The Worldwide Weblog of Donald Pincher

by Joshua Gaskell

Tag: Upper Class

Monday, 6th June 2016

Jolly hockey-stick growth, n.

Pronunciation: /dʒɒli ˈhɒki stɪk ɡrəʊθ/
Etymology: < blend of jolly hockey sticks, int. + hockey-stick growth, n.

Very rapid exponential growth, in which a graph of post-Brexit GDP against time is shaped like a hockey stick, predicted by a person who resembles an upper-class schoolgirl, esp. in having a boisterous, enthusiastic, no-nonsense manner.


Wednesday, 29th July 2015

U-turn, n.

Pronunciation: /ˌjuːˈtəːn/
Etymology: < U n. + turn n.

An act of walking or pacing genteelly around or about a limited area, as your park, garden, or sequence of streets; a short walk (or ride) forth and back, esp. by a seemly route; a stroll from the top drawer.

Wednesday, 25th February 2015

Last month I wrote an entry about Alan Ross, and his U and non-U pronunciations. His ‘Essay in Sociological Linguistics’ for Nancy Mitford’s Noblesse Oblige also contains a section on U and non-U vocabulary; and I thought it would be interesting – sixty years on – to carry out an audit of how the U and non-U alternatives have fared. The table below gives Ross’s alternatives and my judgement of which of them is now in use among educated urban speakers of standard English in Britain.

Non-U U Victor, 2015
Article (meaning ‘chamber-pot’) Jerry/pot N/A (obs.)
To TAKE a bath To HAVE one’s bath U
Britain* England N/A. (Scottish nationalism has forced those who approve of Great Britain to use its name, and referring to Britain as England is now mostly the preserve of Americans. Now U Britain and non-U UK.)
Coach (meaning ‘char-à-banc’) Bus Mostly non-U (as in Victoria Coach Station), probably to allow for the distinction that Ross notes, viz. that ‘a coach runs into the country, a bus within a town’.
Corsets Stays N/A (obs.)
Coverlet Counterpane N/A (victory, oddly, goes to the alternative Ross calls ‘obsolete’: bedspread).
Cruet Salt/pepper/mustard, etc. individually. U
Cultivated/cultured Civilized Non-U (civilised being un-PC).
Cup Tea N/A (draw)
Cycle Bike N/A (draw: cycle lane, bike ride, etc.).
Dentures False teeth N/A (draw/obs.?)
Dinner (in the middle of the day) Lunch U
Dress-suit Dinner jacket/black tie/tails, etc. individually. U
Glasses Spectacles Non-U
Greens Vegetables U
Home House Still pertains?
Horse-riding Riding ?
Ill Sick Non-U (sick now sounds American, unless ‘I feel I’m going to be sick’ is meant).
Jack Knave Non-U
Lounge Hall/dining-room Still pertains, but the ‘nearest equivalent’ U-expression is sitting-room, not hall or dining-room.
Mirror Looking-glass Non-U
Note-paper Writing-paper
Pardon! (1) if the hearer does not hear the speaker properly. What? Non-U. (Ross notes that ‘U-parents and U-governesses are always trying to make children say something “politer” [than what?] – What did you say? […] [is] certainly possible.’ Possible, but non-U pardon has won out as the ‘politer’ option.)
Pardon! (2) as an apology. Sorry U
Pardon! (3) after hiccupping or belching. [Silence] Non-U (at least in pardon me).
Pleased to meet you! How d’you do? Non-U
Posh Smart
Preserve Jam U
Radio Wireless Non-U
Scottish Scotch Non-U
Serviette Table-napkin Still pertains, but U napkin.
Sweet Pudding U (though non-U dessert now in the fight).
He’s studying for an exam He’s working for an exam N/A (draw)
Teacher -master/-mistress Non-U
Toilet-paper Lavatory-paper
Wealthy Rich Still pertains?
Wire Telegram N/A (obs.)

So, the class war scores on the doors:

Non-U 15 | U 8

The non-U’s have it.

* In ‘The English Aristocracy’ – her response to Ross’s essay – Mitford proposes a few additional vocables, indicated here by their colour.
† As far as I can work out, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable has had these two the wrong way round through fifteen editions, ever since ‘U and Non-U’ appeared as an entry. The fifth edition (1959) says, ‘It is U to say “luncheon” for what Non-U folk call “lunch”; “napkin” and “serviette”, “cycle” and “bike” are samples of this snobism’; and the nineteenth, ‘It is “U” to say “luncheon” for what “Non-U” folk call “lunch”, “U” to say “napkin” instead of “serviette”, and “U” to prefer “cycle” to “bike”.’

