9th January 1998 at 00:00
I was teaching on supply in a girls' school in Birmingham some three or four years ago.

At the end of a lesson two or three girls approached me and asked me if I knew what "bitch willy" meant. I was a little fazed, but I took it all in my stride.

"Well," I said, "a bitch is a female dog and 'Willy' is I the shortened, vernacular version of the first name 'William'."

"Oh I" Still puzzled looks.

I could see the explanation had not hit the mark, so I asked in what context the word had been used.

"Well, every morning at Registration, Miss P tells us off for being 'bitch willy' late."

"You mean habitually late?" "Yes, that's it!"

I learnt something from that exchange, not least about the casual use of difficult words.

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