Friday 18 March 2011
How to Talk Posh
When mingling with the crowd at Ascot or Henley, do you want people to think you are an aristocrat? Why not talk like posh people:
Crikey, righty-ho, tiffin, yah, rah. Good show, old chep! How absolutely ghastly for you, old bean! You, sir, are a cad and a bounder! Rather, old thing, by George!
Do posh people talk like this?
No! No one has talked like this since the days of P.G. Wodehouse (circa 1920).
The Jeeves Omnibus - Vol 1: No.1
Posh people talk like this…
People like the Stow Crats use overstatement and understatement. When talking about trivia, they exaggerate, using their well-known drawl. “We live in the wiiiiiilds of Sussex” or “daaaaaarkest Lincolnshire”. Oh no and exactly come out as “Eeeow neeeow!” and “Egzeakly!”
But when it really matters they understate. If they don’t like something they say “I’m not terribly keen on it ”. And if your mother was appalled: “Mummy wasn’t exactly thrilled.”
Everything is terribly, awfully frightful or ghastly. But if someone’s severely ill he’s “feeling a little sorry for himself”.
Some letters by the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire (the last of the Mitford girls) were published recently. A reviewer noted: “Their language - beastly, umpteenth, bags I, maddening, tiresome, conked out, 'killing' to mean 'funny', 'frightfully' to mean 'very' and so on - has a charm all of its own, but will soon seem as outmoded as 'gadzooks' or 'pshaw'.”
Brian Sewell, the art critic, gets his video retuned (and shows his aristocratic disdain for technology):
“A man came into my house the other day in order to fiddle about for an hour and a half. He utterly failed to understand either my standard video recorder or television. I finally produced the instructions and he still couldn’t make any sense of them. He kept getting on the phone to C5 and describing my machinery. Eventually, he felt compelled to put some little black box on the back of the video and told me that he’d done this in order to protect my present reception, but that under no circumstances would I be ever able to receive their undiluted crap. So I heaved a great sigh of relief and said “There you are, then. Off you go!”
Posh people don’t use modern slang. They don’t really notice fashion, and ignore popular culture. And they’re very (surprise, surprise) conservative, so their language doesn’t change very much. They’re fond of archaisms like whereby, thus, therefore and hence. But they also go in for baby talk: It was awfully expenny, I'll do a recce, have a dekko, a bit iffy, Seen my piccies? Was it a Chrissy pressy? Mind you don’t get wetty! See you soonsies!
How to Talk Posh I
How to Talk Posh II
How to Talk Posh III
How to Talk Posh IV
How to Talk Posh is now an ebook available here.