Wordsmith.org: the magic of words

Wordsmith Talk

About Us | What's New | Search | Site Map | Contact Us  

Topic Options
#21260 - 03/06/01 03:59 AM Class and language
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
It is popular to talk about an emerging classless society. Without getting too bogged down in academic sociolinguistics. What evidence do we see in our own countries of changes in the way words are used. Can you spot someone's station in life by the words they use or are only regional variations noticeable? Is this decreasing or increasing? Does anyone care anymore?

I'll include some reference to Nancy Mitford which was started in another thread.


Top
#21261 - 03/06/01 04:02 AM Re: Nancy Mitford - U and non U
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
U (Adjective)
Informal
Chiefly British
Language or social behaviour characteristic of or appropriate to the upper social classes. Ie., U-manners, U-ness.
An abbreviation of Upper Class, coined in 1954 by Alan S. C. Ross, professor of linguistics. The term was popularized by its use in Nancy Mitford's Noblesse Oblige (1956).
Reference:
OED2ROM

http://home.echo-on.net/~buzzcorr/U(Adjective) - LINGO.htm

NANCY MITFORD (1905-1973)
"Unabashedly snobbish and devastatingly witty, Miss Mitford achieved enormous success and popularity as one of Britain's most piercing observers of social manners."

"...
Indeed, one of Miss Mitford's pet concerns entered the history of obscure literary debates when, in 1955, she published perhaps her most famous essay on upper-class and non-upper- class forms of speech.

The essay sparked such a controversy in Britain, with responses from many major literary figures, that Miss Mitford was compelled a year later to bring out a thin book, "Noblesse Oblige,"
http://www.commonreader.com/cgi-bin/rbox/ido.cgi?0096
with her disquisition on the subject as its centerpiece.

Her argument, a set-piece even today among literary parlor games, was that the more elegant euphemism used for any word is usually the non-upperclass thing to say--or, in Miss Mitford's words, simply non-U.

Thus: It is very non-U to say "dentures"; "false teeth" will do. Ill is non-U; sick is U. The non-U person resides at his home. The U person lives in his house. And so forth.

Perhaps Miss Mitford and only a few others would have had the credentials to engage in this kind of argument. She was the oldest of six daughters of Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford, the second Baron Redesdale, who lived with Lady Redesdale at Swinbrook, the family estate in Oxfordshire.

The girls called their father "Old Subhuman." "My father and mother, illiterate themselves, were against education, and we girls had none though we were taught to ride and to speak French," Miss Mitford wrote in "Twentieth Century Authors." "I grew up as ignorant as an owl, came out in London and went to a great many balls." "


The Mitfords were no strangers to controversy. One sister, Unity, shot herself when war was declared because of her admiration for Hitler. Another, Diana was married to Sir Oswald Mosely, a well-known fascist, and was considered a threat to national security during WWII. Jessica lived in the USA and wrote of her childhood in "Daughters and Rebels."

For a full obituary of Nancy Mitford see:
http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/1128.html

For a discussion of the English Class System see:
http://homepages.go.com/homepages/h/u/g/hugodavenport/write2.htm
Google on "Mitford" or "U and non U" to find out more.

Let me know if the URL's make the page go w-i-d-e and I'll take out the hot links.


Top
#21262 - 03/06/01 04:07 AM Re: U and non U examples
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
Here are some examples of "U and non U" usages:

Upper class - Middle class - Working class
Lavatory - Loo - Toilet
Pudding - Dessert - Sweet (or pudding)
House - Home - Home
Luncheon - Lunch - Dinner
Dinner - Supper - Tea (at home only)
Children - Kids - Sprogs
Frock - Dress - Dress
Riding Horse - riding Horse - riding
Coat - Jacket - Jacket
Greatcoat (or topcoat) Coat Coat
Mackintosh Raincoat Mac

Copyright © Hugo Davenport 1999
URL given in previous post


Top
#21263 - 03/06/01 09:18 PM Re: Class and language
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10523
Loc: this too shall pass
jo,

the way this one sunk, you might think that no one cares anymore.... actually®, I don't think there's much of a class issue here in the US. we have what Mencken called a "general Volkssprache for the whole nation, and if it is conditioned at all it is only by minor differences in pronunciation and vocabulary, and by the linguistic struggles of various groups of newcomers." what he claimed in 1936 is probably only moreso today. and as he goes on to point out, not even our neighbors to the north can match this characteristic, as there is a large minority in Canada that refuses to speak English altogether.




