To a foreigner’s ear, a lot of British people might sound posh. But there’s more to poshness than having a certain accent. Being posh is synonymous with enjoying a life of privilege and belonging to the upper echelons of society. Here are some indicators that tell you someone might be posh
1. They never go to the ‘toilet’
If someone says they need the ‘toilet’, you can be almost 99% sure they are not posh – unless they are but don’t want anyone to know. A truly upper class person would never use the word ‘toilet’, because it’s considered far too harsh. Instead, they would ask where the ‘lavatory’ is. The word ‘loo’ is also quite posh, but is so widely used now by people who are not posh, that it’s not as strong an indicator as ‘lavatory’.
2. They say ‘jolly’ instead of ‘very’
‘Very’ is one of those words most people use a lot. Not if you’re posh. If you’re upper class, you use this word as little as possible and swap it out for ‘jolly’ which on its own means ‘happy, cheerful’. Watch out for the phrase ‘jolly good’ in particular. Anyone who uses it without being ironic is most likely a posh person. If they absolutely have to use the word ‘very’ (jolly doesn’t always work as a synonym, e.g. you wouldn’t say ‘I’m jolly busy right now’) they will pronounce it ‘vair’. Equally, the word ‘really’ is becomes ‘rarely’ and the word ‘power’ sounds like ‘pahr’ if uttered by a truly posh person.
3. They shop at Waitrose
If you rank supermarkets according to their reputation for poshness (which is largely based on the price of groceries but not entirely), Waitrose comes out top. The average person would not do their weekly shop at Waitrose. You might go there to pick up a nice bottle of wine because you think buying it from Waitrose will ensure high standards. But doing a big shop here could wreck an average income. This is why if you hear anyone going to Waitrose to stock up on food and essentials, you can assume that either, they do it to get rid of lots of money or they’re just used to going there because that’s what ‘mummy and daddy’ always did when they were growing up. You can make similar assumptions for Ocado (Waitrose’s online shop) Marks and Spencer.
4. They mispronounce their own surnames
There are certain first names which are considered posh. These include Harvey, Eliza and Olivia and on the more extreme spectrum Horatio, Tabitha or Octavia. When it comes to surnames, things get more complicated. To make out whether someone is likely to be posh from their last name it’s not enough to read it. Ask how it’s pronounced, or, the other way round, if you know someone’s surname from them telling you, ask them how it’s spelt.
If the name’s pronunciation bears no resemblance to its spelling, as if the basic rules of vowels, consonants and syllables simply didn’t apply to it, the person who owns that name is most probably posh. Examples are: Beauchamp (pronounced Beecham), Featherstonhaugh (pronounced Fanshaw) and Ralph Fiennes (pronounced Wrayf Fines).
5. They own a wine fridge
A wine fridge is something the average person can happily live without. If you’re posh, you simply must own one. So if you find out someone you know has a wine fridge at their house, or at their family home, the likelihood of them being upper class has just shot up by 50%. Also look out for issues of Tatler (a magazine aimed at upper middle class and upper class people) lying around.
Other things commonly associated with posh people include anything to do with horses (watching horse races, playing polo, owning a horse, going fox-hunting), eating cucumber sandwiches and bread pudding, playing croquet and cricket as well as wearing red trousers.