How to be Sophisticated
Everyone wants to be sophisticated, but only the rich can decide what constitutes sophistication. Rich people are stylish, but designers for the rich scour the haunts of the poor to find inspiration for new styles. What follows suggests that the rich can even decide what words to use & when the non-rich catch on, the rich change the rules again.
Lyall, Sarah. 2007. “Why Can’t the English Just Give Up That Class Folderol?” New York Times (26 April).
“Nancy Mitford’s famous list of “U” and “non-U” words — the “U” refers to upper class — in 1954 was both a frivolity, as she considered it, and a more or less accurate reflection of the customs of the time. The upper classes generally did say “sofa,” “rich” and “jam,” as Mitford wrote, and not “settee,” “wealthy” and “preserves”.”
“Many of her “non-U” words had been adopted in the Victorian era by lower-class people striving to seem refined, said John E. Joseph, a professor of applied linguistics at Edinburgh University. These included words with French origins — “serviette” for napkin, for instance, and “toilet,” which came from “toilette.” The upper class shunned the words as arriviste affectations.”