Friday, 13 November 2015

World of Interiors (in Quotes)

My parents replaced the old 50s stuff with a refained sort of repro Queen Anne with cabriole legs. (Blog commenter)

The flat above the café... was furnished in a style which seemed to have been copied from a Mae West film; the bedspread was of ruched orange silk, Spanish shawls and ostrich-feather fans copiously collected the dust on the walls, and pierrot dolls sprawled drunkenly on every horizontal surface. There was also a framed sampler, embroidered in cross-stitch and depicting a girl in a poke-bonnet and crinoline watering some hollyhocks. (West End People, Peter Wildeblood)

A throwback to the Celtic Tiger style, it looks like a car showroom. (New house near Dublin, Times March 2015)

Julian Fellowes confesses that he often thinks class is a hideous practical joke. ''For instance, the bathroom thing. There are people with comfortable bathrooms off their bedrooms, with carpets and things, and we always considered them rather middle class.” (NYT)

However rich the Astors, however grand and gilded the Cliveden salons, however luxe the food served in them, the upstairs arrangements were curiously spartan. Single gentlemen’s quarters were narrow bedrooms off school-like corridors, not very near a huge communal washroom. (Redeeming Features, Nicky Haslam)

Wicker chairs, a square of art carpet... On a bamboo table was an old vase which had been clumsily filled with golden chrysanthemums. (An arty interior from Edgar Wallace)

I don’t like modern design. I want something cosy and homely. Woodburner. That sort of thing. (Homes Under the Hammer)

Architectural fads are like pizza toppings, there's always a new one. (Maria Smith)

If something’s out of fashion, it’s probably about to come back. (James Lewis, Flog It!)

Everybody wanted to live in a Victorian cottage – and now everybody wants to live in a loft. (Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is)

Ebony elephants - there were also brass ash-trays, embroidered match-cases... a complete set of Dickens cigarette-cards, an electro-plated egg-boiler, a long pink cigarette-holder, several embossed boxes for pins from Benares... (the contents of a White Elephant stall from The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene)

A water-colour of the Bay of Naples at sunset and several steel engravings and a photograph of the former Mr Purvis in the odd dated uniform of 1914. The ugly arm-chair, the table covered with a thick woollen cloth, the fern in the window. (Also from The Ministry of Fear, describing a furnished sitting-room that hasn’t been updated for 50 years – not since the 1890s. Note the framed photo as a class marker.)

In Georgette Heyer's No Wind of Blame, written in the 30s, a second husband grumbles about the first, a big-game hunter, leaving the house full of elephant’s foot umbrella stands and a gong made out of hippo’s tusks.

The living room was smartly furnished in an up to date style – a good deal of chromium and some large, square-looking easy chairs upholstered in a pale fawn geometric fabric. (In Agatha Christie's One Two Buckle My Shoe, the flat’s inhabitant is trying to give the impression of middle-income conventional 30s taste.)

In the early 50s, American Muriel Beadle spent a year in Oxford – her husband was a professor. In These Ruins Are Inhabited, she is shocked to find that Oxford isn’t a theme park – Anglo Saxon towers are mixed in with department stores and supermarkets. She is also surprised by the many Victorian buildings, and confesses that England is marketed to Americans as cathedrals and thatched cottages, with everything else cropped out.

Nor did our new house... look quite as much like Anne Hathaway’s as I had thought it might... The room was so little. So full of things. Samplers under glass. Della Robbia plaques. Venetian watercolours in heavy gilt frames. Corner cupboards stuffed with porcelain...Lamps with lace shades and velvet bows. A ship’s clock. Ceiling lights with crystal drops... I let my thoughts drift back to the big living-room in our Spanish-style house, with its unadorned white plaster walls and its wide open spaces of rug.

