Thursday 11 November 2010


Alan Titchmarsh says people say Monty Don is more “cerebral” than him – ie more middle class.

the hustle and bustle of the city = common people we are forced to share the space with (the opposite is “tranquillity” = an absence of chavs. What you move to the country to find. May also be known as "peace and quiet" or "more space".)

Peter Wilby on the media response to the shooting of Rhys Jones, Sept. 2 07 The story was, to use the media academics' term, "framed" within 36 hours of the boy's death. "Gang war invades middle-class haven," was the Telegraph's headline. Rhys lived on a private estate of "hanging baskets", "ornamental water features" and "polished Audis and Mazdas" (the Times), "mock Tudor white-timbered gables" and "solar-powered garden lights" (the Independent). His killers came from "rotting, feral" council estates (the Telegraph) of "high corrugated iron fences" and "tattooed men . . . with small squat dogs" (the Independent).

The middle classes are leaving the state [educational] sector in droves … partly because they think their children will be mixing with pupils who will not help their child reach full potential. Nick Clegg, reported in the Evening Standard, Nov 23 07

More here. And many more in my mini ebook Boo & Hooray: Dysphemisms and Euphemisms (see sidebar).

all the advantages
private school
arriviste Someone who has "arrived" in "good society" from elsewhere

class origins

bohemian, liberal
knows people who aren’t in the top 400, or who don’t have three houses and three holidays a year

getting your children into the best school

Choice is considered a dirty word by many educationalists but parents – weirdly enough – are actually quite keen to push their children into better schools. This site helps them beat the system. (Daily Telegraph)

posh (But posh people would never say it.)

lower middle-class

Mrs Salmond is carefully coiffured. (Times May 2007, ie )
Three well-manicured, coiffeured ladies [in Sedgefield] (Guardian 2007)

community, involving the
(as in the local community, community picnic, community choir) “We” must involve the “community” in what “we” are doing. The middle classes aren’t “the community” because they can afford to live where they like and are always moving on.

cut-glass accents
posh voice (New Statesman 2004. The same article calls the voice “absurdly affected”. It can only be affected if someone’s learned it in later life. New Statesman readers used to affect a working-class accent.)

black or working class (people we wouldn’t expect to be dignified)

"Dignity" award for Walker family: The family of murdered teenager Anthony Walker have been honoured for their "calm dignity in the face of tragedy". His mother, Gee Walker, accepted the first ever Profile in Courage Award from the National Black Crown Prosecution Association (NBCPA). ( 2006)

Alan Johnson and his family are praised for their “dignity” all over the press July 2007. The family hid their feelings and didn’t show emotion – or did so only in a very controlled way. Working-class people in the news are praised by the broadsheets for “dignity” if they don’t show emotion; but they'll be pilloried by the tabloids. Dignity also means not selling your story to the media.

The Value of Dignity: A trial by media will not help to find the truth about Madeleine McCann (Times Sept 2007)

down-to-earth has the common touch (if said of someone posh)

eclectic bunch
contains common people
folk working class people

(gritty reality, urban grit) working-class, no Starbucks, not trendy

Gritty publishers New English Library (Guardian 2007)

guilty pleasure
doing something that lets the side down, like reading Heat or shopping at Costcutter
hard-working families Middle England (Gordon Brown)

common décor (heavy window treatments). Probably combined with “garish colour schemes”, “fussy” arrangements and “busy” patterns. (American)

working class people protesting, story printed in tabloid

middle-class (suburb, street)

...enjoyed a dappled upbringing in Hampstead (Guardian 2002 Presumably the light was dappled after filtering through all those leaves)

A Thomas Kinkade painting of a charming, rain-dappled village - complete with church steeple, families out walking the pet Dalmatian and thickets of flowers. (

Dr Hunter offered the example of a school in a ‘better, leafy area’ that took three children in care. (Guardian 2003)

Cannabis plantation found in leafy suburb: Cannabis plants have been found growing at the site of a planned upmarket housing development in a wealthy Aberdeen suburb. Police have been called in after the plants were found growing in greenbelt woodland near the Milltimber area. (The Scotsman, 2004)

Just because a school is in a so-called leafy suburb, that does not mean the parents are wealthy. Many will have stretched themselves to the limit to buy houses in the catchment areas of these schools. (Guardian)

middle class

mainstream society
aspirant, law-abiding, tax-paying, willing to play the game, the bit some people are “excluded” from

mass audience
common people

Middle England
Martin Jacques has complained that Middle England is a "metaphor for respectability, the nuclear family, conservatism, whiteness, middle age and the status quo" (New Statesman 2007 That’s a euphemism, not a metaphor.)

a lot of working-class people
ordinary folk working-class people (and you’d never say “middle-class folk”)
ordinary people common people, less-than-rich people

over-stuffed furniture
code for lower class

They live in a detached house obscured from a busy road by six fir trees and overgrown foliage... "Tarl-Lea" reads the name plate fixed between the green garage door and the frosted glass of the porch through which can be glimpsed the twee furnishings of a comfortable family home: a tasselled lamp, an over-stuffed sofa and a slightly garish carpet.” (The Guardian, 2000)

people from all walks of life
including working-class people, or maybe just working-class people

people never say “posh” but “smart” or “grand”. They mock people as “fratefully grahnd” and ever so “oysters at the Savoy”.

his family was socially prominent, though his performance was outstanding and the question was salient

simple working class

He came from a simple family.
 (BBC on James Callaghan)

smothered in heavy/complicated sauces
common food (like over-stuffed furniture) The middle classes are anti-sauce, it makes food too like babyfood, ie easy to eat and tasty.

middle-class, law-abiding society (and probably white). "We" are unquestionably a part of it.
stuffy middle-class in the wrong way
stylish posh (Again, posh people would never used this word.)

unspoilt (area of France) free of the wrong kind of Brits
unsuitable (boyfriend) common
urban working class (or black)

very English
(eg Elgar) middle class. There’s a sneer in calling something “very English”. Implies: middle-aged, lives in shires, parochial, quaint, twee, old-fashioned, fusty, cosy. It's the opposite of diverse and vibrant – qualities valued by a different set of middle-class people. Perhaps composers like Edward Elgar (Grainger, Butterworth, Vaughan Williams) are tarnished by being used for nationalist rallying. But were they?

we, us
middle-class people

You’re overqualified. You’re too posh (or too tall).
We think you’ll be bored. We think you’ll look down on us. (And you're still too tall.)

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