Six of the best

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Six of the best is a phrase that refers to a (chiefly British) method of corporal punishment.

Method

"Six of the best" was a classic punishment for boys. Six strokes or "cuts" are delivered with a cane onto the delinquent's buttocks. The punishment could be given either on the seat of the trousers or shorts, on the briefs, or on the bare bottom. The classic position for "six of the best" was touching one's toes or grabbing one's ankles, so that the victim was bent right over. The delinquent was told to assume this position and to remain still while the punishment was delivered. The caner stood to his side and swung the cane in a swishing horizontal movement.

After the caning, the boy was told to rise and to return to his seat. This method of corporal punishment was both formal and quick (perhaps half a minute including getting in and out of position) and was therefore a preferred method for school corporal punishment.

Why six?

Generally, even numbers are preferred whenever an exact number of strokes are given. Popular numbers are 6, 10, 12, 20, 24, 40, etc. Canes are very painful implements and therefore the number of strokes did not need to be high. Six - half a dozen - was thought to be the ideal number for schoolboys, provided that the offence was not major, in which case a longer caning or birching may have been given. "Of the best" meant that the six cuts were given with enough force to cause a good sting.

Normally the six cuts were given over both bottom cheeks (since boys' bottoms are small), so that they were not given as three-and-three but as six equal lines over both cheeks. An experienced caner could deliver the six cuts so precisely that the result was six parallel marks on the boy's bottom that did not overlap or cross. But it was also known that in some cases, while the first 5 might be delivered in such a parallel method, but the last was deliberately brought down to cross as many of their previous strokes as possible. This was done to increase the level of the punishment

See also


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