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The Five Most Dreaded Devices for Discipline in Olden Days

Woe betide you if you misbehaved in days yore. Here is a tart selection of horrific implements from history that would have to keep both children and women in line.

The Dunce Cap
This simple disciplinary device took symbolic violence (Dislike of a pupil by a teacher) to a whole new level. If you failed your test or if you didn’t answer the teacher right you would have to wear this conical-headpiece whilst seated facing the corner of the classroom.


The words, “Dunce,” were scrawled atop the cone telling all you were dumb. This was one disciplinary device that smashed your soul.

The Cane
Used up until quite recently, the teacher’s cane was the penultimate tool for discipline in every school. A thin bamboo rod was kept close to teacher’s desk. At the ready, any miscreant would feel its’ icy slice in the backroom (While the adjoining door was left ajar so that the whole class to listen to the pupils’ wails as the teacher whipped).

Many today still bear this instrument’s elongated tattoo across their derrières.

The Tongue Lock
This disciplinary device was used against village gossips. A cast iron band – with pincers at the front – announced the local tittle-tattle. These clamps, inserted into the mouth, held the tongue square in place preventing any sound.

Dirty, heavy and painful you felt the shame of eyes penetrating you as your tongue screamed for release.

The Chastity Belt
Another cast-iron belt that fitted around a ladies’ waist, that was cumbersome and brutal. A type of metal underwear – often with teeth cut into the frontispiece for extra-gnarly effect – plus; it came with a lock and key.


The lock was vital. It told any other man that his wife was strictly, “off-limits,” whilst husband was away.

The Left Handed Restraint
Simple enough; tie the left hand to a clamp at the back of the wearer’s belt. This was any left-handed person’s punishment as they were seen as, “Satan’s Spawn.”


Why, even until recently left – handedness was considered, “wicked.” This was something, “in need of correction,” with, “punishment due.” Restraining was the rule, often simply by tying your left hand up with old, frayed rope, somehow.

This was simple as it was degrading and a truly disabling device that worked a tainted charm on both the body and the psyche.

You can thank your lucky stars that you dwell in the future, as the past was full of dreadful devices that tainted the body, mind and soul until chastisement was complete.


If you think about it, though, we today have our own unique type of drear correction instruments – like non-smoking campaigns, parking fines and that vile annual – tax time.


More great articles by this author…


Ten Evil Baby Names


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Three Aussie Urban Myths



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User Comments
  1. ken bultman

    On March 12, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Often overlooked is the shrewish wife.

  2. giftarist

    On March 12, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Great and interesting article. Thanks for the history lesson.

  3. Alistair Briggs

    On March 13, 2010 at 5:21 am

    Instead of the cane, schools in Scotland, used to use a belt across the hands. Luckily, I am way to young to remember it first hand by my parents do vividly.

    It always struck me as odd – surely ‘belting’ them across the hands at school is counter-productive – how are they going to write well with sore hands. lol

    As an aside; the meaning of belt, as in to hit someone/something, has its roots in the above.


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