In Rudyard Kipling's Stalky and Co. is a rather long scene when Stalky, Beetle and McTurk bully a pair of boys who have themselves been bullying a 'fag' (dated BrE usage: a junior pupil at a public school who does minor chores for a senior pupil). There are a number of methods they employ and some of those I have been able to find, though not easily, (head knuckling, cock fighting) but most (brush drill, corkscrew, giving the key, rocking a boy to sleep) I can find nothing about.

Are these tortures made up for the purpose of the story or are each these idioms/phrases previously established?

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    Are you asking us 'where to find them'? If that is your question, I don't think it's on-topic here.
    – NVZ
    Jun 26, 2017 at 13:29
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    @DRF Until now, I was unaware of that meaning for fag. My apologies. I only changed it because I thought you were actually referring to a homosexual boy. If you would like to know definitions for idioms, then your question needs to be reworded to state that. As is stands, you asking about where to find more information about torture methods.
    – Hank
    Jun 26, 2017 at 13:34
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    @hank Ahh I see reading the question again I can see how it would come off as that. Will edit. I will also edit the word out and keep the modern term.
    – DRF
    Jun 26, 2017 at 13:36
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    @DRF Unfortunately, in America, that word has only one main use >.<
    – Hank
    Jun 26, 2017 at 13:39
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    @nvz I have edited it out since it didnt really add anything to the question. Having been listening to the book for a couple of days it's contemoporary American meaning didn't really jump out much as fags and fagging are used quite ubiquituously in the big in a very mildly pejorative meaning.
    – DRF
    Jun 26, 2017 at 13:50

2 Answers 2


Are these made up for the purpose of the story or are each these idioms/phrases previously established?

They were likely established before Kipling's use.

Actually, Kipling regularly took offence at the implication that he drew from an imaginary lexicon, rather than his world experiences.

Vast amounts of these words were documented, as described in this book on slang which gives many examples, but unfortunately much has not made it from manuscript to internet.

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    Kipling also hated his boarding school experience, where he was regularly abused by older classmates and adults alike.
    – Kirt
    Sep 23, 2017 at 21:32

"head knuckling" was in use when I was at school (1970's) in Dublin, Ireland. It meant literally that: A boy, holding another boy in "head lock", dragging his clenchfisted knuckles (perhaps "knuckles of his clenched fist"?) backward and forward on another boy's scalp. Most painful in my memory!

  • In current US usage, this would be a "noogie".
    – Kirt
    Sep 23, 2017 at 4:34
  • @Kirt: I'll attempt to avoid a noogie, then!
    – Conor
    Sep 23, 2017 at 14:18

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