Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Why Posh Is U

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posh-U The letter U is often clued by "posh" or "upper-class" in cryptic crosswords.

Times 24365: In bar posh men only work so hard (4,1,3) BUST A GUT
                     BUT (bar) around U (posh) STAG (men only)

In the next, the wordplay uses this meaning of U.

Times 24368: You, say, may represent the aristocracy (5,5) UPPER CLASS
                     You is a homophone of U, which represents "upper-class".

Non-U

If "posh" or "upper-class" is U, then its opposite is non-U.

Guardian 25015 (Brendan): Release victim held in plebeian uprising (8) UNBUTTON
                                        BUTT (victim), in NON-U (plebeian) reversed

Background

In 1954, British linguist Alan Ross wrote an article on the difference in English language usage according to social class. He coined the terms U and non-U in in this article. His idea was expanded and popularized by author Nancy Mitford, in her 1956 book Noblesse Oblige.

The Wikipedia page on U and Non-U English gives a table of U words with their non-U equivalents. I wonder if this classification still holds in 2010. (If it does, it's unflattering news for me as a lot of my everyday vocabulary is non-U.)

Caution!

Posh need not be U always. It is anagram fodder in this example:

Guardian 24911 (Boatman): In a way, it's irrelevant; Posh is insane for quick exposure (8) SNAPSHOT 
                                          NA (POSH)* in ST

In crosswords that allow mentions of living persons (such as the Guardian), Posh is often a reference to Victoria Beckham.

Sometimes setters use the words "smart" or "fashionable" to clue U, which is debatable since the U and non-U meanings are not related with fashion.

Solve These 

Times 24392: Get on, struggling with posh language (6)
Times 24550: Posh, donning suit in sale (7)
Times 23927: For nobs to get into public vehicle - a dreadful shock! (6)

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8 comments

dram said...

Excellent article shuchi, as always. Quite right to point out the fashionable/unfashionable connection, which seems very popular.

My parents are non-U; my wife's parents are U. Thus I have beenn subjected to some strict correction over the past 25 years or so!

Anonymous said...

24392 - get on + u - TONGUE

shyam said...

For nobs to get into public vehicle - a dreadful shock! (6)

TRA{U}M A

shyam said...

Times 24550: Posh, donning suit in sale (7)

A{U}CTION

Khian said...

Posh, donning suit in sale (7)

A(U)CTION

For nobs to get into public vehicle - a dreadful shock! (6)

TRA(U)MA

Thoroughly enjoying you inputs.

Anonymous said...

How does 'donning suit' translate to

'action'? Also, where does the extra 'a' come in in Trauma?

Shuchi said...

How does 'donning suit' translate to 'action'?

'suit' translates to 'action', in the sense of legal prosecution.
posh donning suit => U taking ACTION around it

where does the extra 'a' come in in Trauma?

The 'a' is right there in the clue, before 'dreadful shock'. Yes, it's easy to miss!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification Shuchi.