Six of the best
"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 spanking position for "six of the best" was touching toes or grabbing ankles. The delinquent was told to assume this position and to remain still while the punishment was delivered. The spanker stood to his side and swung the cane in a swishing horizontal movement. For the greatest possible precision, the technique of tapping before each spank was often used.
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.
While primary a reference to caning, when the context is clearly referring to specific situations it can also be a reference to other implements especial the slipper. Such when school rules hold the cane is not available for the errant student, like younger boys, or girls (of all ages).
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 offense 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 (see also the phrase "a good spanking").
Normally the six cuts were given over both bottom cheeks, 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.
One variation of a 'six of the best' is a five barred gate or simply gating, where the sixth and final stroke is given diagonally, cutting across the previous five strokes. This should not be confused with the boarding school form of grounding known as gating.
To this day, six strokes remains the legal maximum for schoolboy canings in Singapore, where the English-style rattan cane is still in frequent use in secondary schools.
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