Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Posh nosh tosh

I recently went to a Pizza Hut for the first time in over 20 years. Great value. Super salad bar, if you like cold pasta with white gloop on it. But a strangely worded menu.

Not that strange: pizzas are what you expect in a Pizza Hut, and pizzas are what you get. But I was struck by the proud heading ‘Posh Pizzas’. By posh they meant that these pizzas had toppings that you’d normally expect to find somewhere really exclusive, like Pizza Express or Zizzi. Prosciutto. Chanterelles. Red onion. None of your basic ham and pineapple rubbish; that was relegated to page two. And it occurred me how confused the current use of the word ‘posh’ is.

In the Pizza Hut context I suppose it’s meant to mean ‘sophisticated’, ‘upmarket’, ‘a little bit special’. But while posh is a compliment when it comes to food, it’s more often used as an insult. Even, in the case of politicians, a bona fide reason to disqualify you from public office, if the hysterical inverted snobbery directed at Cameron, Osborne et al is anything to go by. So people described as being posh splutter, strenuously deny it and protest their ‘ordinary’ credentials.

Not me. I once had a very charming evening in a club in Cambridge, huddled outside on a tiny balcony seeking respite from the din with a bunch of young clubbers I’d never met before in my life. ‘Cor, you’re so posh!’ they marvelled. ‘I’ve never spoken to anyone who speaks like you before! I can’t get over the way you talk!’

I suppose I could have countered with ‘And you’re so common! I didn’t know people really spoke like you! I never thought I’d make conversation with anyone so rough!’ I didn’t, of course; they were thoroughly nice people and I enjoyed laying it on thick. By the time I left I sounded like the Queen putting on her best telephone voice.

But it illustrated a puzzling point. Why is it considered offensive to allude to someone’s weight, plainness of face, colour — even BO — yet absolutely fine to discuss and even mock the way they speak to their face, if the way they speak is Received Pronunciation?

It’s all relative, anyway. What counts as posh in Pizza Hut would be seen as slumming it anywhere else. And what about Posh Spice? If she’s posh, I’d hate to see Common Spice.

Would you put the cosh to posh, or…  sorry, I’ve run out of rhymes. But I’d love to hear your views.


  1. The kids at my daughter's school marvelled (perfectly good-naturedly) at her poshness when she arrived so, ever since, she has hastened to shed all her consonants and asks me anxiously when she;ll be old enough to be allowed to swear.

  2. But you can swear poshly, can't you? Posh swear words could be a whole new blog post.

  3. This is SO true! RP speakers, people from the south, uni educated, boden wearing, private school teachers* - all have to take it on the chin and ha, ha.... but if you throw it back at them then stand well clear of a tirade of abuse!

    Grrrrr...this makes me so cross. A spiffing post, what?

    *all me.

    1. I think abuse, whoever it's directed at, is just a sign of insecure people trying to cover up their inadequacies. It's the casual contempt that gets me. Perhaps we should set up a help group... Thanks for dropping in!

  4. Ohh I love a bit of posh.......Was recently having a meal with some school mums (yawn) & the delightful French lady sitting next to me (my friend), leant over and said in her thick french accent (please imagine) 'Sarah I cannot understand this woman' gesturing in the subtle way only the French can, to a woman a few bodies down from us, 'Is it because she is 'Rough'?' I laugh and nod (subtly) she then says 'Can I say that Sarah?' I nod and add 'But only to me' She smiles, relieved, and says 'ahh it is because I am too posh to understand her, no?'

    1. The French have an insouciance that we could all learn from. She sounds like a kindred spirit.