4 MIN READ | Social Psychology

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The Nostalgic Playground Terms That Differ Across the UK, New Study Reveals

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News Release, (2022, June 10). The Nostalgic Playground Terms That Differ Across the UK, New Study Reveals. Psychreg on Social Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/nostalgic-playground-terms/
Reading Time: 4 minutes

What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘mufti day’? What about a woggle, knapsack or ice pole? With 48% of the UK disagreeing on what they call bread, the nation continues to prove its diversity in language is one of the defining features of being British.

Looking at the different memorable terms relating to going to school in the UK, what are the most unique terms used for the various things we all remember?

  • London refers to own clothes days as ‘mufti days’.
  • Liverpool calls ice lollies ‘lolly ices’.
  • Belfast knows soft drinks as minerals and a backpack as a ‘knapsack’.
  • Newcastle upon Tyne uses the term knap pack when describing a rucksack.
  • Nearly half of the UK disagrees with the name for bread.

The names for well-known things from UK school life differ across the nation. VideoScribe has conducted a study using search data surrounding the top terms remembered by those who went to school in the UK, analysing what words are most frequently searched for within the top 20 most populated UK cities and how they are referred to within each. You can view the full campaign here.

Rucksack

We all remember carrying our favourite bag to bring our books to school. Whether you were able to choose your own, or your parents forced you to wear the most practical book bag, what did you used to refer to your rucksack as?

Search data has shown that those from Liverpool, Sheffield and Glasgow are most likely to refer to this as a backpack, whereas people from London, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and Belfast are the only cities that might use the term knap pack. London also uses the term book bag more than any other UK city.

Soft drink

Whether you would queue up at the tuck shop at lunchtime or bring your own from home, the UK is divided when it comes to the general terms used for a can of coke. While London uses ‘fizzy drink’ more than any of the other cities listed, Belfast is unique in referring to soft drinks as ‘minerals’. If you find yourself in the midlands, it is very unlikely that you’ll hear ‘fizzy pop’ or ‘fizzy juice’ being said, although they use the classic ‘soft drink‘ more than any other area.

Tottenham cake

Love them or hate them, there’s no doubt that any UK schoolgoer will remember these classic lunchtime desserts (or dinner time if you’re from the North!) Originating in Tottenham, London hangs on to the original name of Tottenham cakes when describing these nostalgically sweet treats.

Liverpool and Birmingham say it as it is, most commonly used ‘school cakes‘, when describing these cakes from school. Although these are sponge cakes topped with icing, Cardiff, Middlesbrough and Sunderland are the least likely out of all cities to call these ‘ice sponge cakes’, whereas this term is used to a certain degree across the rest of the UK.

Ice lolly

Cooling off with a frozen treat brings back memories of the summer holidays, but what did you use to call them? People from London use the term popsicle most often when heading over to the ice cream van, whereas the rest of the country is a lot less likely to describe an iced lolly this way. Liverpool flips this on its head, with the term lolly ices being used most frequently out of all of the most popular terms!

Own clothes day

Remember the excitement of not having to wear a uniform? Although this novelty of a day only occurred once or twice a year, it’s fair to say that this was one of the highlights of school life!  ‘Own clothes day’ is collectively used across the UK, but if you’re from London, you may well be more familiar with ‘mufti days’, a term not used so frequently elsewhere. Those from Birmingham have been shown to use ‘free dress day’ just as much as any other term, a name you’re very unlikely to hear in Glasgow, Southampton, Portsmouth, Liverpool, or Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Woggle

If you’re scratching your head and the word woggle has given your head a wobble, you’re not from Brighton! Most UK cities know these as foam noodles, or swimming noodles, the buoyant tubular floats that every schoolchild used as a makeshift sword at some point when attending swimming lessons.

Getting straight to the point, Glaswegians and Brummies call these ‘pool noodles’. There was always a mysterious bite mark in at least one of these, own up, it’s been long enough!

Fight

Not the most pleasant of school memories for some, but every UK schoolgoer will have seen a playground fight at some point in their school careers. Surely we all remember a certain term being shouted out at break time when a fight erupted, with the maths teacher running over to break it up, completely out of their comfort zone.

Liverpool and Manchester residents are very unlikely to call this a ‘kerfuffle, but research has shown that ‘scrap’ and ‘straightener’ were used prolifically on these Northern playgrounds! Straightener is also used most often in Stoke-on-Trent, while Coventry uses straightener and barney in equal measure.

Breaktime

The time between our lesson periods was more or less collectively shared across the nation. What we referred to them as however, not so much. Those from reading are more likely to refer to the periods between lessons simply as a ‘break’, short but sweet, and straight to the point.
Cities spanning from the South, all the way up to Scotland such as Coventry, Bournemouth, Leicester and Edinburgh have been found to use the term ‘recess’ more than any of the other generally used terms for this time of day.

Rubber

All stationary we used at school would go missing one way or another. There was always that one classmate who would ask to borrow something from your pencil case, never to be seen again. Pencils are collectively referred to the same way across the nation, but what about the item you’d erase your mistakes with? Looking North, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield and Glasgow call this a rubber, while you are unlikely to hear eraser, rubber eraser or pencil rubber used within these cities while Londoners describe this item as an ‘eraser’.

Bread bun

Perhaps the second biggest nationwide debate, close behind the pronunciation of scone, is what we would call the bread bun that surrounded our sandwich filling. A study by YouGov revealed that bread roll, or simply roll, is used most commonly by 52% of UK residents, with the figure increasing the further south you travel. The preferred term in Birmingham and Leicester is ‘cob’, less commonly used nationwide by only 8% of people, whereas Mancunians and Liverpudlians go for the term ‘barm’.

Those from the West Midlands are more inclined to say ‘bap’, and Yorkshire residents use the very British ‘tea cake’. With so many different names for a roll of bread, it’s only fitting that we make something so simple, so overly complicated. With names for these well-known terms used across UK schools varying from city to city, it’s clear to see that we all share the same memories, under different titles.

Are you a Southern popsicle lover floating on a woggle, or a Northerner carrying tea cakes in your backpack?


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