How to Talk Posh

When mingling with the crowd at Glyndebourne (opera) or Ascot (race meeting), do you want people to think you are an aristocrat?

Why not talk like posh people:

Air, hellair! 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).

Posh people talk like this

They use overstatement and understatement. When talking about trivia, they exaggerate, using their well-known drawl: ÔÇ£We live in the wiiiiiilds of SussexÔÇØ or ÔÇ£daaaaaarkest LincolnshireÔÇØ. Everything is terribly, awfully frightful or ghastly. If your mother was mildly shocked, then ÔÇ£Mummy practically had a haaaaaaaart attack!ÔÇØ) Anybody who is ill is ÔÇ£sick of the palsyÔÇØ, ÔÇ£down with the bubonic plagueÔÇØ or has ÔÇ£got some dreaded lurgyÔÇØ.

But when things get serious they understate. (The Greeks called it litotes.) If mother was appalled: ÔÇ£Mummy wasnÔÇÖt exactly thrilled.ÔÇØ If they really canÔÇÖt stand something they say ÔÇ£IÔÇÖm not terribly keen on it ÔÇØ. If someoneÔÇÖs severely ill heÔÇÖs ÔÇ£feeling a little sorry for himselfÔÇØ. (Sophia’s in a bit of a state.) When people are yelling and screaming and running round in circles you ask: ÔÇ£WhatÔÇÖs all the fuss about?ÔÇØ If a friend is severely ill you say heÔÇÖs ÔÇ£feeling a little sorry for himselfÔÇØ. You refer to World War I as ÔÇ£the late unpleasantnessÔÇØ. The retreat from Dunkirk was ÔÇ£no picnicÔÇØ. If youÔÇÖre surrounded by utter disaster you say ÔÇ£conditions are suboptimalÔÇØ. If a situation is upsetting, you say ÔÇ£It wasnÔÇÖt madly edifying.ÔÇØ Mummy turned up to sports day in a simply ghastly hat, but when she ran away with the gardener that ÔÇ£wasnÔÇÖt exactly onÔÇØ.

ÔÇ£1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure,ÔÇØ said the Queen of a year in which her three eldest childrenÔÇÖs marriages broke down and one of her palaces caught fire.

They donÔÇÖt say ÔÇ£yesÔÇØ in agreement, they say exactly, precisely, absolutely. Or just ÔÇ£mmmmÔÇØ. Ordinary people say ÔÇ£rightÔÇØ or ÔÇ£yeahÔÇØ.

Some letters by the Duchess of Devonshire were published recently. A reviewer noted: ÔÇ£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’.ÔÇØ

More here, and in my mini ebook How to Talk Posh.

More here.

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