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Knobby Hall

Posted by Gary Martin on October 01, 2008 at 07:58

In Reply to: Knobby Hall posted by Smokey Stover on October 01, 2008 at 04:50:

: : : : What is the origin of "Knobby Hall"?

: : : This nickname, which is usually spelled 'Nobby', appears to come from a playground rhyme - "His name was Nobby Hall and he only had one ball".

: : : Here in the UK, it is people with the surname Clark[e] that are given the nickname Nobby. Nob is another term for toff. Clark and clerk are pronounced the same here and it is conjectured that 'Nobby clerk' derives from the fact that clerks used to wear top hats, giving them the appearance of upper-class gents.

: : : Nobby is also a shortened form of Norbert. The best-known Nobby in the UK is neither a Hall or a Clarke, but Nobby (Norbert) Stiles, the 1966 World Cup winner.

: : Nob is another word for toff? If I don't know one slang word, it's likely I don't know the other.

: My knowledge of British slang is pretty dated, since virtually all of it has been acquired by reading the stories of P.G. Wodehouse. That's how I know that a toff is usually a swell or a nob, but that some people have used the term as a compliment indicating good behavior, making toff a synonym for "brick."

: But I was rather struck by what you can hear on British playgrounds. I doubt that one might ever have heard, before the latest generation, the likes of "His name was Nobby Hall and he only had one ball." Perhaps my memory has been sanitized by time, purged of the memory of such audacity. If I can trust my memory (and who can?), not until my college days, for the most part, did I hear musical rhymes making so free with the language.
: SS

I'm not sure that the 'Nobby Hall' rhyme comes from British playgrounds. My reference source isn't clear on that.

I don't trust my memory either, but I can be sure that English playgrounds of the 1950s echoed to much stronger stuff than that rhyme. We had a stock of truly filthy limericks and songs that came back from uncles etc. returning from the war. Many of those were too anatomically precise for us to really understand what we were repeating.