Wednesday 29 May 2013

What Your Name Says About You, Part III

“Mister is a courtesy title, so shop and hospital staff should call me Mr Weybridge! Anything else is impolite!” Yes, Mr, Mrs, Miss and Ms are courtesy titles – that means they have no legal force, unlike aristocratic, military, legal, religious titles. It’s against the law to call yourself “Major Weybridge” or “the Rev Weybridge” unless you are a major or a minister. Lord Weybridge is the lord of his domain. It’s not about being polite. Manners change, and a democratic smiley friendliness is now the norm, thankfully. (Howard Weybridge will now have a conniption fit about the use of “thankfully”. “Who’s being thankful? It’s a dangling modifier!” He enjoys all this very much.) Wikipedia explains that courtesy titles began as titles for the younger sons of Dukes.

Posh Caroline Stow Crat fills us in: "To the Normans, a person called de Launay owned land in a place called Launay. So calling yourself 'de Snooks' in an attempt to look more posh only makes you look silly."

Middle-class Upwards like “old-fashioned” names – their grandparents’ generation. Working-class Definitelies like names with no history because they don’t know any. They call their daughters Madison and Tayla because they think it sounds pretty (it does).

Upwards never call their children Tulip – unless they’re Rowena. She may call her kids Brandi, Cullum and Kane as a gesture. Arkana called her kids Gandalf and River – but there were still five Gandalfs in the playgroup (run by a co-op whose members could never agree about anything and eventually split into three. All three parts failed after a few months.). Lower middle-class Teales used to call their daughters Heather, Sorrel, Fern and Bryony. Middle-aged Weybridges are Cherry. Sharon Definitely's gran is Rose. What are the flower names de nos jours?

At the risk of sounding snobbish, I… favour children who have good old-fashioned Victorian names such as George, Henry and Victoria. And, if a child has a name with a Latin or Greek derivation such as Ariadne or Helena, all the better. It indicates the parents are well educated. (Katie Hopkins, Daily Mail May 2013) She says her children know she likes them to befriend high achievers. And she’s worried about sounding snobbish? Read the whole ghastly farrago here.

Expect a notable absence of men called Derek, Roger or Nigel from the garden centres of Britain today. #UKIPConference (James O'Brien‏/@mrjamesob)

Part II here.

Sunday 12 May 2013

Gentrification IV

Wise words from housing-watcher and London-lover @robbieds: "Emerging [neighbourhoods] means they've pretty much emerged already though." (‏@RobertaWedge)

The trappings of gentrification – expensive coffee and bike shops, junk sold at a premium as “vintage” and, soon after, bitterly resented chain outlets… The crowds these areas attract also look pretty samey, and… can also seem just as aspirational and judgemental of others as the primmest suburbanites… with each community maintaining separate cafés, pubs and even grocery stores. I didn’t see much inter-class mixing among my neighbors either, publicly or privately. (Feargus O’Sullivan) (But why does he assume suburbanites are aspirational, judgemental and prim?)

I was wrong about Stoke Newington – it hasn’t become Fulham (though London Fields may have become Notting Hill). Instead it is full of young men with short beards and their vintage-clad girlfriends. At weekends, they all like to go out to breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner and then to a club, so there are lots of cafés, pubs and clubs that cater to their tastes. At the moment they may outnumber the couples with large houses and children. They have taken over a lot of Dalston and Stoke Newington High Street. Every week another under-used pub gets a clean-up and a paint job and becomes a packed gastropub. The 30s tearooms are still a bit ironic - but Ladurie macaroons are plain luxury. We middle-class Upwards are ashamed of luxury so we disguise it as something else. We pretend we prefer the shabby and run-down because it’s all we can afford. And the last thing we want is for people to say “But they’re just you with more money.”

And God forbid anybody should suggest we are these young people, 30 years on.

Working-class Sharon Definitely and her partner Darren want to move to Australia where you can get your own house for far less and have lovely weather and a pool and be near a beach. They have transferable skills: Sharon works in a care home and Darren is a builder. Of course the kids will miss their friends, and they’ll miss their friends, and leaving their elderly parents will be a wrench… maybe they’ll stay put and just get a caravan somewhere.

Upwards don’t move to Australia or New Zealand despite the stunning scenery. No culture, no theatah, no decent telly, no art galleries – no Radio 4! No Archers! Except they could listen on iplayer… But basically, no People Like Us. Everyone can afford a more luxurious lifestyle in the former colonies – just like in the olden days.

When Upwards think “I deserve better than this poky flat!” they move to France.

Many more have bought lovely properties in rural France and then found themselves isolated, both physically and culturally, especially in winter when much of rural France effectively closes down. (Daily Telegraph July 2012)

It's the dream of every Samantha Upward to live in the country and support herself by writing and illustrating children's books. If Sam writes a novel, the central character will be a woman who does just this. No need to commute, or wear a repressive uniform (smart office clothes), no need to conform, no need to suppress your individuality, no need to Work For The Man… Some Upwards live their whole adult lives in London or another big city while thinking they really ought to be in the country. The empty countryside they think they want to move to is of course “tranquil” and “idyllic” and a “rural idyll”.

It's important to realise that while many people with jobs in cities feel like they absolutely must have a house with a big yard, it still is a choice. (Economist blog Nov 7 11)

More here.