A little verbal conundrum that had always puzzled me was finally answered today when I was watching a news item on TV about the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
When I was at school the year you were in known as the ‘form’, ie a first year pupil was known as a first former, someone in the first form, and so on. A lot of school terminology has become Americanised since then so I doubt whether any but the most traditional schools still refer to ‘forms’, but anyway I had always wondered why or how a ‘year’ had come to be known as a ‘form’.
This morning, the BBC were filming inside the actual school where the Bard was taught, and a group of modern schoolchildren were sitting on wooden benches, reciting Latin.
The reported said that the benches were known as ‘forms’, and that this is where the term comes from. Presumably large, mixed classes were assigned to benches by age, with the youngest at the front on the ‘first form’ and so on. Problem solved!