I once worked at an American firm whose offices were laid out like urban sprawl. We were all so far apart that if you set off with a message you’d forgotten it by the time you reached your destination. In the open-plan areas everyone had too much space, and was just too far away to talk to easily. The US staff found raises voices vulgar, and all business was conducted in a murmur. It was such a relief to get back to a cramped British office where you could talk to the person next to you and yell across the room.

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Get the Look II


Stylist strips a genuinely retro room from the 60s and replaces all the décor with “the retro look”. “Now it’s a sophisticated retro living room.” There’s a pale sideboard, and an oval coffee table. (Britain’s Ugliest Rooms)

Dear ebay – there is no such thing as “Art Deco Nouveau Victorian”, or "vintage retro Art Deco Edwardian style", for that matter.

Oh, so a 1791 building containing jukebox, baseball photos, a fibreglass rhino & Egyptian cat is "Dickensian"? (Douglas Murphy ‏@entschwindet)

Exposed stone and olde beames – Victorian? The Victorians would have a fit.

industrial chic (Joss & Main) metal pendant lights made for the market and given distressed paint effects (“Channel the loft look with this industrial-inspired lighting selection.”)

contemporary classics, polished Parisian (more styles offered by Joss & Main)

Weathered and Worn: industrial chic décor for the whole home
The Treasure Trove: accents brimming with country charm
(they include a distressed chest and a wire dressmaker’s dummy made as an item of furniture)
Seaside Soiree:
coastal cookware and serveware (aqua crockery, copper pans)
A Rustic Welcome: industrial-style hallway refreshers
(“reclaimed” wood and an antique-looking mailbox)
All from Joss & Main

Pacific Lifestyle
(John Lewis – it’s a copper lantern)

Zoe on Money for Nothing, on decorating a utility chest of drawers: "slightly more traditional, more heritage, more arts and crafts design... masculine, and kind of audacious, and making a statement." (It’s a vaguely Art Nouveau flowers, leaves and fruit design.)

Seven urban warehouse boutique style family homes over four floors

Classic retro with an industrial twist – passionate about mid-century and simple retro designs – with a bit of kitsch thrown in – how you can make them appealing and attractive now... (French Collection)

It’s that shabby chateau look we’re all looking for. (Mark Franks)

The furnishing and appointments of the room were of that style which is believed to be oriental by quite a large number of people. (Edgar Wallace)

I am to dress like a German Milkmaid, a Romanian flower-seller, and an Edwardian rapscallion without invoking "cultural appropriation". (A model explains her “style”. A German responded that they don’t have milkmaids in Germany – it’s all done by machine.)

Time to quote this George du Maurier heroine again:

Fair Client" "I want it to be nice and baronial, Queen Anne and Elizabethan, and all that; kind of quaint and Nuremburgy you know—regular Old English, with French windows opening to the lawn, and Venetian blinds, and sort of Swiss balconies, and a loggia. But I'm sure you know what I mean!" (Punch, November 29, 1890).

More here.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Class is Dead, Long Live Class II

Intellectual, suburban, blue-collar

The rich man in his castle
The poor man at his gate
God made them great and lowly
And ordered their estate

This verse has been “quietly dropped” over the past few decades, an Anglican attests.

If class has disappeared, why is the “Overheard in Waitrose” Facebok page so popular? Why did people buy The Middle-Class Handbook?

Perhaps it means: people who think they are top drawer no longer talk down to those they think are their inferiors. No more “my man” and “sir” and “madam”. No more routine rudeness, or routine kowtowing. The middle classes have to be much more polite. Elders used to be routinely rude, sarcastic and abusive to very young people – perhaps they fawned on those they felt were “above” them, or might spend lots of money in their shop, whereas teenagers would just cause trouble.

But although 50 years ago society was more class-ridden, nobody talked about people being “middle class” or “lower middle-class”. It was all expressed in code: suburban, local, little man round the corner, is he quite a gent?

