Tag Archives: ruling classes

I say!

Can’t recall what I was googling, but somehow I found myself at a glossary of terms which will prove invaluable to my many readers who have expressed an interest in gaining entry to the upper echelons of society. I pass it on as a public service:

Always — most “correct” pronunciations are unguessable from the spelling, so the uninitiated will give themselves away. Thus it is with “always”, as Kingsley Amis explains in The King’s English: “AWLwhizz is the thing to say if you can manage it. I never really can.”

Beaulieu — home to Lord and Lady Montagu, and pronounced (naturally) “Byoo–lee”. Any attempt to speak a name of French origin in a French manner betrays one as an outsider who strives to seem sophisticated.

Belvoir — as per the previous rule, this castle is pronounced “beaver”. Other rural retreats for the wellbred include those pronounced “badger” and “bugger”.

Cecil — pronounced Sissle.

Cholmondeley — pronounced “Chumley”. Best said while affecting a weary aristocratic ennui that is so overpowering one simply can’t be bothered to enunciate all the syllables of a long word.

clothes — Kingsley Amis: “I admit that I should rather like to be able to say close but from fear of being misunderstood do not dare.”

forehead — rhymes with “horrid”.

golf — in the good old days, was always pronounced “goff”.

hoi polloi
— Greek for “the plebs”. To say “the hoi polloi”, which means “the the plebs”, instantly identifies you as a pleb.

how d’you do — what to say when you meet the Queen. Do not follow the example of Kate Middleton’s mother, who said “Pleased to meet you”. Of course you are pleased to meet the Queen. She is the Queen.

infra dig — Latin, short for infra dignitatem, “beneath one’s dignity” or demeaning, as it would be to say “settee”.

jolly — means “very”, as in Boris Johnson’s memory of smoking cannabis: “It was jolly nice.” (If one must say “very”, one pronounces it “vair”.)

loo — or perhaps “lavatory”, but never “toilet” or “WC” or “bathroom”.

Magdalen College, Oxford — pronounced “maudlin”.

Magdalene College, Cambridge — also pronounced “maudlin”, in order to fuel the oik’s superstitious awe of the homogeneous “Oxbridge” class conspiracy.

marvellous — quite good. Only two syllables: “marvlous”.

napkin — not “serviette”, unless you are literally in France.

non–U — often attributed to Nancy Mitford, the terms “U” (upperclass) and “non–U” were first coined by the British linguist Alan Ross in his 1954 paper “Linguistic class-indicators in present-day English”. As well as noting the correct ways to address knights and baronets, and matters of pronunciation and vocabulary, it featured useful social observations: “When drunk, gentlemen often become amorous or maudlin or vomit in public, but they never become truculent.”

orf — the right way to say “off”.

Orff — German composer most famous for his 1970s Old Spice adverts.

posh — the Non–U way to say “smart”.

rarely — means “really”.