This passage is from The Children's Bach by Helen Garner

Poppy went into her bedroom and put on the uniform. She did this at least once a day, to practise getting used to it, and because she could not quite believe, from one day to the next, in its extreme ugliness. Worst were the shoes, great black lace-up clod-hoppers with square toes. Would they ever get soft? She stood in front of the mirror in the hall and stared at her brown, stick-like legs and long feet. Elizabeth came in behind her. Her eyes too were drawn to these boat-like extremities. They reminded her of the ankleboots worn by Ant and Bee in a book her mother had read to her. She thought of her mother and the sight of Poppy’s anxiety made her voice tremble.

‘Head prefect of Mosquito Girls’ High,’ she said.

Poppy turned round with a crooked smile. She took the bait. ‘I know what!’ she said. ‘Let’s write a story. Let’s start like this: “Things were buzzing at Mosquito Girls’ High”.’

‘The headmistress’s name is Miss Queenie Bee,’ said Elizabeth.

‘And she says to all the girls at assembly, ‘‘If there’s one thing that really bugs me . . .”’

And no-one wants to be the school swot. Swat, get it?’

They pranced and frolicked in the hall. Elizabeth got bored with it long before Poppy did. ‘Come on,’ she said. ‘Let’s get this show on the road. Did Shithead leave you any money for the stuff?’

  1. Does she misspell "swat" as"swot" and "swat" here means that "nobody want to be beaten"?

  2. Does "Things were buzzing" mean: "mosquitos were buzzing"

1 Answer 1


They're inventing a joke story based on puns.

Elizabeth says "Mosquito Girls' High" and then the two girls proceed to make a number of jokes and puns based around insects, starting from the "Mosquito" in the name of the school. The reason why they suddenly break into such jokes is presumably in an attempt to relax their anxiety about the school, and the reason for insect-based puns is apparently that Poppy's uniform makes her look like an insect, reminding Elizabeth of (presumably) a cartoon ant and bee in a children's book.

  • Lots of thanks, So in the Dialogue "And no-one wants to be the school swot. Swat, get it?" because she want to make joke, misspell "Swot" as "swat" and she wants humorously say that no-one want to be the student who studies hard . and "get it" mean "do you understand it"? Am I right? Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 7:54
  • 3
    @ViserHashemi It's not "misspelling" because they're speaking. It's a pun, where she's using a word that could fit the context in two different meanings. A swot is something that might often be mentioned in the context of school, and a swat is something that might often be mentioned in the context of insects. At a school of insects, nobody would want to be a swot, because a swat is used for killing insects.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 7:56
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    @ViserHashemi Yes, "get it?" is a common rhetorical question after making a pun. It's literally asking if the other person understood the joke, but usually it's just a way of pointing out that you just made a joke in case anyone missed it.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 8:27
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    To comment on the accepted answer, swat is a verb. Example: "I've been swatting mosquitoes all evening." Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 17:17
  • 1
    @Tim Specifically British, or just non-American? (The Children's Bach is set in Australia.)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 20:27

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