Middle-middle-class Weybridges say they like to say they have lost many freedoms since the 50s. But surely what they've really lost is power and influence. There weren't all these Ofsteds back then. They no longer have the unchallenged power to reorganise people’s lives, like the postwar planners. It was just assumed that “we” had to dispose of “them” in a neat and orderly fashion. But this attitude co-existed with the mantra that you “don’t interfere, you’ll only make things worse”. You don’t challenge anyone about their drinking, report child abuse or domestic abuse, interfere with local customs, intervene in bullying, bickering or children’s quarrels. It still lingers.

Tourists are supposed to visit for our history, art and culture but actually come for the shopping. See the Lonely Hearts who claim to like theatre, concerts, fine dining and walks in the country. It's all code for "not a chav".

Here's a popular middle-class trope: you lose your cat and put posters up around your home. You then post on Facebook that you’ve been overwhelmed by your neighbours’ response and “there IS still kindness in the world!”. Sometimes you say the experience has “restored your faith in human nature”. Had you really lost it - not your cat, your faith?

In the Fantastic Four, Reed Richards is the upper middle class intellectual, Sue and Johnny Storm are ordinary suburban Americans, and Ben Grimm (the Thing) is blue-collar – gruff, aggressive and crude. And the most likeable.

Somebody called Sam and Dave Cameron “chinless wonders”, meaning “vapid posh people”. Aristocrats were supposed to be inbred, so that features like a receding chin and an overbite became common. “Chinless wonder” was coined on the pattern of fairground attractions like the “armless wonder”. The Camerons may have aristocratic connections (to royalty, in his case), but choose your epithet carefully. They both have quite determined chins.

An odd characteristic of the upper classes is lack of interest in things they don’t know about. I once worked with two rather posh women. Another colleague said to them one day: “When X was talking about that film, you didn’t know what he was talking about, did you?” They admitted it. She went on: “So why didn’t you ask?”

A friend noted that as people get older they go out less, so when they do they are surprised and rather upset to see so many “other people” milling about. But where would they be without them? My parents avoided other humans on holiday because they’d be the wrong kind (“We can’t go to Sennen Cove because there’ll be people with transistor radios”). They mellowed.

There was an outbreak of bitching after it was revealed that the Milibands had two kitchens (a kitchenette upstairs that they used, and one in the basement that they hardly ever used). Times journalist Sarah Vine (Mrs Michael Gove) wrote that the Milibands’ kitchen looked like a housing estate in Minsk. He’s a SOCIALIST, you see. There must be something Stalinist about his kitchen.

Someone on Twitter even made a quip about “as long as one of their two toilets has a bidet”. Bidets, a class marker? Hey, guys, it’s 2015! Bidets were a brief fad of the 70s. It’s like using “OK, yah” to denigrate posh people. (A fad of the 80s, though nobody ever really said it. In the 60s posh people used to say “yah” for “yes”, but if you’ve said “OK” there’s no need to say “yah” as well.) And if you want to look like a man of the people, just accuse people of going to “dinner parties”. Especially “champagne socialist” Owen Jones.

More here.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Euphemisms about Class (in Quotes)

Skegness too rough for Peroni. (Guardian, 22 April 2013)

Right. Politicians. Stop calling us "ordinary people". Got it? There's no such thing. Every one of us is extraordinary, don't you forget it. (@ColeMoreton)

A “civilised” (i.e. posh) festival, Rewind has 1980s pop, “glamping” and champagne bars. (The Week, May 2011)

I’m not “gritty”. I think it’s an almost racist term “Oh, he’s a Scouse working-class lad. He has to be gritty”. (Jimmy McGovern)

We should be championing policies that help people on low incomes and help working people. (Boris Johnson, March 2015)

Interesting how the various Labour leadership favourites are using "wealth creators" to indicate business owners, not their employees. (Daniel Trilling ‏@trillingual)

"Unlike me, who was totally unguarded, she’s guarded by family, friends and comfort” – by which she means money. (April Ashley on Caitlyn Jenner)

