The Way We Live Now

In the 1950s Sir John Betjeman wrote some verses called “How to Get On in Society”. They were intended as a contribution to the then current debate over “U” versus “non-U” speech (“U” being upper-class and “non-U” non-upper-class) and were published in Noblesse Oblige, a collection of essays edited by Nancy Mitford in 1956. One object of the poem was to challenge readers to pick out the “non-U” genteelisms and circumlocutions satirised in Betjeman’s lines. We no longer have (if we ever had) that kind of class-based linguistic demarcation in this country but we do have wide variations in vocabulary…

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