Poet Rupert Brooke's father was a housemaster at Rugby School. His nickname among pupils was "Tooler". What did it mean?

  • 1
    Children's nicknames for their teachers can be based on very specific events or mannerisms so they aren't necessarily general slang terms. Commented May 8, 2023 at 22:18

2 Answers 2


William Parker Brooke, Rupert’s father became Tutor at Rugby’s School Field House a fortnight after marrying Ruth Mary Cotterill in December 1879.

According to the biography Rupert Brooke: Life, Death and Myth by Nigel Jones, it appears that William Brooke was henpecked and …

He developed eccentric habits, like taking his dog into classes, and – to the huge delight of the boys – he frequently jiggled coins and keys in his trouser pockets. The boys suspected him of playing what they called 'pocket billiards' and he acquired the indelible nickname 'the Tooler'. His wife, by extension, became 'Ma Tooler'. The fact that 'the Tooler' was in thrall to his spouse was well known ...

(See full text here)

pocket billiards is British slang meaning

playing with one’s genitals through a trouser pocket; thus masturbating

Tool is slang for

  1. as a lit. or fig. bodily organ (primarily the penis)

So it seems he was nicknamed “Tooler”because of his surreptitious coin and key jangling eccentricity

  • 2
    See pocket pool.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 4:18
  • Thank you very much. That's what I vaguely guessed it must mean.
    – user289091
    Commented May 10, 2023 at 0:47

It means he played with his genitals (i.e. his tool) a lot.

Whether he actually did or not is a different matter, but that's what the insult means.

Source... I'm an alumnus of a similarly eccentric british public school and it's not a wholly uncommon insult.

  • 1
    I suggest being allowed to thank the answerer when he/she has really pulled a thorn from your side.
    – user289091
    Commented May 10, 2023 at 0:52
  • 1
    You can do that by accepting the answer.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 19:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.