Estate agents, the foot soldiers of the housing boom, armed with shiny new catalogues, describe the area as “vibrant” and “edgy”. This is estate-agent speak for “visible signs of poverty nearby”. (Guardian May 2015)

Been told that fox hunts are actually attended by "very ordinary country folk". (@matthaig1)

Clinton will support everyday Americans, whatever that means (Winston Smith ‏@Globalidentity)

Hillary Rodham Clinton calls them “everyday Americans.” Scott Walker prefers “hardworking taxpayers.” Rand Paul says he speaks for “people who work for the people who own businesses.” Bernie Sanders talks about “ordinary Americans.” (NYT)

Stanley Anderson RA drew scenes of London's bustle. (Working-class life, understood.)

More euphemisms in my mini ebook Boo & Hooray – see sidebar.

More here, and links to the rest.
Picture by Diamond Geezer.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Quotes about Boarding Schools

Still wish you could give your children "all the advantages"?

He adds a brief exegesis on Spartan schooling (boys were flogged at random to keep them on their toes. Needless to say it appealed enormously to the sociopaths who constructed the British boarding system.) (Catherine Nixey on Harry Mount’s Odyssey, July 2015)

While presenting the Hampton Court flower show, Monty Don said that he’d been sent to boarding school at seven “from chalk to ericaceous soil”. He was so miserable that for a long time he couldn’t bear to look at rhododendrons and azaleas. (Arthur Marshall, once a prep-school master, wrote a book about them called Whimpering in the Rhododendrons.)

After boarding school in Sussex – where she began a Resistance Movement which saw her put unhappy girls on trains home, but later redeemed herself by becoming Head Girl... (Obit of Jill Hyem, writer of Tenko)

As long as you’re awake, you’re being watched. The first year was miserable. (Stephen Mangan)

Children in the Britain of [the 20s and 30s] did not always enjoy a happy family life. The upper classes shunted them off to boarding schools and the lower classes forced them into jobs at a young age. (

The novelist William Boyd, who started boarding there aged nine, described his nine-and-a-half years at Gordonstoun’s junior and senior schools as “a type of penal servitude”. Smaller children were at the mercy of older ones... In the 1970s there was no central heating. Windows were left open at night: in the winter, the children could wake up with snow on their blankets. (Guardian)

Boarding school is utterly brutal and hideous. It’s a secretive empire where you’re brought up without love... I find it difficult to talk about my feelings, even to identify them sometimes. (Katharine Hamnett March 2015)

Being married to an Old Etonian is a bit like living with a war veteran. Most of the time, they remain stoically silent about the things they’ve seen and done. (Jemima Lewis)

Sending kids away to boarding schools at 7: “privileged abandonment”.

Prep schools have proliferated, but private secondary schools have not. The head of a girls’ prep school in West London says some parents “almost explode” from stress. “The pressure is beyond boiling point now. Children ... will be sitting six or seven separate schools’ exams... There are so many prep-school children and so many more prep schools and no new senior schools to speak of. There aren’t enough places... We’re having to try to prepare 10-year-olds to have sophisticated exam technique as well as knowing how to answer the questions, such as writing legibly, looking at the clock and dividing up the questions, not spending too long on a question that is worth only one mark, allowing time to review what you’ve done. It’s not just about aptitude, it’s about those tricks to go with the aptitude.” Another head says: “There is very little innocence and freedom left for children... pressure on places is becoming such that parents are beside themselves with anxiety to get their children into schools.” 

Earl Spencer told the Times he hated boarding and wanted to go to a state school, Jan 2015. He found his first boarding school cold and unpleasant, with a “terrifying headmaster”, military-style drill and a culture in which boys whose work was not up to standard were caned on their bare buttocks... “I was sleepless for six months before going. But it was the done thing, so off I went... straight into survival mode.” Those who couldn’t do moderately well at exams or sport “had an absolutely miserable time”.

So what's the point of it all?

