Can you be posh, even if you’re not British? You probably know that the word means “smart, elegant, or fashionable” or “upper class”. According to the Collins English Dictionary, the word “posh” originated in the 19th century: “Often said to be an acronym of the phrase port out, starboard home, the most desirable location for a cabin in British ships sailing to and from the East, being the north-facing or shaded side; but more likely to be a development of obsolete slang posh – a dandy”. If we hear dandy and 19th century the first person we tend to think of is of course Oscar Wilde, but if you grew up during the Nineties, you might be more likely to associate the word “posh” with Victoria Beckham a.k.a. “Posh Spice”…that can’t be right!
The Guardian ran a feature on poshness this week, which might help to clear up some confusion:
- How to talk posh (a glossary that shows you how posh people talk – it’s like a secret code almost! And it only works if you have the right accent, which you can practise here: The secrets of the posh accent)
- The seven rules of being posh as elicited by a US journalist. Apparently it helps if you have a freezing bathroom. Who knew?
- If you’re getting worried because it is actually quite cold in your bathroom, here’s a quiz that you can take in order to find out whether you might be posh or not. Don’t worry, unless your name is Binky, Tarquin or Lottie, you’re on the safe side!
The articles were triggered by the release of the film The Riot Club, written by Laura Wade. Wade is also the author of the play Posh, on which the film is based. The play and the film deal with a group of young male students at Oxford University who…oh just watch the trailer, will you?
There. Of course it’s all fictional, but Wade based her script on the real-life Bullingdon Club, whose most illustrious members include none other than Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, and Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Here’s a review of the film and an assessment of what being posh still means today: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/sep/21/-sp-posh-britain-the-riot-club-bullingdon-privilege
However, perhaps the best way to find out what poshness means is simply to go shopping in the UK. But beware, you’re not very likely to find posh in Tesco, Asda or Morrisons – and don’t even think about Aldi or Lidl! Apparently posh people are best observed in their natural habitat in Waitrose, or at least that is what the Facebook page Overheard in Waitrose suggests. Buzzfeed collected some of the finest examples of posh-speak overheard in Waitrose: “Daddy, does Lego have a silent ‘T’, like Merlot?”