Hi everyone. In this lesson, we're going to look at what posh is, who are posh people,
and also look at the language of posh people. But let me start with "What is posh?",
because maybe you haven't heard of it. This is, I would say, something specific to English, because
it has to do with the class system here. And the class system is how the society is organized, from
top to bottom. Not in some kind of official way, like you get a piece of paper that says what class
you're in. But it is the family you're born into and it has an impact on the kind of school you go
to, or the kind of job you do when you grow up. So, although it's not an official formal thing,
it's something that affects life in the UK for English people, or - I said the UK there. Life in
England for English people, and it's still in the rest of the country, but I don't - I'm not sure
how strong it is there, or how it is different. I'm talking about the English prospective.
Okay, so starting with a diagram here of the different classes in England. This is not to
scale. This is an estimate of how big the different classes are, the different social
classes. So, if we start at the top with the crown, that's where the queen would be. She's
at the top, because she's the queen. Then, this first chunk here, U, means "upper class". It's
quite small compared to the rest. Here are all the people, all the 60 million or however many
people here, and here is the upper class. Small amount of people is at the top.
Next, we have the upper middle class, and that's a bit bigger. Next, we have the middle class, and
now we're almost around half the population, a bit less when we include the middle class. Then,
we have the working class. That's the biggest section. And the precariat. This
is a new class. I'll explain about it after. So, going back to the top. What kind of - how
would we recognize these different groups of people? How would we know who they are? Well,
as a native-born English person, you just - you just know and you can tell. It's the language
people use, it's how they dress, it's the job they do, things like that. But
let's talk about jobs. What kinds of jobs would these people do, as an example?
So, an upper class person. In the past, upper class people didn't work. They didn't need to
work, because they inherited their money. But nowadays, they do work a lot of the time. So,
they might do jobs like being the head of a charity, or they might work in banking in
the city, or they might be - many actors are from upper class backgrounds. So, they tend to do jobs
with really, really high status. Social power, and even better if it makes a lot of money as well.
Next, we have the upper middle class. These are people who do things like - a surgeon. A
surgeon would be upper middle class. An architect would be upper middle class.
Professions that earn them a lot of money. And the professions that are hard to get into as well.
Next, the middle class. Middle class - first thing that comes to mind is teacher and
managers in businesses. Middle class. Working class would be the jobs such
as trades - tradespeople jobs. Bricklayer, electrician, roofer, a nurse, working class.
Those that I mention there, those are skilled working-class jobs. Working class could also - the
lower part of the working class could also include jobs - like working in retail. Yeah, working
in retail, being a farmer, things - but not owning the farm. If you own the farm, you're up
here. But if you work on a farm, you're here. Now, because the class system changes and evolves,
it's called "working class", right? But many of the people in the working class don't actually
work. They get money from the government. They don't go to work. They're on benefits. Sometimes,
it's because people can't get a job. They don't have any skills,
really. No one wants to give them a job at all. Or if they do find work, it's very temporary.
It's just a few days and then the job's finished and the job doesn't have any good benefits to
working there. Benefits in the sense of earning a pension and it's not stable. Things that - if
your job's like all - it's not secure. Or you have no job and no one will give you a job,
you would be in what's called the precariat class. Precariat means it's not stable here.
So yeah, bear that in mind. English people can just tell, generally, where other people are in
here. And a good question to answer now is also, how much does it change in a person's life? You
know, are you sort of born here and then you climb all the way up to the top by becoming successful,
becoming rich? Well, it doesn't really happen a lot. There is flexibility. Some
people go up to a profession much higher than their parents were in, and the situation they
were born in. But the thing about class is that a great extent of it is how you were born.
So, over here in England, it's not only just about how much money you've got, it's where you're born.
So, we have very, very wealthy people, for example, David Beckham and his wife, Victoria
Beckham who is called "Posh Spice". They must be super, super, super millionaires. But they are
not considered upper class or upper middle class. Or, depending on - I don't know where to put them,
but they - basically, they've got all the money to live up here or really, really high up here, but
they - their personalities haven't really changed so much to make them different kind of person.