The Head of Cheltenham Ladies College suggests that homework and prep are Victorian and stressful and should be banned. (June 2015)

The master of Wellington, Anthony Seldon, replies: We shouldn’t be shielding girls or boys from anxiety and stress – we should be helping them to cope with it because they are essential and inevitable in life. That’s the whole point of the wellbeing agenda. A lot of people don’t understand it. It is not about avoidance, it is about learning to cope with the inevitable things that life will throw at us. (There is always some reason why we should be cruel to children.)

Currently Westminster’s all-party parliamentary group on SOCIAL MOBILITY has published several excellent papers on CHARACTER AND RESILIENCE... noncognitive “soft skills – including DEFERRED GRATIFICATION, SELF-DISCIPLINE, APPLICATION, RESILIENCE AND REFLECTIVENESS...  As John M Doris points out, “discourse of character often plays against a background of social stratification and elitism”. (Obs April 2015)

Sathnam Sanghera: Private schools don't have monopoly on "character". They have a monopoly on power and privilege. Enraging piece here:

Tristram Hunt ... invoked Winston Churchill in his call for good character to be instilled at school: “Churchill was bang on when he said failure is not fatal, and it is the courage to continue that counts.” (Times Dec 2014)

Anthony Seldon aAlso mentioned, grit and resilience, and morality. “Every Monday at Wellington, two prefects remind pupils about the importance of values they have chosen: this week it was respect, courage, integrity and kindness. Entrusting this role to pupils not only gives them a sense of responsibility but also carries a greater weight with their peers. We set our pupils difficult challenges inside and outside the classroom. Reflection and self-awareness, helped by regular “mindfulness” sessions, are also part of the mix.”

Things that can’t be tested: creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, question asking, humour, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, civic-mindedness, self-awareness, self-discipline, empathy, leadership, compassion, courage, sense of beauty, sense of wonder, resourcefulness, spontaneity, humility. (This list went the rounds. Is this “character”? Or “moral compass”? Not much use if you can’t read and don’t know anything, or don’t know how to do anything. And they spelled it “enthusiasum”.)
Private schools need a constant intake of pupils (and their fees) to survive. If they can't do better in the league tables, they have to stress intangibles like the above, and pretend they are a unique selling point.

Be honest, what is the point of it all?
As Brooks (2008) notes ‘differences in the social composition of schools and colleges and their norms and practices can have considerable impact on the social capital available to young people and the resources upon which they can draw when making their decisions about higher education’. (Coming to Terms with Being a Working-Class Academic)

It isn’t about money, or class or anything but the style of education. (Telegraph Dec 2014 lies through its teeth)

More here.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Class and Innovations II

In Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side Miss Marple and Miss Hartnell face Progress in their different ways: “Nothing was what it had been. You could blame the war (both the wars) or the younger generation, or women going out to work, or the atom bomb, or just the Government—but what one really meant was the simple fact that one was growing old... Miss Hartnell’s house was still there, and also Miss Hartnell, fighting progress to the last gasp... The fishmonger was unrecognizable with new super windows behind which the refrigerated fish gleamed... Where Mr Toms had once had his basket shop stood a glittering new supermarket—anathema to the elderly ladies of St Mary Mead. ‘Packets of things one’s never even heard of,’ exclaimed Miss Hartnell. ‘All these great packets of breakfast cereal instead of cooking a child a proper breakfast of bacon and eggs. And you’re expected to take a basket yourself and go round looking for things.”

And where once there were fields, they’ve built a Development of new houses, harbouring a new kind of family. Cherry “was one of the detachment of young wives who shopped at the supermarket and wheeled prams about the quiet streets of St Mary Mead. They were all smart and well turned out. Their hair was crisp and curled.”

In the Development itself, the very new buildings look like dolls’ houses: “The people, too, looked unreal. The trousered young women, the rather sinister-looking young men and boys, the exuberant bosoms of the fifteen-year-old girls. Miss Marple couldn’t help thinking that it all looked terribly depraved.”

