Milk monitor

Discussion in 'English Only' started by James Brandon, Jan 9, 2014.

  1. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    I am intrigued by the use of the expression, "milk monitor".

    Quote here: Were you ever an ink monitor or a milk monitor at school?

    I take it to refer to a device or plan (e.g.: for a woman feeding her baby), or else to a kid asked to 'monitor' the supply or distribution of milk to other children at school.

    I am wondering how common the expression is.

    Insight welcome. Thanks.
  2. It's an old BrE expression, which fell out of use some decades ago.

    In the days when children used pens dipped in ink, ink monitors were children in each class, tasked with the job of making sure that every child's inkwell was regularly filled up. We still had them at my junior school in the late 1950s, but before I reached senior school we were allowed to use ball pens. Dip-pens, ink, ink-wells and ink monitors receded into history.

    At the beginning of the second world war ( I think it was then and not earlier), the government ruled that every child should be provided with at least a third of a pint of milk at school every day, to assist in nourishing children in a time of deprivation. The milk was delivered daily in small glass bottles, which were distributed among the children. And yes, you are right, the milk monitors' job was to distribute the milk out to the other children. It was stopped by Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s, while she was Secretary of State for Education.
  3. DonnyB

    DonnyB Sixties Mod

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    The word "monitor" is still defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as (3): a school pupil with disciplinary or other special duties. We still had free school milk when I was at school in the early 1960s, and I was at various times (amongst other things) blackboard monitor, absentee monitor, and late monitor. At some schools the idea is still used, but as Kevin has said in post #2 the word "monitor" in this context has largely fallen into disuse.
  4. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    Thank you and this is what I thought in relation to schools. Junk-food monitor today, maybe? :) Or skunk monitor? :D

    I did a search on line and it would appear that there are various devices or systems (e.g.: a record card) also called 'milk monitor', in which case it has nothing to do with schools but relates to the need a mother (or father) has to monitor the baby's milk intake, if I understood correctly.

    I was also wondering whether 'milk monitor' in the school sense is or was found in the USA or in Commonwealth countries outside the UK.
  5. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, we still talk of monitors in this sense in Singapore and Malaysia. When we were at school, we just had class monitors. That is still true of my children's schools, although I know one tried to give fancier titles, so that my son was the 'environment captain' for a while (for checking that lights are switched off and that sort of thing).
  6. srk Senior Member

    South Bend, Indiana
    English - US
    I remember distributing small bottles of milk from crates when I was eight and in the third grade. (This was before milk was homogenized, and the milk was never very cold.) If I was called a milk monitor, it wasn't in my hearing.

    I remember the term "hall monitor", in use when I was in high school in the early 1950s. These monitors were posted at hall intersections to be on the lookout for students who had no legitimate reason to wander loose. "Can I see your pass?" The response was varied, and we're not permitted to make lists.
  7. pops91710

    pops91710 Senior Member

    It was a privilege to be named the Milk Monitor in elementary school. I got to pull the little wooden cart to the school cafeteria's kitchen, pick up the one-pint cartons of milk, and then take them back to my classmates in the schoolroom.
  8. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    Yes, I gathered that being a milk monitor carried some prestige. As for a hall monitor, a first step towards a career in law enforcement, maybe? :D
  9. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    I don't really recall what we were called, but "milk monitor" would not have surprised me, considering that "hall monitor" was in use.

    In seventh grate in 1958 (in Lakewood, Ohio), we were allowed up to two glass bottles of milk a day and had a choice of regular or chocolate. The homeroom teachers would survey their classes first thing in the morning and write W-16 C-24 (White/Chocolate) in the upper corner of the blackboard. As the milkboy, you'd look through the small window in the classroom door, check the numbers, use a special metal cap with a pointy-thing on it to puncture the appropriate number of bottle caps, insert straws and then push the crate inside the room.

    What I remember was the freedom to roam the huge halls all alone.
  10. Smauler Senior Member

    Ipswich, Suffolk, England
    British English
    There was a big political thing about this (before I was born). Because regular milk for schoolchildren was removed by Thatcher, when she was secretary of state and later Prime minister, "Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher" became almost ingrained into our culture. I was born in 1977, lived abroad until 1987, and still know this little rhyme.
  11. mr cat Senior Member

    English - England
    Just to add, we still used ink and inkwells as late as 1973 in my junior school (ballpoints weren't allowed) and I was at one time or another 'ink monitor' filling porcelain ink pots in the desks from a large glass ink bottle.
  12. It seems I was wrong to think that these were exclusively BrE expressions, as "milk monitor" at least was also used in the USA. I wonder where it started?
  13. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Etymology: < classical Latin monitor a person who suggests or advises < monit- , past participial stem of monēre to advise, warn, remind (see moneo n.) + -or -or suffix. Compare earlier monitory n. and adj.

    II. A person who advises or monitors, and extended uses.
    8. A school pupil or (esp. U.S.) college student assigned disciplinary or other responsibilities (formerly in some cases including teaching of junior pupils).
    1530 R. Cox in Victoria County Hist.: Bucks (1908) II. 179 In every howse a monytor.
    1546 in G. Peacock Stat. Cambridge (1841) 123 Let them [sc. the deans] appoint six monitors, two for public worship and four for speaking Latin [i.e. to enforce the speaking of Latin].

  14. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    English English
  15. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    The reference to M Thatcher doing away with the distribution of free milk in British schools is an obvious one in relation to this Thread: I thought about it too when I came across "milk monitor"... And it is interesting to see the expression is also used in the USA. It sounds like the practice, at any rate as far as milk is concerned, is a thing of the past, although there may still be "monitors" in classrooms (and/or halls...), who may be called "monitors" or something else.
  16. Sparky Malarky

    Sparky Malarky Moderator

    English - US
    This is clearly not the way it is used in the original quote, but these days I think a lot of schools will have a hall monitor, a lunchroom monitor, and a playground monitor, but these are adults - usually teachers who are required to take on these extra duties on a rotating basis.

    My point is that "monitor" can mean "a person who monitors a given situation," and this use of the word is still commonplace, although specific terms like "milk monitor" fall out of use or change in meaning.
  17. pops91710

    pops91710 Senior Member

    Funny you should ask. I did go into law enforcement! (And I was a shield-carrying Hall Monitor, also!):cool:
  18. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    You see, I guessed right! It is like the 6-year-old bully who likes school uniforms: you can be sure he will choose a career in the military.

    I suppose, nowadays, in the USA, hall monitors are trained in terrorism prevention and martial arts, and carry pump-action shotguns, while milk monitors are trained in the detection of toxic substances and never go anywhere without a sniffer dog on a leash by their side. :p
  19. pops91710

    pops91710 Senior Member

    And they earn a hundred quid a week!

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