Using these words can betray your social status, says anthropologist – and you’ll never hear a member of the royal family say them

  • Kate Fox, a social anthropologist, reveals the words upper-class people would never use in her book.
  • “Watching The English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour” explains what they would use instead.
  • Business Insider has rounded up the most surprising everyday terms that are frowned upon in upper-class circles.

Language is a minefield and everyday habits can be an instant giveaway, revealing the social class of the speaker. That’s according to Kate Fox, a social anthropologist who chose terms that a true Brit or upper-class royal would never use.

His 2004 book, “Watching The English: The Hidden Rules of English Behavior,” revealed what they would say instead. Scroll down if you want to know how to look like a royal, or at least how not to look like a “commoner”.


If you think using the French word “towel” will elevate your social status in upper-class circles, then you’re wrong, sorry. Instead, you should keep it simple, Fox explains, and say “towel.”

sweet after dessert

The dish at the end of the meal is “pudding” for members of the royal family and the upper class. The terms “sweet”, “after” or “dessert” are all deemed unacceptable, she wrote. (Note: some very fancy people shorten the word to “pud”.)


And on that note, a real upper-class person would never call someone good-to-do “posh” – unless they were being ironic. Instead, they would say he or she is “smart”.

queen and her prince


You’d be forgiven for thinking you sound polite and well-mannered using the word “sorry” when you don’t quite understand what someone said – but not so quickly.

According to Fox’s book, the word “forgiveness” is actually an upper-class “hate fetish.” Instead, you should say “Sorry? or “Sorry, what?” or even “What, sorry?”


Apparently, the word “toilet” would make a truly upper-class person flinch. The correct term is “toilet” or “restroom”. If you’re being deliberately funny, say “bog”, but, again, it must be absolutely clear that you’re being ironic.


No, you are not eating a “portion” of food, but a “portion”.


It’s “perfume”.

mom (mom) and dad

Only “commoners” refer to their parents this way, instead really “clever” children – both children and adults – will say “Mommy” and “Daddy”, and when you refer to them, it’s is “Mother” and “Father.”

Prince Charles, 69, would always call the Queen a ‘mummy’.

Queen Elizabeth Prince Charles

a function

The word “function” can sometimes be adopted by the middle classes, Fox says. Members of the royal family, on the other hand, would only ever go to a “party”.

Champagne Queen Elisabeth

The Queen enjoys a glass of champagne, but is not a fan of wine. Pennsylvania


And at the “party”, “food and drink” would be served, never “refreshments”.

tea or dinner

It’s complicated, but, simply put, the upper classes would never refer to lunch as “dinner” or use the word “tea” to describe their evening meal.

Dinner is used to refer to a “bigger” evening meal, while supper is something a little more low-key.

Meanwhile, “tea” refers to the combination of tea, cakes, scones (strictly pronounced with a short “o,” Fox says), finger sandwiches (pronounced “san-widges” and NOT “sand -witches”), served in the afternoon.

Tea and cookies

lounge or living room

Finally, for members of the royal family, the room your sofa goes to is either the “living room” or the “living room”, although nowadays the former is considered a bit pretentious as it carries with it connotations of grandeur. , so “living room” is more commonly used.

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