So, it's - it could be really different in your country, depending on whether the social
hierarchy is so old, in a sense. We've been doing this for a really long time over here in England
because of the Queen and all that, so. So, now we've got that out of the way. Now,
let's go and talk about posh actors. How can you find examples of posh people and their language?
Well, you could look for movies with these actors in, because these will give you good examples.
If you like the way that the posh actors speak and you can learn to speak more like them. So,
there's Benedict Cumberbatch. He's in the series "Sherlock", and that character he plays
in "Sherlock" is posh. But in all his other movies as well, he plays posh characters.
Tom Hiddleston. He was in the movie "War Horse". He played somebody posh in that. There's a film
that came out a few years ago called "The Riot Club", "Riot Club" or "The Riot Club". And this
was about students from Oxford University, which is the top university or the second-top
university. The - if you're posh, that's one of the best universities to go to. So, the film is
about how those students live and how they - it's about what life is like for you if you're
rich at one of those very, very top schools. Then we have Tilda Swinton. She is quite an arty
kind of actress. Doesn't necessarily always play the super, super posh character in the film,
but she is a genuine real posh person from her family background. So, she's an example
of the upper class person who is an actress. And then there's Keira Knightley, and when Keira
Knightley was younger and in many films, she was always playing Jane Austen kinds of characters in
her films. So, that's a good sign. If you see those traditional English movies with the big
dresses and old-fashioned speaking, that's a good sign that the actor or actress is posh or
from a posh background. Usually, those kind of films get those kind of actors and actresses.
Okay, so now I'm going to talk about - we're talking about posh people and the language
they use. The hard thing about it when you try to do a lesson on it is that you don't really meet
many people who admit to being posh. They say, "Oh yeah, I'm posh". You don't really admit it and I
think it's a case today that many people who are from posh backgrounds adapt their language down
when they're around the "normal" people. So, they don't speak really, really posh. So, it's hard for
you to hear it and catch exactly how posh people speak now. Plus, having distance really, really
helps. So, it's hard to see it right now, how posh people speak now, but you know twenty years later,
when you look back. Maybe it's easier to say and say, "Oh, posh people spoke like this".
So, what I'm going to talk about now is how posh language was thought of and perceived back
in the past, okay? So, this comes from 1955, this discussion about how posh people speak,
from the writing of Nancy Mitford. Nancy Mitford was a journalist and a kind of socialite - upper
class socialite from those times. And one of the things she did was wrote about - one of the things
she's famous for is writing about U and non-U language. U language means upper class language.
Non-U language means not upper class. And these people are the social climbers. They could be the
middle-class people who earned more money and sort of climbing up. And these - or these could
be the upper middle class people as well, who are spending time with upper class people.
So, what this means is whoever was not born in the upper class and had the right education and spent
time in the right schools learning all the correct upper class language. If you were not like that,
then your language wouldn't - it would sound like you don't belong there. Your language
would give you away as not really belonging in the upper class parties or wherever you go.
So, let's look at the signs in - according to Nancy Mitford in 1955,
the - how we can describe non-U language, not upper class, the people climbing up,
they spoke in a way that was refined, fashionable, fancy. And they used French origin words. So,
if we look at those descriptions, that sounds - well yeah, speak like that, it all sounds good,
doesn't it? Refined, you know, it's like elegant. French origin words, sounds sophisticated. And
they would use words such as "serviette", "toilet", and they would say "pardon?" when
they want to say "What did you say?" Now, this all sounds good, but Nancy Mitford says this is - this
looks bad. This makes you look like you really don't belong here. You shouldn't speak like this,
and anyone who is really posh does not speak this way. It's not what you expect.
If you are upper class, if you're like Nancy Mitford, your language is more direct. You say
what it is. You've got nothing to prove. You know that you're upper class. You know that you come
from a good family. You know that your family has connections. You know you have all the money you
need. So, you're not trying to be refined or elegant like these people, or fashionable. You
don't care. You have everything - you have all the status you need. You don't need to try hard with
your language. And what's interesting about the upper class for this time in 1955 was that they,
in Nancy Mitford's opinion, is that they used many of the same words as the working class people. So,
the upper class people, back at that time, were using a lot of the same words as the working
class people, because these were the traditional words of the things they were saying. Whereas
these ones were changing their language to sound better in their opinion. Oh, this is the right
way to speak. But they were trying a little bit too hard. So, Nancy Mitford said this is how we
know the difference between someone who is really upper class and someone who is just trying.
