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In a recent Tom Scott video, an older gentleman who is currently serving as the town crier of Honiton recounts his childhood involvement in the "hot penny festival".

We used to wear gloves, hobnail boots, old clothes... and then when we got back in school, we'd be given 100 yards for skiving off.

I know "skiving off" is slang for skipping/ditching/cutting, i.e. failing to go to school when required; but what does "given 100 yards" mean? It's clearly some sort of punishment, but the only options I can think of are a 100-yard dash (which is barely a punishment at all) or being told to write sentences for 100 yards of paper (which seems incredibly harsh because that's hundreds of pages of text).

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  • Yard is the short for yardstick, so they probably refer to the use of a “stick” as punishments.
    – user 66974
    Aug 15, 2023 at 10:57
  • That sounds like wild speculation. Do you have any examples of modern use of "yard" in that sense? Aug 15, 2023 at 13:53
  • Yard 3. short for yardstick (sense 2). Yardstick 2. a graduated stick, one yard long, used for measurement. Collins Dictionary
    – user 66974
    Aug 15, 2023 at 13:59
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    Does that not suggests '15 yards' might be not the distance run but rather, a starter's handicap? Aug 24, 2023 at 20:18
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    I'm afraid that's not relevant. "Fifteen yards for X" is a reference to american football, where the standard penalty for misbehavior is moving the ball back by 10, 15, or 20 yards. As in "fifteen yards for holding" or "pass interference, 10 yards and repeat the down". Charles is not applying an actual punishment, but humorously taking the role of a referee to declare Hawkeye's actions an offense that can be penalized. Aug 25, 2023 at 0:45

1 Answer 1

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Yard is an old synonym for rod. Rod in the context of the video probably means beating, although he is likely exaggerating when he said he got 100 beatings for skipping school.

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    I've never heard '100 yards' used in this sense. He would be more likely to say "We got the cane". Aug 15, 2023 at 8:08
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    "Yard is an old synonym for rod." This is true, but if the OED is to be trusted as to when this use fell out of style, this man would have to be older than Shakespeare. Please edit to add examples/references from present-day English.
    – Laurel
    Aug 15, 2023 at 13:07
  • @Laurel This is almost certainly the right answer, so I suspect it's an anachronism.
    – Barmar
    Aug 15, 2023 at 20:23

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