Friday, November 28, 2008

Winston Churchill, Head of the Fags

I finished all the library books I have checked out, and I've been too busy to get any new ones, so I've been rereading one of my own books: Winston Churchill's My Early Life.

I won't give a full review here -- I'll simply say that it's Churchill's best book (yes, I've read most of them), interesting and very entertaining and permeated by a marvelous self-deprecating sense of humor, and I highly recommend it -- because I just want to point out one unintentionally funny passage about his school days:

Officially I never got out of the Lower School, so I never had the privilege of having a fag of my own. When in the passage of time I became what was called "a three-yearer," I ceased to have to fag myself, and as I was older than other boys of my standing, I was appointed in my House to the position of Head of the Fags. This was my first responsible office, and the duties, which were honorary, consisted in keeping the roster of all the fags, making out a list of their duties and dates and placing copies of these lists in the rooms of the monitors, football and cricket champions and other members of our aristocracy. I discharged these functions for upwards of a year, and on the whole I was resigned to my lot.

Churchill is often credited with the quotation "Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language" (although G. B. Shaw or Oscar Wilde may actually have said it first). I think the above passage is a good illustration of that principle.

(If you're unfamiliar with "fagging" in the context of English public schools, read this.)

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