NOW. some time ago our amy from lucy’s football said that i had a posh voice.
we had been sharing snippets of spoken word with each other and i made a body scan meditation. you can hear it here, and judge for yourself if i sound posh, though i really think i am mainly speaking slowly. i agreed that i did sound fairly BBC (what used to be more commonly known as ‘RP’, or received pronunciation) and i also relented, after some back and forth, and allowed her to say i sounded ‘fancy’ since it is reasonable that someone from ABROAD might very well sound fancy, even if they don’t sound terribly fancy to their neighbours. and ‘sounding fancy’ has no resonance here the way that ‘posh’ does.
in reality, the neutral accent, which used to be taught to the offspring of the rich at their ‘fancy’ schools and actors at theirs, and is still the lingua franca of news broadcasting but not acting, and posh families, but i don’t know about schools, can also come of being somewhat displaced as a person. my own accent is the product of having been brought up by two parents who had both had elocution lessons as children, as well as having been brought up partly in england and partly in scotland. elocution lessons were common enough, back in the day, but nobody has them now, that i know of. my mother had the lessons because my grandmother was quite actively posh, and she didn’t want her to sound coarse. it is still true that no matter that lowland scots is not slang per se it is still not a language to ‘get on in the world’ with. my dad had the lessons because of a stammer.
earlier in the week i read this new yorker article with much pleasure. among the gems to be found is this short table of U and non – U terms.
False Teeth \Dentures
House (a lovely) \Home (a lovely)
Awful smell \Unpleasant odor
‘U and non-U’ was, and still is, to some extent, a measure of whether something was ‘upper class’ or not. you can see more on the wikipedia page about it, where there is a longer list, so even more fun to be had.
i seriously doubt if anyone in the uk actually says ‘drapes’ but then, i don’t really know anyone socially aspirational. because, you see, this is not a rich/poor divide thing, this is a rich/aspirational divide thing. it’s how you spot an interloper. the first list is entirely congruent with working class parlance, but not necessarily middle class. d’you see?
so, now you know. and did you know this? that POSH stands for Port Out, Starboard Home? it may be an acronym, or it may be a backronym – which is the same as an acronym, except that the words are fitted around the letters. the truth is lost in time, you can see as good an explanation as any here.
anyway, lets go through the rest of the little sample list.
costly. does anyone anywhere say “costly”? maybe it was a thing in the early 50’s? i am not sure anyone says it. i would say “expensive”. often with the prefix “bloody”.
i’m with the ‘non U’ on dentures. but not having falsies i don’t know what i would call them if i had them in my life on a daily basis. probably just “my teeth”.
expecting. well, it’s alright i suppose, but very oblique. like a lot of the ‘non U’ words. i don’t really see what is wrong with “pregnant”. or indeed GOINGTOHAVEAPERSONCOMEOUTOFHERVAGINAFFS!!
i would only say “lovely home” if i was parodying a tv show or something. “so and so, and their lovely home” or, as david sedaris mocks, in his fabulous tale our perfect summer “my home, well! one of my homes…”
i would neither say “what?” nor “pardon?” if i didn’t hear someone properly. i would say “i’m sorry?” so i don’t know what that makes me, and i would say “napkin” if the thing was cloth and “serviette” if it was paper.
i identify with “awful smell” more than “unpleasant odor” but would probably go with “good god, what’s that STINK!” in reality. or “can you SMELL something?” if i was trying to be polite.
“rich” is good for most purposes. with the prefix “stinking”. or “rolling in it”. “wealthy”, again, perhaps has a use in parody. although, it does seem reasonable to call a self made rich american “wealthy”.