Is there a social class structure in your country? In the UK many people are very aware of social class and their place in society. We’re speaking about class today. Welcome to Aprender Inglés con Reza y Craig.
The Class System
What is a class system? – Where people are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories, the most common being the upper, middle and lower classes.
Working class – blue collar workers, proletariat, lower class
(Upper and lower) middle class – white collar workers, bourgeoisie, professional classes
Upper class – the elite, aristocracy, the ruling class, top one or two percent of the population
Nouveau riche – people who were not born into money, but acquired it, looked down upon by those born into the upper class.
Old money – describes people born into money, not nouveau riche, typically upper class
You don’t have to be rich to be upper class (in the UK – it’s different in USA!)
To be posh (pijo/a) – adj.
Snob – noun, snobbish/snobby – adj., snobbishness/snobbery – noun
Public school (= an old elite private school), private school, prep school
Lower class nicknames: chavs, oiks, plebs, the hoi polloi, the masses, common (people), the lower orders. (NB. These can be construed as offensive)
Upper class nicknames: la-di-da, toffee-nosed, upper-class twits, Hooray Henry’s, toffs with plummy accents, hoity-toity, swanky, fancy pants (NB. These can be construed as offensive)
To feel insecure
To be born with a silver spoon in your mouth
To be out of your depth/league – in a social circle/atmosphere you aren’t used to
The aspiring classes – those wanting to be in a higher class
A social climber – someone who takes advantage of people/situations to rise in social stature
Social mobility* – the ability to change from one social class to another
(* Astounding fact. Most serious studies concur that social mobility in the UK is, without doubt, less possible than it used to be about 40 to 70 years ago – the golden age of social mobility in the UK was about 1950 – 1980!)
Upwardly V downwardly mobile – social mobility
Reverse snobbery – being so proud of your lower class status that you dislike the higher classes
The landed gentry – upper class landowners of inherited land
To live below the poverty line – to earn/have so little that face financial hardship
The marginal classes – very lower class groups below the poverty line
The working poor – an ever more common term describing people who have a job but are still very poor
The idle rich – those so rich that they don’t need to do anything to survive
Caste – a social classification of a group
Caste system – a social system whereby everything is organised according to people’s caste, and social mobility isn’t really possible. (eg. still very important in India and other countries, where the lowest of the low are known as “Untouchables”)
Accent and the way a British person speaks is a class indicator. However, vocabulary can also show your social-economic background
Let’s play ‘Posh or not?’
What do you say?
Booze or alcohol?
Toilet or lavatory? (Reza: I often say bathroom or loo)
Serviette or napkin?
Sweet or pudding? (Reza: neither – I usually say dessert)
Drawing room/sitting room or lounge (Reza: neither – I usually say living room)
Sofa or settee?
Which social class are you? Would you like to change your social class?
Is there a class system in Spain? If there is, where are we?
Which newspapers do the different classes read?
How do the different classes vote?
Do you judge people when you first meet them? (clothes, speech and accent, education, manners)
Will social class soon be a thing of the past?
Do you believe in a “classless society”
Is there any race of people where snobbery seems more prevalent than others?
The Great British class calculator: What class are you?
What is your annual income?
Do you own or rent?
Do you have savings?
Who do you know socially? (hang out with) scientist, lorry driver, university lecturer, shop assistant
Cultural activities: watch sports, listen to jazz, do arts and crafts, go to the opera, socialize at home
Class System sketch with John Cleese
To look up to (someone) – admirar, respetar
To look down on (someone) – menospreciar
To have innate breeding – crianza innata
…and now it’s your turn to practise your English. How is your part of the world socially divided? Please send us feedback on this.
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