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Wednesday Word: Tally-stick


26-09-2012 09:00

This week’s Wednesday Word is Tally-stick, which comes from Terence Patrick Dolan’s fascinating Dictionary of Hiberno-English.

 

According to the dictionary, the tally stick was a stick hung around children’s necks in 19th-century schools; the sticks were scored or marked every time the child spoke Irish. According to the dictionary, ‘In some cases they were punished by the teacher each day according to the number of marks put on the stick by their parents the evening before. In some districts each pupil had a tally; elsewhere there would be one tally for the whole class, and the offending pupil would have to wear it during school hours. In Mayo a piece of string, with knots as markers, was used as an alternative to the stick.’

 

Suddenly our own school days, much of which were spent either speaking Irish or sitting peacefully in class reading Exploring English, don’t seem quite so bad...



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