Ok, so I’m writing this wearing an over-sized man’s shirt and sunglasses, looking something like a reject from a Jack Wills catalogue, but honestly, I didn’t realise I sounded posh.
Because I’m not.
POSH, it is rumoured, is an acronym standing for Port Out, Starboard Home. When cruise ships began taking wealthy upper-class type fellows from Britain over to India, the cooler, comfortable and therefore more expensive cabins were on the port side going out, and the starboard side coming home. It was shortened to POSH on tickets and only ‘them types’ could afford such luxury. (Follow this link for other wonderful etymological possibilities).
So, what makes a person posh?
According to the origins of the word, it’s someone who can afford to travel 1st class. But for most people who tell me I’m posh, it’s all about my accent.
Ironically, my own sister ridicules my accent and has done since I was about nine. The rest of my family doesn’t sound like me. They sound like they’re from Cornwall, East London and Scotland. I sound like I’m from Chelsea. Darling.
I’m not sure how this happened.
People presume a lot of things based on a posh accent, usually concerning money, education, standards and experiences. “Yeah, you sound like you like a bit o’ money in ya pocket” is the rudest comment I’ve heard in a while.
One of the things I loved about speaking Spanish as I traveled South America was that my accent became inconsequential. You can’t tell that I sound posh when I (try to) speak Spanish. You can tell that I’m British, but that’s a different matter. And someone speaking English as a second language often can’t tell I sound posh either. And I can’t tell what a non-English speaker’s accent (class?) is like when they speak English. With that barrier removed, you judge people based on different things.
With my history of presumed posh-ness, this was a relief and a chance for expansion, but I became acutely aware of what else I/others could be judged by: appearance, habits, language.
And/then again/but, travel is one of the most privileged things you can do in life. 65% of Americans don’t own a passport. 3 million people board planes every day, but there are 7 billion people in the world.
I don’t know how not to be (sound) posh, and you really can’t (and shouldn’t) help the way you speak, and even if you will only, always find me in Economy, (speaking Spanish?) I want to scream when I realise my accent determines more about me than anything else.
And to go back to the etymology of posh, this fellow who writes for The Dabbler (honestly, didn’t know it existed until JUST now), talks a lot about slang, and of course (of course!) posh is slang.
As he says: “etymologies are the stories behind word…the legends of their creation.” It could be that posh means something else entirely, we just got the story wrong.