If Miss Marple thinks women in trousers and uplift bras are depraved, what would she have made of a Roman orgy? The bosoms are probably the result of better nutrition. In Miss M’s young day 15-year-old girls would have worn concealing box-pleated gym tunics. And in the 60s Upwards and Weybridges whinged about self-service as much as they now moan about “unexpected items in the bagging area”.

Upwards gibbered that biological washing powder would digest them, microwave ovens would cook them, and they’d be bitten by rabid foxes immigrating through the channel tunnel. None of these disasters happened, but they fail to draw conclusions, and invent a scare story for the next innovation.


The Upward view of technology is uneasy and opinionated. They seize on something to pontificate about.

WikiLeaks, he says, is the extension of a Facebook culture that reflects our prurient appetites for status updates and a constant drip of minutiae… (Interview with John Malkovich, Independent)

The internet has become a “Petri dish of opinion inflation, breeding commentary like bacteria”. (Stephen Randall, LATimes Jan 2011)

But there’s another Upward tribe (possibly more common in the States) who seize onto every innovation and run their whole lives through smartphones, wifi, cable TV (not to mention cars full of gadgets), but eat artisanal food off slate slabs.

And you can get a hemp cover for your ipod printed with a tree of life… and a beechwood mouse. One of the reasons Upwards shrank from technology was the, well, hitech look of the gadgets. They’re so shiny and plasticky! And everybody's is the same! They very quickly got over it and the gadgets live quite happily alongside the retro printed linen and genuinely distressed recycled industrial furniture. The gadgets enable everything from knowing where you are to identifying ladybirds – but where is our pavement cleaning robot?

Upwards are still “succumbing” or “giving in” to Facebook, rather than just signing up, like everybody else.

Some elderly Upwards are still slightly embarrassed about having an email account, and give themselves an arch address.

Upwards would have blogs but they can only say the word in quotation marks. And now they like to say that blogging is so over. They hate the idea of other people (for other read "ordinary") telling the world about their lives, and they loathed it when in the early days of the internet people got their own web pages and put up their holiday snaps. Weybridges used to say that an Englishman’s home is his castle, and Teales prided themselves on “keeping themselves to themselves” – code for not mixing with people who might be less good class. (Novelist Ivy Compton Burnett’s parents wouldn’t let their children meet anybody at all because nobody was quite good enough.)

Twitter is now part of life, but the middle classes are still distancing themselves from it while using it.

The only telephone in the house [hung] on the wall of the silver-cleaning room beside the knife-polishing drum. (Nicky Haslam, Redeeming Features)

When telephone answering machines came in in the 80s, Upward actors made a few bob recording messages for their friends in the voice of Laurence Olivier, Boris Karloff etc. There was a bit of foot-dragging and refusal to leave messages. (“I thought it was you and it was that terrible machine!”) But people got used to them. Now Upwards remark with some puzzlement that nobody has wacky ringtones any more, they just use the default.

People often phone Samantha Upward and can’t get through because her battery has run down and the phone is charging. “I tried to phone you, but I just got a funny noise!” “The battery ran down. The phone was charging.” Other party acts puzzled, and Sam is puzzled that they’re puzzled. The darned battery keeps running down – doesn’t everybody’s? She also goes on holiday without her phone charger or Kindle charger, and when the batteries run down, that’s it. Jen Teale plugs her phone into the charger every night, and always takes her chargers on holiday. She’s making herself a charger bag – a bit like a hanging shoe-bag, with the device names embroidered on the pockets. It’s quilted, and incorporates a lot of velcro and binding. Next year, she’ll go on Dragon’s Den and get funding to manufacture them. All she needs is a whimsical name! (The Chargeit!?)

