How to spot a public school student

CHARLIE DOWELL gives us the latest on how to track down a posh twat

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Love it or loath it, you will find it difficult to pass through Cambridge without being touched in some way by the public school system.

Those institutions of empire builders and members of parliament still churn out Oxbridge students in great dollops each year.

Many of these students, me included, feel in some way embarrassed by our privileged school education and don’t overly advertise our boarding house origins. We have become integrated into modern society and our tell tale markings have mostly rubbed off.

Despite this, a few key and often subtle hints that give away our privileged origin are still observable, only if you can look hard enough.

Are you looking hard enough?

We play the name game

Basically everyone who went to public school knows everyone else (hardly surprising considering how few people go). All you need to do is mention which part of the country you are from, or what school you went to and the public schooler will reel off a list of acquaintances in the area.

As a public school boy, I normally expect my first conversation with you to go like this.

“So where abouts are you from?”

“I come from Upper Tidsbury”

“Upper Tidsbury! Really! Do you know the Wriggly-Pheasants? “

“Yeah my Mum plays tennis with them on a Tuesday.”

“Oh my God, Wriggo is one of my good friends. I was at his 21st last month”

A typical day in Upper Tidsbury

Etc etc and the acquaintance develops. Now at Cambridge, often this ploy doesn’t work since most people didn’t grow up in a village in the home counties. However, public school boys and girls will often still in vain, attempt to converse in this manner.

For example:

“So where abouts are you from?”

“I am from Newcastle”

“Oh my friend James goes to uni there have you met him? Apparently the nightlife is great.”


We play violent sports or those with expensive equipment

Sport was like another academic subject at public school. When we weren’t studying, bullying the small kid or masturbating, we were getting out the rest of our frustration by playing rugby or British bulldog on the paddock.

Many an afternoon was spent muddied and bloodied or dressed up for afternoon activities of clay pigeon shooting or fencing. Such activities are continued by most ex-public schoolers in Cambridge. Just watch out for the stash.

My old rugger team

A frank disregard for privacy

On the first day I came to Cambridge I had a shit with the door open.

Back at school it was perfectly reasonable to have conversations with mates while on the crapper. Similarly girls at my school often took baths together (imagine that how you will).

Moving from an environment where personal privacy is non-existent to one where it is expected, takes some adjusting. If you find someone in your bathroom holding a strong discussion on the state of the Conservative party in lieu of the rise of UKIP, while also being bollock naked, chances are they went to public school.

Another day another naked conversation about politics.

Generally not easily insulted

All school boys and girls are subject to giving and receiving ‘banter’ (or to be correct, bullying veiled as being mildly humorous). The difference in boarding school is that it never stops: no escape to a domestic sanctuary and mother’s kind words. In order to cope, your average public school undergrad has developed a thicker skin to insults than most.

Call him or her a cream faced loon or a warped malmsey-nosed strumpet and it’ll ricochet off like a dart thrown at a Panzer tank.



I’m not talking gillets or red trousers here; those are clichéd and generally avoided by most self conscious public schoolers. No, you should be looking for more subtle traits.

For example people who wear those belts with colourful geometric patterns on the side, or have a habit of walking everywhere in slippers, or sport a fine signet ring, probably went to public school. These residual monikers remain despite integration into normal society.

The subtle hint of the public school belt

Sing hymns when drunk

A public school education is nearly always accompanied by hearty portions of Christianity; chapel three times a week, with hymn singing practice on a Friday for good measure.

This treatment of religion as corn fed to a foie gras goose, was mostly resented and regarded by us as out-dated and frankly a little sick. Despite this we public schoolers revel in tub-thumping national hymns belted out at full volume.

In your time here at Cambridge you may have noticed drunk men in ties singing Jerusalem, I Vow To Thee My Country or We Plough The Fields and Scatter. These men went to public school.

Green and pleasant land

In the end you can take the student out of public school, but you can’t take the public school out of the student.

Shame you can’t say the same about politics or Tab editors.