Wednesday, 21st January 2015

In 1954 Professor Alan Ross introduced the distinction between ‘U and non-U’ language upper-class and non-upper-class in an essay for a Finnish philological journal. Nancy Mitford popularised the terminology in an article for Encounter the following year, and by including a condensed version of Ross’s essay in her Noblesse Oblige the year after that. In 1970 Ross and his publishers took advantage of this popularity by releasing How to Pronounce It, a dictionary of upper-class pronunciations. The distinction between ‘U and non-U’ did a lot to bolster class difference, which I here intend to break down with the indistinction of pronunciations that are both ‘U and non-U’.

List of Words and Names

  • ALCOHOLIDAY: /ˌalkəˈhɒlɪdi/, last syllable the same as dee.
  • ALWAYS-ON: /ˌɔːlwɪzˈɒn/, second syllable the same as whizz.
  • AQUAFRESH: /ˈeɪkwə-/. NOT /ˈakwə-/.
  • ARCHETYPAL character: /ɑːˈkɛtɪp(ə)l/, accent on second syllable.
  • ARTISAN bread: /ɑːtɪˈzan/, accent on last syllable.
  • ASPHALT jungle: /ˈasfɛlt/, second syllable the same as felt.
  • Big ISSUE: /ˈɪsjuː/. NOT /ˈɪʃuː/.
  • Bits per PIXEL: /ˈpɪksɛl/, as in pix + el (in element). NOT /ˈpɪksl/.
  • BOURBON whisky: /ˈbʊəbɒ̃/, in the French way.
  • BROMANCE: /brəʊˈmans/. NOT accent on first syllable, which is American.
  • Budget DEFICIT: /ˈdifɪsɪt/, first syllable to rhyme with reef.
  • CASUAL sex: /ˈkaʒəl/, two syllables.
  • CELEBUTANTE: /sɪˈlɛbjᵿtɒ̃/, in the French way.
  • COMRADE Delta: /ˈkʌmrᵻd/, first syllable the same as come.
  • CONVERSE shoes: /kənˈvəːs/, accent on second syllable. NOT /ˈkɒnvəːs/.
  • COST–benefit: /kɔːst/, to rhyme with forced.
  • COUPON swap: /ˈkuːpɔ̃/, in the French way. NOT /ˈkuːpɒn/.
  • COVERT ops: /ˈkʌvət/, like cover. NOT /ˈkəʊvəːt/, like over.
  • Cruella DE VIL: /dʊˈvil/, in the French way, like Déville. NOT /dəˈvɪl/.
  • Disney’s RECESS: /rᵻˈsɛs/, accent on second syllable.
  • Double DENIM: /dɪˈnɪm/, accent on second syllable. NOT /ˈdɛnɪm/.
  • DUVET day: /duːˈveɪ/, accent on second syllable.
  • EXECUTIVE toy: /ɛgˈzɛkətɪv/. NOT /ɛɡˈzɛkjʊtɪv/.
  • The EYRIE, Vale of Arryn: /ˈɛːri/, the same as airy.
  • Female CONDOM: /ˈkʌndəm/. NOT /ˈkɒndɒm/.
  • FLACCID whanger: /ˈflaksɪd/. NOT /ˈflasɪd/.
  • GARAGEBand: /ˈɡarɑːʒ/, to rhyme with barrage. NOT /ˈɡarɪdʒ/.
  • GIGABYTE: /ˈdʒʌɪɡəbʌɪt/. Not /ˈɡɪɡəbʌɪt/.
  • GLITTERATI: /ɡlɪtəˈreɪtʌɪ/ like hate I. NOT /ˌɡlɪtəˈrɑːti/ like arty.
  • Google Chrome INCOGNITO mode: /ɪnˈkɒgnɪtəʊ/. NOT /ˌɪnkɒɡˈniːtəʊ/.
  • High-visibility WAISTCOAT: /ˈwɛskᵻt/, first syllable to rhyme with less, no T.
  • HOT DESK: /ˌhɒt ˈdɛsk/, accent on second syllable.
  • ILLUMINATI: /ɪljuːmɪˈneɪtʌɪ/. NOT /ɪˌluːmɪˈnɑːti/.
  • INHERENT Vice: /ɪnˈhɪərənt/, second syllable the same as hear.