The English treated this novelty with the grave suspicion due to anything foreign: ‘We need no little forks to make hay with our mouths, to throw our food into them,’ complained Nicholas Breton in 1618. (If Walls Could Talk: An intimate history of the home, Lucy Worsley)

The reservations of my grandmother and her friends [about duvets]: ‘Isn’t it heavy? Isn’t it hot?’. (If Walls Could Talk: An intimate history of the home, Lucy Worsley)

Old BBC radio instructions advised turning off all the lights so that you could “see the pictures better”. (BBC yearbook 1940)
Make sure that your set is working properly before you settle down to listen. (So the first few minutes of the programme aren’t obliterated by tuning noises.)
Choose your programmes as carefully as you choose which theatre to go to. (Don’t just “have it on”.)
You can’t get the best out of a programme if your mind is wandering, or if you are playing bridge or reading... If you only listen with half an ear you haven’t a quarter of a right to criticise... Give the wireless a rest now and then.

They are telling people to treat radio like a middle-class entertainment (theatre) rather than a working-class one (cinema, music hall, melodrama – audiences talked and smoked all through). It sounds like the current “We, the Smugs, took a holiday from all devices!”

Why do we have this obsession with removing technology from our lives? So long as children form healthy relationships, get a solid education and aren't unaware of the outside world, it makes no difference how they spend their leisure time. We used to go to the phonebox all evening to call friends, or used the landline with the wire stretching up the hall to our room. So why not email, IM and Face Time now? It's still communication, it's still forming relationships. There's no need to ban "screens". Simply suggest other activities more frequently. Let's go to the park? The zoo? A museum? Play a board game? (Robert Greenberg Borehamwood, Hertfordshire Guardian 2013-06-22)

And what do "we" think about driverless cars?
But from an emotional and romantic perspective it is a dispiriting prospect: the driverless car belongs in our sexting, vaping, auto-tuned age. There is a smack of fat-free yoghurt and elastic waistband about it, something hopelessly, passionlessly convenient, something so joyless, wipe-clean and flat.”(Laura Barton in The Guardian 2014-08-05)

"New Medium Terror" has begun as ppl callin 4 3dPrinting 2 b regulated. (AdamNathanielFurman ‏@Furmadamadam)

More here.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

How to Be Ever So Genteel

How does lower middle-class Jen Teale talk? She likes to find a nice name for everything and doesn't mind borrowing terminology from adverts, promotional literature or even (shudder) the Americans. The middle class equivalents are in brackets.

a selection of… (too unspecific, avoids listing eg cheeses with foreign names in case they make you feel uneducated)
amenities (word used by PR people trying to sell you a holiday in Teignmouth)

backside (euphemistic)
bedspread (for a bedcover, quilt or throw)
beverages, a selection of hot, “dispensed” from a machine
bin (wastepaper basket)
botty (bottom)
briefs (pants - except everyone says pants now)
buggy (for baby buggy – American)

cardy (obsolete)
carrier (carrier bag or bag)
carton (word invented by manufacturer, too French in the wrong way, like serviette and crayon)
centres as in chocolates with mint centres (filling)
classical music (music)
close (stuffy)
collection (of Lladro figures or commemorative thimbles)
colourful (too generalised)
comfortable (I don’t feel comfortable with that)
condiment (pepper and salt, mustard, oil and vinegar)
cookbook (cookery book - cookbook is American)
cooked breakfast (breakfast - It’s assumed you have a buffet of grilled kidneys, kedgeree, porridge etc laid out in the breakfast room of your stately home.)
couch (Upwards rest on a sofa or chaise longue (not lounge), Weybridges sit on a settee, Nouveau-Richards recline on a divan)
counterpane (see bedspread)
creepy crawly (insect)
crispy (crisp)
cuddly toy (baby talk)

dentures (false teeth)
dessert (pudding)
diced vegetables (Upwards don’t dice things, they chop them up - but not into neat square cubes)
diddy (small)
dinette (obsolete, sadly)
dips (too nonspecific)
dishwasher (washing-up machine - “dishes” is American)
divan (see couch)

ellie (elephant)
ever so

fitted units
for the minute (for the moment)
fully licensed, fully lined

gift (present)
goodness (ad speak and too vague)
grand opera (opera)
hottie (hotwater bottle)
housecoat (no one wears them any more – they have central heating. Unless they’re trying to save money/the planet and cuddle up in a slanket.)