Now, we've got some example words coming up. Let's look at some examples of upper class words
compared to non upper class words. The first words are all to do with things in the home. So,
the upper class word is "house" and in Nancy Mitford's opinion, the non upper class word is
"home". They're synonyms, we use them in the same way, but one word shows that you belong
here with the Queen, and the other word shows that you, you know, climbing up higher.
Next, we have "drawing room" and "sitting room". These are the room in your house where you
entertain people when they come to visit. The non upper class people would say "lounge". And
if we remember that the non upper class people like words that have the French origin or sound
more refined, because "lounge" comes from French. This is why it's attractive for them to use.
Next, we have "lavatory" and lavatory is generally shortened to "loo". This is
still - saying "Where's the loo?" is still a - even though it was 1955, it's still one of the
things to show how posh is someone, because there are many, many people who will - can only say the
word "loo" or "lavatory", and they can't say that word "toilet". They have to avoid saying
that word. It's too - it's too low! So yeah, this one is still the case. "Toilet" comes from
French as well; toilette comes from French. Sofa, it's where you sit in your lounge and watch
the television. Ah, ah, ah. If you're upper class, you probably never watch television,
but they do have sofas. Whereas the non upper class people would sit on their settees or
couches, but "settee" is even lower than "couch", I would say, in my sense of it.
Next, in 1955, the upper class people said "looking glass". I'm going to look at the looking
glass at my reflection. But I don't think they say it now. If you're upper class, please let me know
whether you say "looking glass" because I don't know, I need your feedback on this one. These
days, do you still say "looking glass"? Whereas the non upper class people said "mirror".
And when they go to restaurants or when they're eating, the upper class people would use their
napkin, you know, very, very gently. And the non upper class people would probably go like that or
something, you know. Or maybe just use their hand. Anyway, the word they would use is "serviette".
So, these words are group together now. We're moving on from the home. The upper class word is
to say you feel "sick". I'm feeling terribly sick. But if you're not upper class, you say "ill". I'm
ill. Next, the upper class people, because they're more direct and they say - they say what they see
or they tell it how it is, at least in those times. They would say a person is "rich", who
has got lots of money, who is absolutely stinking rich. Whereas the non upper class people would say
"wealthy", wealthy. It's not so - wealthy is more of a sophisticated kind of word. Even though it
means about money, in a way, it's not so much about money. "Rich" makes us imagine piles of
gold coins in a way that "wealthy" doesn't. Next, upper class people talk about false teeth.
Obviously, back in 1955, there were a lot more people who had false teeth because they,
especially in England, you know what our dentists are like here. So, they lost a lot of their teeth
and they didn't have them unless they wore their false teeth. Whereas the non upper class people,
they said "dentures". Believe that probably comes from French. Let me know in the comments.
Upper class people said "spectacles", not "glasses". And they would talk about
riding their bike or bicycle, whereas the non upper class people would say "cycle".
And when it came to eating, the upper class people would say "pudding", whereas the non
upper class people said "dessert". So, we are many years on from 1955 now.
Definitely some of the examples in this lesson don't apply anymore. For example,
"looking glass". But I think it's true that, in our times, there will still - there still
is vocabulary that upper class people use that's specific to them that, perhaps people who don't
come from their social group, or who didn't go to the schools with them, people just don't know this
language that they use. They wouldn't know what's the right word to say, because they just haven't
been around all the other people that say those words. If you didn't go to the expensive school,
you just wouldn't learn it. And like I said, at the beginning of the lesson,
upper class people these days often change their language down to talk to the normal people.
So, you - it's hard to know what - it would be very interesting to know, but hard to find out.
What are the words, such as this today? It would be really interesting to know, but personally,
I don't know. So, there's another - if you've got any examples, you can leave a comment
of words that you know are posh that people use today in the upper class. So, thank you
for watching and what you can do now is a quiz on this lesson. See you again soon. Bye!