  • INNOVATIVE marketing: /ˈɪnəʊveɪtɪv/. NOT /ˈɪnəvətɪv/.
  • Intramolecular CHAPERONE: /ˈʃapərɔːn/. Not /ˈʃapərəʊn/.
  • Le PAIN Quotidien: /pã/, in the French way.
  • Leigh HALFPENNY: /ˈheɪpni/, first syllable the same as hay. NOT as spelt.
  • LINGERIE restaurant: /ˈlãʒri/, in the French way. NOT /ˌlɑnƷəˈreɪ/.
  • MARLBORO Man: /ˈmɔːlbrə/, first syllable the same as maul.
  • NASA SOJOURNER: /ˈsʌdʒənə/. NOT /ˈsɒdʒənə/.
  • NESCAFÉ: /nɛsˈkafeɪ/, accent on second syllable. NOT /ˈnɛskəfeɪ/, accent on first.
  • NETIQUETTE: /nɛtᵻˈkɛt/, accent on last syllable.
  • Oxford & CHERWELL Valley College: /ˈtʃɑːwəl/, first syllable to rhyme with car.
  • PAPA Smurf: /pəˈpɑː/, accent on second syllable. NOT /ˈpɑpə/.
  • Paul GASCOIGNE: /gasˈkɔɪn/, accent on second syllable.
  • PEJORATIVE remark: /ˈpiːdʒərətɪv/, accent on first syllable.
  • PINTEREST: /ˈpɪntrɪst/. NOT /ˈpɪntərɛst/.
  • Pizza FUNGHI: /ˈfʌnʤʌɪ/, like lunge eye. NOT /ˈfʌŋɡiː/, like Bungay.
  • POWYS: /ˈpəʊɪs/, first syllable to rhyme with go. NOT /ˈpaʊɪs/, first syllable rhyming with cow.
  • PROJECTILE vomit: /ˈprɒdʒɛktʌɪl/, accent on first syllable.
  • QUASImodo: /ˈkweɪzʌɪ/, first syllable to rhyme with pays. NOT /ˈkwɒzɪ/.
  • Quorn ESCALOPE: /ˈɛskələʊp/, accent on first syllable, last to rhyme with pope.
  • RALEIGH Chopper: /ˈrɔːli/, to rhyme with poorly. NOT /ˈrali/ like rally.
  • REAL Madrid: /reɪˈɑːl/, to rhyme with grey marl. NOT /reɪl/.
  • RETAIL therapy: /rɪˈteɪl/, accent on second syllable.
  • The REVENANT: /rəvəˈnɑ̃/, in the French way. NOT /ˈrɛvᵻnənt/.
  • SANS serif: /sɒ̃/, in the French way.
  • Stinky Pete the PROSPECTOR: /prəʊˈspɛktə(r)/, accent on second syllable.
  • Student FINANCE Wales: /fɪˈnans/, first syllable the same as fin, accent on second.
  • Soul-food RESTAURANT: /ˈrɛst(ə)rɒ̃/, French pronunciation, no final T.
  • Superhero GENRE: /ʒɑ̃r/, in the French way.
  • Time MAGAZINE: /maɡəˈziːn/, accent on second syllable.
  • Total RECALL: /rᵻˈkɔːl/, accent on second syllable.
  • TWITTERATI: /twɪtəˈreɪtʌɪ/. NOT /ˌtwɪtəˈrɑːti/. So in culturati, glamourati, etc.
  • UPCYCLE: /ʌpˈsʌɪkl/, accent on second syllable.
  • VACUUM-pack: /ˈvakjʊəm/, three syllables.
  • VALET parking: /ˈvalɪt/, to rhyme with mallet.
  • Video SURVEILLANCE: /syrˈvɛjɑ̃s/, in the French way. NOT /səˈveɪləns/.
  • WESTMONSTER: /ˈwɛsmɒnstə/, accent on first syllable, no first T.
  • Weston-super-MARE: /ˈmɑːri/, to rhyme with sari.
  • WHATEVS: /hwɒtˈɛvz/, wh aspirated.
  • ZOOECOLOGY: /ˌzəʊᵻkˈɒlədʒi/, as zo-œcology, first syllable to rhyme with toe.

Sunday, 30th November 2014

I can’t remember who said that in some respects the upper and workings classes have more in common with each other than either do with the bourgeoisie, but he may have had in mind the resemblance between jodhpurs and jeggings.

%d bloggers like this: