|Bike or Bicycle||Cycle|
|Dinner Jacket||Dress Suit|
|They've a very nice house.||They have a lovely home.|
|Ill (in bed)||Sick (in bed)|
|I was sick on the boat.||I was ill on the boat.|
|Sofa||Settee or Couch|
|Lavatory or Loo||Toilet|
|Lunch||Dinner (for midday meal)|
|How d'you do?||Pleased to meet you|
The English author Nancy Mitford was alerted and immediately took up the usage in an essay, “The English Aristocracy” that was published by Stephen Spender in his magazine Encounter in 1954. Mitford provided a glossary of terms used by the upper-classes, some of which are in the table at right, unleashing an anxious national debate about English class-consciousness and snobbery, which involved a good deal of soul-searching that itself provided fuel for the fires. The essay was reprinted, with contributions by Evelyn Waugh, John Betjeman and others, as well as Ross's original article, as Noblesse Oblige: an Inquiry into the Identifiable Characteristics of the English Aristocracy in 1956. Betjeman's poem How to Get on in Society concluded the collection.
The U and non-U issue could have been taken lightheartedly, but at the time many took it very seriously. This was a reflection of the anxieties of the middle class in 1950s Britain, recently emerged from post-war austerities. In particular the media used it as a launch pad for many stories, making much more out of it than was first intended. In the meantime, the idea that one might “improve oneself” by adopting the culture and manner of one's “betters,” instinctively assented to before World War II, was now greeted with resentment.
Refinements of language usage that identify the speaker are nothing new: see shibboleth and précieuses. Aristocrats are not the only social group that define themselves by linguistic usages that identify outsiders: compare U.S. AAVE and the Southern U.S. good ol' boy network, and see also Street cred. Many of the words were slightly outdated by the 1950s, being more typical of the 1850s; unlike some other groups the English aristocracy and middle class were not self-consciously adopting a new group vocabulary, but had not changed in using some words during a century of great social changes.
Some of the terms and the ideas behind them were largely obsolete by the late 20th century, when, in the United Kingdom, reverse snobbery led younger members of the British upper and middle classes to adopt elements of working class speech (see: Estuary English and Mockney). There must be very few people who today use the term “looking-glass” in preference to “mirror.” Many, if not most, of the differences however are still very much current - and therefore perfectly usable - as class-indicators.