Seven new categories of social class: How the markers have changed

Life was simpler when society was divided into Upper, Middle and Working, and meant landowners, doctors and shopkeepers

Share

The revelation that British people occupy not three but seven classes has thrown a spanner in the sociological works.

A survey, by Manchester University and the London School of Economics along with the BBC Lab UK, established that we can be Elite (the new aristocracy: opera-going, stately home-visiting, home-owning, wedge-saving), the Established Middle Class (well-educated, home-owning, theatre-going), the Technical Middle Class (lots of money but uncultured and without friends in high places), and four levels of working-class, from “affluent” to “precarious”.

But how do you tell them apart? Life was simpler when society was divided into Upper, Middle and Working, and meant landowners, doctors and shopkeepers. When, in the 20th century, the classes fragmented into sub-sets of “skilled working” and “lower-middle” (George Orwell famously defined his background as “lower-upper-middle”) things became fuzzy: the “lower-middles” aspired to be respectable and used “genteel” language; the “upper-middles” aspired to be toffs and tried to sound like milords.

Into this minefield walked Nancy Mitford in 1956 with her distinctions between “U” and “Non-U” behaviour and language. Her friend Alan Ross offered a guide for the socially dyslexic: non-posh people think they should say “greens” and “serviette” and “luncheon” and “lovely home” and “I felt ill” and “mental” and “pardon” and “teacher” whereas the truly posh said, respectively, “vegetables” and “napkin” and “lunch” and “nice house” and “I felt sick” and “mad” and “what?” and “teacher.”

Yesterday, some amusing commentators tweeted to suggest that the main class signifiers are whether you buy hardbacks or e-books, and whether you stick letters or party invitations into the mirror on your mantelpiece. But what about the language we use? I suspect some old U-and-non-U rules still apply. Saying “toilet” instead of “loo”, “bubbly” instead of “champagne” or “Well, this is very civilised” when sitting in a bar, (instead of “Well, this is ok…”) may cause the eyebrows of the Elite to rise superciliously.

Prudish circumlocutions have mostly disappeared, so saying “private parts” instead of “minge” is social death. A new horror of management-speak means that “going forward” and “in terms of…” and “on a daily basis…” and “I myself would prefer…” are anathema. There’s a beady-eyed Elitist pedantry that fixes like a death-ray on phrases like “the enormity of his good works” and “the plot is centred around…” and “are you inferring that…?” And any usage that suggests the user isn’t wholly au fait with modern technology and technospeak is right out: so no talk of “the interweb” or “this Bookface thing” and no cries of “lolz!” or (from your Auntie) “Can you get it up on the Google?”

That’s where the would-be Elite are today: eschewing all hints of cosiness, coyness, corporatism, semantic fogginess or cyberspatial ignorance. We’ve come a long way from worrying about whether to say “lounge” or “living-room”.

Scene stealers

A New Zealand filmgoer has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about a trailer for the Tom Cruise film Jack Reacher. It featured, he said, a scene involving an exploding cliff that he’d looked forward to seeing on the big screen – but when he attended a cinema screening, no cliff-based detonation was apparent. Paramount Pictures apologised and offered him a refund.

What amazes me is that someone should complain about a modern movie trailer that’s left something out. I’m constantly enraged by trailers that don’t just leave you tantalised with hints and intrigued to see the film’s outcome, but give you the whole story – clinches, killings, emotional reunions, the lot. It ruined The Impossible and The Paperboy and a dozen others for me in the past 12 months. Trailer editors: can’t you learn to, as Delboy used to say, leave it out?

Twitter: @JohnHenryWalsh

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower