Are you sometimes worried people think you’re a bit posh? Or perhaps the opposite – you worry you seem far less upper class than your chums?
Do you really catch yourself going out for a latte before a movie screening, wiping your mouth on a serviette as it occurs to you: “Shit, I might not be as posh as I thought after all”?
If so, you might be more perceptive than you think, as using the words latte, movie and serviette are surefire signs that you’re not the upper class charmer you picture in your dreams.
William Hanson, an ‘etiquette’ expert, has been on Radio 4 providing a guideline to ‘U’ and ‘Non-U’ words. As you may have guessed, the U stands for ‘upper class’.
Hanson has looked at the original ‘50s list, put together by linguist Professor Alan Ross, and updated it for 2017 audiences.
Thought it was weird that latte appeared in the sentence above, having not entered the lexicon until relatively recently? Well now you know why.
There are a few apparent rules, but rules are there to be broken.
In short, though, brand names like iPhone or Deliveroo are Non-U (posh folks lean towards the more boring ‘phone’ or ‘takeaway’). Similarly, abbreviations like ‘avo’, ‘toastie’ and ‘uni’ fall into that category.
However, shorter words do not always equate to a lower social standing. Want to be considered upper class? Use ‘loo’ instead of ‘toilet’ and ‘old’ instead of ‘vintage’.
But one word in particular is a no-no in Hanson’s book. Or in anyone’s book, if we’re being honest.
Yup, you guessed it. B**ter.
“Words popularised by TV like banter should be avoided at all costs,” Hanson argues.
“What does banter even mean? The upper classes don’t need to borrow words that may be in fashion for a few months, so the more traditional repartee is preferable.
“When Non-U speakers say that the banter is great it usually is tedious and predictable.”
Take that, Non-U speakers...
Going back to that brand name thing, here’s Hanson’s take:
“If you feel the need to describe things using a make or model then you’re most certainly Non-U.
“Those in the upper classes are confident in their social standing, so there’s no need to get all flashy. If something is ringing in your pocket, it is a phone regardless of brand.”
A little louder for the people at the back, please.
The full list can be found below, but we’ve picked out a few of the more striking examples.
Alcohol is U, Booze is Non-U.
Cooked breakfast is U, Full English is Non-U.
Pyjamas is U, PJs is Non-U.
And, last but not least, Wine is U. The Non-U equivalent? Why it’s Vino, of course.
(I’m going for a) Coffee
(I’m going for a) Latte/Cappuccino/Flat White
Lunch (for the midday meal)
Dinner (for the midday meal)
May I Have
Can I Get
Sitting Room/Drawing Room
(Do you…) Understand (…Me)
(Do you…) Get (…Me)
(Images: Rex Features)