Unputdownable

It is hard to believe that an almanac would be “unputdownable!” But Schott’s Original Miscellany by Ben Schott is exactly that… “unputdownable” according to miscellanies.info. It is a book of vital trivia, uncommon knowledge, and essential irreverence. Here is an interesting excerpt: 

In 1954 Prof. Alan Ross published his essay ‘Linguistic class-indicators in present-day English’ in the renowned Finnish philological journal, Neuphilologische Mitteilungen. Here, Ross attempted to codify the spoken and written linguistic rules which demarcated upper-class language. His premise was that very subtle norms of phrasing, pronunciation, or vocabulary would instantly distinguish an upper-class (‘U’) speaker from the working or aspirational middle-class (‘non-U’) speaker – as below:

NON-U                                     U

to take a bath                        to have a bath

dinner                                     lunch

supper                                    dinner

dress suit                               dinner jacket

home                                       house

mirror                                     looking-glass

perfume                                  scent

note-paper                             writing paper

pardon?                                  what?

preserve                                 jam

toilet                                        lavatory

wealthy                                   rich

wire                                         telegram

If this were the measuring rod today, it would make me half upper-class and half-middle class speaker, using words like telegram, rich, lavatory, jam, writing paper, but also using perfume, mirror, home, dress suit, supper, and dinner.

Stuff like this is fascinating to me.

 Ben Schott has also written the Miscellany 2008 almanac if you’re interested.


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