WRT negatives, a common alternative is "he's not been able
> to do it" as opposed to "he hasn't been able to do it", but I think that
> might be Scots influence on Scottish Standard English.  But in the UK as a
> whole, DO-support is alive and well with lexical "have" for negatives and
> interrogatives.
> Now, if the phrase were "do you got any" or "I don't got any", then the
> attitude is a slightly disdainful "oh, the horrors of colonial speech".
> This is due more to the choice of "got" (and the subsequent flap) than the
> actual syntactic construction.  The disdain ranges from very mild, noting
> that it is an Americanism, to strong for those with prescriptivist
> tendancies that have no clue about linguistics or language change, and
> they probably have a disrespect for all things that aren't English (as in,
> from England, rather than the language).
> Sorry... this ambled on a bit.
> --Aaron
> ________________________________________________________________________
> Aaron E. Drews                               The University of Edinburgh
> aaron at                  Departments of English Language and
>       Theoretical & Applied  Linguistics
>         --Death
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