jumper (jersey)

kitchen units (everybody says units now, and has them in their kitchen, though it’s still naff to have wall units)
kitchen/diner (diner is American)
knickers: pants
knits, knitwear (term invented by people trying to sell you the stuff)

leisure activities (name them)
lemon: yellow
lightweight (raincoat)
lilac: purple
lounge: sitting room (lounges have morphed into “open-plan living areas”)

matching set
mauve: purple
meal (specify lunch, dinner)
mules: slippers

navy: navy blue
newest silhouette
notepaper (recalls sets of notelets with pallid flowers on them. Sam has her own letter paper printed with her address, phone number and email address.)
nuptials: wedding

odour: smell
of your choice
op (somehow goes with those other medical terms, “slip” off your clothes and “pop” on the couch.)
open-face sandwiches (ou sont les smorgasbord d’antan?)

packet of: some
pantyhose (tights - obsolete, but there was an awful fuss about what to call them when they took over from stockings, even though ballet tights had been around for years and were called “tights”)
park home (caravan)
pastry (for bun, turnover, slice etc.)
pendant (Sam might excruciatingly call it a dingle dangle or be specific and call it a jade butterfly.)
pillow slip (pillow case)
plate (false teeth - far less common now, thank goodness)
plump (overweight)
polo (polo neck/polo-necked jersey)
poorly (ill)
pop on (put on, get on)
portion (helping)
pullover (Sam says jersey for anything woolly which doesn’t undo down the front. She doesn’t say pullover, jumper, popover, sweater or slipover.)
pully (woolly pully)

reclining chair
refreshments (food)
relatives (for relations as in people you are related to. It’s genteel to call sexual relations “relations”, but then you can’t use the same word for your sister’s cousins nieces.)

Santa Claus, Santa (Father Christmas - Santa Claus is American)
scatter cushions (cushions - what you do with them is your business)
select (choose)
serve with
serviette (are all words ending in “ette” pretentious? dinette, banquette, leatherette, moist towelette, colognette, pochette. French in the wrong way again.)
serving suggestion
serving (helping)
set (luggage set ect)
shade (colour)
silky (silk)
similar to (like)
sink (basin, washbasin)
slacks (trousers - but no one wears slacks any more)
slip (v)
slip cover
slip on (put on)
slip (petticoat)
speeding (exceeding the speed limit - speeding is American)
squash (drink)
spring break
steps (ladder)
stitching (sewing)
street light (lamp post, street lamp)
stroller (pushchair)
suite, en (bathroom/loo)
suite, three-piece: sofa and chairs
sweater (jersey)

tablets (pills)
teatowel (drying up cloth)
throw (like gilet, a word made up by advertisers and manufacturers and as such deliberately classless)
toddler (small child, but surely no worse than sproglet?)
toilet roll (loo roll/loo paper/lav paper)
toilet (loo)
top (blouse, shirt, jersey, teeshirt)
topped with
track(y) bottoms (tracksuit bottoms - at least no one says sweat pants any more)
trim, slim (slender)

unsightly (ugly)
upset, emotional (Upwards have no word for this because you’re not allowed to be. Unless it’s “hysterical”.)

valance (Upwards don’t have them because they don't want to hide the legs of their furniture with a frill)
vanitory unit (washbasin)
vanity bag (makeup bag)
vehicle (car)
vinegarette (vinaigrette)
violet (purple)

wash-hand basin (basin, washbasin. Definitelies call it a sink.)
welly boot (welly/Wellington/Wellington boot)
woolly (jersey, cardigan)
worktop (work surface)
wrapper (printed on the wrapper)