Tuesday, 18 April 2017 13:25

Guy Egmont's Tips for Speaking Like Aristocracy

Written by Guy Egmont
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Having made your contacts, you must make sure not to upset them by ignorance of the Queen’s English as spoken by the well-to-do.

Fifty years ago, the phrase M.I.F. was coined by the late Lady Pembroke. It referred to people who put their Milk In First when taking tea. This still holds good as a social criterion though doubtless it tastes better that way.

Never talk about your wallet. The word is pocketbook. You never cash a cheque; you change one. You never purchase anything; you buy it. You help; you never assist. You wash; never perform ablutions.

A mansion is technically a house with two staircases, but you only mention the word if you are an estate agent; otherwise you refer to a house.

Never shorten the words telephone or photograph.

Never refer to ‘Town’ when you mean London. Like Oxford and Cambridge to which you go up, you go up to London, even if you are in Manchester.

Never use the word ‘fat’ except in its literal sense. Don’t speak of ‘fat jobs’ or ‘a fat lot of good that will do you’.

Never say ‘I couldn’t care less’. It’s rude, common, and usually untrue.

In spite of Emily Post, the great American expert on etiquette, there is nothing the matter with referring to other men as fellows or chaps.

A vase is pronounced ‘varze’, not ‘vayze’.
 
Cannes is pronounced without the final ‘s’, but the ‘t’ of Moët et Chandon is pronounced, and Krug is pronounced Kroog. Never call a top hat a topper, it is vulgar in the extreme. If it is black—and therefore mostly worn at a funeral—it is a silk hat. Otherwise it is a white top hat, or tall hat, as used at Ascot and weddings. Controversy is pronounced with the accent on the first syllable, not controversy.

It is very common to use the word ‘wealthy’. Rich, well-to-do, very well off are all right.

Never pronounce golf as though it rhymed with the first syllable of doleful. A bicycle is never a cycle or bike, any more than Monte Carlo is Monte.


Never, when giving or answering a toast, say ‘Cheerioh’, ‘Down the hatch’ or ‘Here’s how’. Make a non-committal noise and smile.

‘Cheers’ is just permissible.

A tail coat is a tail coat and not a dress suit, whatever off-the-peg tailors may call it. Ditto, a dinner jacket is not a dinner suit.

And if your hostess tells you to come in a white tie, she means full evening dress and your wife wears white gloves.

Remember that whiskey is Irish, but whisky is Scotch. Bourbon is pronounced Burbon and if you want a dry martini in France you ask for a dri.

Never say ‘drunk as a lord’. It has no meaning today.

There is no such thing as a serviette in polite society. It is a napkin—and never tuck it under your chin, even when eating asparagus.

Don’t say handbag. Say ‘bag’, just as lavatory paper is lavatory paper and not toilet paper. Expunge the word ‘toilet’ from your vocabulary, except for toilet water.

Never refer to the Albany. It is Albany, and it has no flats. It has setts or chambers.

Don’t call television ‘the telly’. It is such an obvious form of inverted snobbism.

Never make puns, unless they are terribly good.

In football, people kick goals. They no more hit them—except in badly-written sports pages—than they kick runs at cricket. It is an East End vulgarity derived from hitting someone a kick.

Never pronounce the first ‘e’ in pomegranate. Never have cosy little chats, though there is no reason why you should not call someone ‘cosy’.

A girl of good family refers to her mother as mummy, not mother, and to her father as daddy, not father.

Never call a soft hat a ‘trilby’, unless you are a detective—which you are not.

Read 15 times Last modified on Tuesday, 18 April 2017 16:06
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