Back to School: The Nostalgic Names Dividing the Nation

Posted by Ashden Walker on May 19, 2022
Ashden Walker
Anyone who went to school in the UK will remember a wide variety of things that are unique to growing up here. From certain phrases, items, foods and activities, many of the components linked to UK school life have stuck with most of us, for the good or bad! But do we all remember these things the same way, and by the same name? 
VideoScribe has conducted a study across the nation, analysing the different names for these well-known childhood memories across twenty UK cities, allowing us to find out if these nostalgic elements are remembered under the same name.


Well Known Terms from UK School Life


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 school goer 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 using “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. 


If you’re scratching your head and the word woggle has given your head a wobble, you’re definitely 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! 


Not the most pleasant of school memories for some, but every UK school goer 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. 


The time between our lesson periods were 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.


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?
Great Bread Debate



Topics: Inspiration & Ideas


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