How to Talk Posh

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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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