Top
#21264 - 03/06/01 10:36 PM Re: Class and language
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
I have long had the impression that quality of speech was a far more potent impediment to upward social movement in England than it is in the US. Most of this naturally comes from the English novels I have read. I must confess at this point that I am far less well read than many board members.I have thought that the relatively uniformly educated speech on TV might significantly reduce both regional and local differences in both the US and the UK. But other board members with whom I have discussed this feel I am unduly optimistic.You might think so, but Oh,dear, no.
But one thing that must surely make a considerable reduction in class differences is the tremendous increase in the number of college graduates. Equally important here in the US is the fact that a very large proportion of college students attend a college far from their home, and for post graduate studies very often go to universities far from their original college. Differences will undoubtedly remain, but they should become progressively smaller.


Top
#21265 - 03/07/01 08:50 AM Re: Class and language
Sparteye Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 01/05/01
Posts: 1773
"I have long had the impression that quality of speech was a far more potent impediment to upward social movement in England than it is in the US."

Indubitabliable.

-- George W


Top
#21266 - 03/07/01 09:20 AM Re: Class and language
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
The lower class say "Me and him are going fishing next week." The upper class say "You can go fishing with Jack and I next week."


Top
#21267 - 03/07/01 10:22 AM Re: Class and language
shanks Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/16/00
Posts: 1004
Loc: London, UK
The lower class say "Me and him are going fishing next week." The upper class say "You can go fishing with Jack and I next week."

Dunno where your upper classes come from, but mine (and I asked them through the bars at feeding time this morning), would say: "You can come fishing with Jack and me next week".

cheer

the sunshine "got no class" warrior


Top
#21268 - 03/07/01 10:41 AM Re: Class and language
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
Dunno where your upper classes come from

This is getting quite common among US'ns. It grates on me harder than the "me and him are..." one. "Me and him are..." is just ignorance and, to me, forgivable. "...with Jack and I" is pretentious hypercorrectness.


Top
#21269 - 03/09/01 06:50 AM Re: Class and language
shanks Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/16/00
Posts: 1004
Loc: London, UK
"...with Jack and I" is pretentious hypercorrectness.

What about inadequately confident pretentious hypercorrectness? As in modern City of London speak: "...with myself and Jack/Jack and myself" (Used interchangeably.)

I have decided to ignore it all.

cheer

the sunshine warrior


Top

Moderator:  Jackie 
Forum Stats
8746 Members
16 Forums
13809 Topics
215503 Posts

Max Online: 3341 @ 12/09/11 02:15 PM
Newest Members
bobwar, Johnreed28, Lakshman, dcsteve, Jorg
8746 Registered Users
Who's Online
0 registered (), 34 Guests and 5 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Top Posters (30 Days)
endymion6 107
LukeJavan8 100
wofahulicodoc 81
A C Bowden 53
Tromboniator 10
tuhin 2
FoFong 1
Jorg 1
TitoMatito 1
chicablanca 1
Top Posters
wwh 13858
Faldage 13803
Jackie 11609
tsuwm 10523
Buffalo Shrdlu 7210
LukeJavan8 6591
AnnaStrophic 6511
Wordwind 6296
of troy 5400
BranShea 5282

Disclaimer: Wordsmith.org is not responsible for views expressed on this site. Use of this forum is at your own risk and liability - you agree to hold Wordsmith.org and its associates harmless as a condition of using it.

Home | Today's Word | Yesterday's Word | Subscribe | FAQ | Archives | Search | Feedback
Wordsmith Talk | Wordsmith Chat

© 2014 Wordsmith