Ksenia Markova, a specialist in European secular etiquette, a member of the National Association of Protocol Specialists (NASP), author of books on etiquette, creator of the blog Etiquette748, answers the questions of our readers.
Many people believe that any Englishman or every Frenchwoman is a great expert on etiquette, they say, all the inhabitants of England and France are not even just educated people, but real experts in manners. But it does not occur to you to ask about the intricacies of etiquette from the neighbor below, no matter how intelligent this lady is? The same applies to the British. For example, it happens that when discussing a rule, they write to me: you say this, but in such and such an English outback it is not at all like that. Of course, it may turn out to be “not so”, because Mrs. N is not a guru of English etiquette, this should be clear by default. But you need to separate everyday stories from traditions and rules. I am answering questions in terms of UK rules and regulations.
Photo courtesy of Ksenia Markova
- Should you try to imitate a British accent or might it be offensive?
- In any language there are certain sounds that are not in others, due to this there is the so-called pronunciation. In order to get as close as possible to a more correct and understandable reproduction of sounds for the environment, you have to imitate them a little. But, as a rule, foreigners are often heard not by the presence of an accent, but by intonation, it is more difficult to get rid of it. A person is so constructed that he continues to cling to the way sentences are constructed in his native language, including interrogative and exclamatory ones.
The idea of trying to catch the music of a foreign language, in my opinion, is a good one, and over time it will get better and better. Moreover, others are always pleased to hear that you are trying to speak their language as correctly as possible and similar to them.
As for the UK, it has been an empire for so long, and a huge one, that the English language has acquired a variety of accents, dialects, reprimands both outside and inside (geographic accents).
England is an exceptional country that even in the 21st century it remains very class. In fact, the British are more interested in knowing what class you belong to than where you come from. It is believed that the inhabitants of Foggy Albion like to increase their class level, for example, with the help of any elements in clothing or nuances in language. This topic is still relevant today.
In 1954, British linguist Alan Campbell Ross, a professor at the University of Birmingham, conducted a study "U and non-U English" and described the behavior and use of English in various classes of English society. He coined the terms "U" (from upper) - the upper class and "non-U" - the middle class. The study also spoke about the norms of the written language, but mainly it was about vocabulary.
After a while, the writer Nancy Mitford, one of the six famous Mitford sisters (among whom was the Duchess of Devonshire), published an essay on the English aristocracy, where she gave a list of words and terms, the use of which emphasizes the differences and can serve as an indicator social class. The essay stated that the middle class prefers to use "fancy" words, even neologisms, borrowed words and euphemisms, in an attempt to sound more sophisticated. And the upper classes more often use simple, traditional words in speech that are characteristic (this observation surprised many), in particular, for the working class. Perhaps this is because they are confident in the safety of their social position and do not need to show sophistication.