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A Sunny Place for Shady People

Pithy, contrarian, politically incorrect and curmudgeonly rants on sex, money, power and politics and religion and philosophy. In short: Nothing matters, everything changes and there are no guarantees. The rest is rationalization and bribery. (c) Tom Milner 2002-2003. DIRECTORY of offensive POSTS at Archives: 07/09/03. RECOMMENDED BLOGS: Archives: 07/29/03. email: theoldbuzzard AT sunnyplaceforshadypeople DOT com.

Friday, June 06, 2003
Monday, June 09, 2003

(This is the seventh in a series of reverential reviews of Paul Fussell's Class: A Guide Through the American Status System. New York: Dorset Press, 1990. Out of print but available at discount on line.)

Another, and immediate, social marker is one's speech. Perhaps it's the most clearly visible (or audible) giveaway of one's class.

Examples most obvious: "Proles say tux, middles tuxedo, but both are considered low by uppers, who say dinner jacket or (higher) black tie."

An absolute class divider is the use of the double negative by proles, as in "I can't get no satisfaction."

"[M]anaging grammatical number, as in 'He don't' ... are not just 'slips' .... They signal virtually a different dialect ...."

Pronunciation and vocabulary, however, are even more reliable class indicators, especially between middles and uppers.

"The 'grand' words exquisite, despicable, hospitable invite the the middle class to stress the second syllable: those anxious to leave no doubt of their social desirability stress the first."

Patina is a verbal trap for the middle class, which insists on stressing the second syllable, instead of the "proper" first.

The middles seek always to impress with genteel or polysyllabic words.

Or, as Lord Melbourne concluded: "The higher and lower classes, there's some good in them, but the middle classes are all affectation and conceit and pretense and concealment."

And one should never say home when one means house, if only to protect your upper class standing. Home is hopelessly middle class.

"[T]he middle class, by nature both puritanical and terrified of public opinion, welcomed home because, to its dirty mind, house carried bad associations. One spoke of a rest home, but of a bawdy, whore-, fancy, or sporting house."

Middle class euphemisms: lavatories or rest rooms; expecting (for pregnant) ; dentures; passing away; underachiever (for stupid); mental illness; handicapped (or, worse, the challenged).

"If each class has one word it responds to uniquely, the upper class probably likes secure or liquid best. The word of the upper middle class is right .... The middle class likes right too, but the word that really excites the middles is luxury .... Spotless is also a middle class favorite."

"High proles are suckers for easy .... And the word of the classes below is free: 'we never go to anything that's not free,' as the low-prole housewife said."


Highly Recommended, Unrelated: Elizabeth Drew, "The Neocons in Power," The New York Review of Books, June 12, 2003

The rant appears on Mondays and Thursdays.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Thursday, June 05, 2003

To paraphrase James McNeill Whistler (not much consulted since the 19th century), on viewing a work of art, you should never say it is not good, but rather that you don't like it: and then you're perfectly safe.

Your ass is covered.

You'll not have to intelligently defend your "feelings," but you'll have to justify any criticism.

We're still unsure whether to trust the "critics" in any field: music, theatre, painting, writing.

There's a Generally Accepted As Safe school that demands homage to the established canon in an artistic arena.

But: trust your own judgement.

First: Know who you are.

(We know people who don't even trust themselves, who don't take themselves personally enough -- much less trust anyone else.)

When we toiled in the groves of academe, we were wary of those students who agreed too hastily with us. And if too many agreed, we figured we must be wrong.

Ignore critics.

Dictate your own choice in art.

Or anything else.


Unrelated, Recommended (Book review with undertones of social class compositon of armed services): "The Horror is Seductive," by John Gregory Dunne, The New York Review of Books, May 29, 2003.

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