Glossary Supplement: Invigilator
Whenever American and British usage differ, the odds are that the American
usage is actually much older or much newer. "Proctor" for example, is attested
as early as the fourteenth century, from Middle English. "Invigilator" was
coined from Latin in the sixteenth. Go figure. My guess is that watching kids
take a test was a new function and the Americans just adapted an old, widely
known word to a new function, whereas the Brits used a much newer word with a
hint of exclusivity about it.
American: We need someone to watch these kids while they are taking the
test so no one copies off anyone else.
Other American: You mean, like a monitor?
American: Yes. Johnson can be the monitor. He's new. And if he won't do
it, tell him he's fired.
Englishman: We need someone to watch these candidates while they are
sitting for the examination, to keep order, if you understand me correctly.
Other Englishman: Certainly. Someone vigilant. It would not do to have
any, um, irregularities.
Englishman: That would be unfortunate. Do you suppose Chutney-Hewes would be on
for the task?
Other Englishman: He might not be too keen for it.
Englishman: Well, then. That's settled. Inform him that he is required to
invigilate at the examination, and make no inquiries as to his keenness, or lack
of same. He can be let go, but he's perfectly aware of that.
Other Englishman: As to boys causing any irregularity?
Englishman: Provide C-H with a cane. If it is prominent, then I don't
think there will be any difficulties. These boys can be a rum lot of bastards,
but they aren't as thick as they seem where self-preservation is concerned. They
won't assume that the proctor--
Other Englishman: Invigilator.
Englishman: Quite. They won't assume that the invigilator took the
trouble of bringing a cane to the hall that he was not fully prepared to use.
The boys sitting for the examination were
bemused to see Chutney-Hewes glaring over them while they struggled with
questions that would determine whether they faced lives of unproductive ease
reading Classics and Philosophy or bitter penury while slaving away at some
assembly line producing cars that tended to break down between the shop and the
One, Percival Grosset, wadded a bit of foolscap and chucked it at a classmate.
Chutney-Hewes exploded from his seat and had the youngster by the upper arm
before you could translate "Britannia insula est." He dragged the unfortunate
youth to the head of the room and announced that he was to be an object lesson
to the rest of his class. On his command, Grosset lowered his trousers and bent
over the desk. Chutney-Hewes began to lay into him with the cane, raising neat
parallel stripes across his narrow flanks. Grosset, prepared to be outraged,
began to feel a peculiar lassitude spreading through his limbs. He shuddered,
but for what reason, he could not tell. His tears failed to give the lie to his
smile and half-lidded eyes or the rose of his cheeks.
Soon the other boys had formed, on their own initiative, an orderly queue around
the side of the room leading up to the desk, their belts undone, their thumbs
hooked in their waistbands at the ready. Chutney-Hewes nearly wept at the
prospect. He was not to let the side down, yet his arm was beginning to feel too
heavy to lift and the bursitis in his shoulder was beginning to announce its
objection to the entire proceedings. As the ninth boy, or was it the tenth, bent
over the desk, biting his lower lip in excited, yet fearful, anticipation,
Chutney-Hewes realized a solution to his quandary. He had but two arms, and his
left was not really on for thrashing, but the school had no shortage of canes.
He sent two boys to each fetch an armload of canes from the headmaster's supply
"Refasten your trousers, Master Huxtable Parker." He tapped his left palm with
the cane, making a show of reflection. "Boys, form two ranks. On my signal, the
first rank will drop its trousers and bend over. The second rank will then step
forward and administer the first a good thrashing. When I am satisfied, the
first rank will button up and exchange places with the second, who will then
take their turn at correction."
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