Using these words can give away your social status, according to an anthropologist -- and you'll never hear a royal say them

Getty/Chris Jackson
  • 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 speaker’s social class. That’s according to Kate Fox, a social anthropologist who picked out terms that a true upper-class Brit or royal would never use.

Her 2004 book, “Watching The English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour,” revealed what they would say instead. Scroll down if you’d like to know how to sound like a royal, or at least how not to sound like a “commoner.”


If you think the use of the French word “serviette” will elevate your social status in upper-class circles, then you’re wrong, sorry. You should instead keep it simple, Fox explains, and say “napkin.”

sweet, afters, dessert

The course at the end of the meal is “pudding” for royals and the upper class. The terms “sweet,” “afters,” or “dessert” are all deemed unacceptable, she wrote. (Side note: Some very posh people shorten the word to “pud.”)


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


You’d be forgiven for thinking you sound polite and well mannered using the word “pardon” when you don’t quite catch what someone has said – but not so fast.

According to Fox’s book the word “pardon” is actually a “pet hate” of the upper classes. You should instead 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 “loo” or “lavatory.” If you’re purposely being funny, say “bog,” but, again, it must be absolutely clear that you’re being ironic.


Nope, you don’t eat a “portion” of food, but a “helping.”


It’s “scent.”

mum (mum) and dad

Only “commoners” would refer to their parents in this way, instead really “smart” children – both as kids and adults – will say “Mummy” and “Daddy,” and when you’re talking about them it’s “Mother” and “Father.”

Prince Charles, 69, reportedly still calls the Queen “Mummy.”

Queen Elizabeth Prince CharlesWPA Pool / Getty Images


The word “function” may sometimes be adopted by the middle classes, Fox says. Royals, on the other hand, would only ever go to a “party.”

Queen elizabeth champagnePAThe Queen enjoys a glass of Champagne, but isn’t a fan of wine.


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

tea or dinner

This is a complicated one, but, put simply, upper classes would never, ever refer to lunch as “dinner,” or use the word “tea” to describe their evening meal.

Dinner is used to refer to a “grander” 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.

lounge or living room

Finally, for royals the room where your sofa goes is either the “drawing room” or “sitting room,” though these days the former is considered a tad pretentious as it carries with it connotations of grandeur, so “sitting room” is more commonly used.

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