In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire…

A bout of chuntering with Milla has led me to realise how unforgiving I am of those who incur my grammatical, stylistical and vocabularical wrath (and yes, vocabularical is a word. A word I made up. Shush, I’m ranting)

There are a couple of things which really really really annoy me.

It’s not a toilet. It’s a loo. The origins of “loo” are unknown but there are a number of wonderful theories… all which are much better than toilet (which seems to be an Americanism). Lavatory (from the Latin lavātōrium) is of course, even better.

Unless you live in an airport, you do not have a lounge in your house. You have a sitting room (which is normally slightly more informal) or possibly a drawing room. Not used for drawing, but rather withdrawing.

Sofa. Sofa. Sofa. Couch? Brings up visions of Land of Leather. Ditto settee

It may sound French. It may be French. It’s still horrible. You probably get serviettes in a McDonalds. If you’re at my house, you get napkins.

Another Americanism (and hey, this isn’t a beat-the-Americans-over-the-head-with-a-stick post it’s just I don’t like certain ways they do things… politics amongst others). It’s a dinner jacket. You wear it when having dinner. Which neatly leads me onto…

I’ve never understood this one. In my house it was always… Breakfast, Lunch, Tea, Supper. Breakfast is pretty self-explanatory. Lunch, meal in the middle of the day. Tea, either a cup of tea or a small snack when home from school (at around 4/5 ish). Supper, meal at the end of the day, around 8/9 o’clock. Some people have Breakfast, Dinner and then Tea. How does that work?

Hello, pleased/nice to meet you/how’s it going:
Even I have to admit, I’m a bit slack with this one… it depends to whom I am talking. Interviewers, friends of parents, N’s parents/friends, certain people I went to uni/school with? “Hello. How d’you do?”. Random person I’m being introduced to in the pub? “Hi, how’s it going?”

Setting the table:
Fork on the left. Knife on the right (blade facing in please). Finished eating? Knife and fork together in the middle of the plate (blade again, facing in).

Fork in left hand, knife in right. Elbows off table (unless you’ve finished). Finishing your mouthful before talking. Wait until everyone’s got food before starting. Napkins on lap, not tucked in anywhere else. If you’re a child, ask to leave the table, don’t just assume you can. If you’re an adult and you need to go somewhere, excuse yourself. If you’re a guest, always offer to help clear away. Don’t stack the plates. Certainly don’t scape the plates at the table. Take them out to the kitchen 2 (or 3 if you can manage it) at a time.

Snobbish? Maybe. Sue me.

EDIT 200308: Thank you peach – a typo meant I’d completely undone all my ranting previously. Knife is now firmly placed in the right hand. Phew.

28 thoughts on “In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire…

  1. Milla says:

    yes yes yes yes yes.
    oh wise and wonderful nut-free cow. every word is golden. will forward this to my husband who’s even worse than me!

  2. nuttycow says:

    Hoorah Milla! A kindred spirit. Having read a couple of your posts, you are firmly on my “must read” list.

  3. The Major says:

    In my place you get serviettes, that’s how cool i am.

  4. The Editter says:

    My mother in law was English and I’ve had to endure quaint old Englishisms like sitting room and settee from not only her son, but her thoroughly Maori grandson. Said grandson asked me what I was on about when I said “loo” though, he’d never heard of it. He asks me what’s that funny word I use for toilet?

    Here in New Zealand tea and dinner are interchangeable (although tea is more informal – and teaparty and dinner party are definitely not interchangeable). Supper was something left out for the babysitter – a couple of biscuits and a cup of tea for 9pmish.

  5. liits says:

    We always had dinner at dinnertime and tea at teatime. Good old Alan Bennett mocked this in a program “Dinner at Noon”.

  6. nuttycow says:

    Major – I’m not going to disown you because you have serviettes… I just won’t come round for supper πŸ˜‰

    Hey Ed – teaparty? As in a chimps’ teaparty?

    Hello litts, welcome – dinner is a little different from supper though isn’t it? Dinner makes me think of dinnerparties whereas supper makes me think of cottage pie in the kitchen.

  7. KAREN says:

    Great post!

    Now this might be a Northern thing, but growing up in our house it was Settee/Living-room and Breakfast, Dinner and Tea…with a serviette, naturally. Unless you were posh. And you weren’t allowed to be posh where I lived.

  8. nuttycow says:

    Hi Karen – welcome. I really should have put a caveat on the post stating that although the things mentioned annoy me, it doesn’t mean I’m going to wage a war of terror on you if you don’t agree! I think Dinner and Tea is a Northern thing… but I’m not entirely sure why πŸ™‚

  9. Edward says:

    This is right up my alley, my cup of tea, if you like (served at teatime, between lunch and supper). I wonder, though: where does dinner fit into your idiolect? In mine, it’s posh supper, or supper for more than the immediate family. And as if tuxedos weren’t bad enough (in their place, of course, they’re fab, their place being either at dinner, or at a fancy party, or at a fancy dress party when I tend to wear a dinner jacket with proper black silk bow tie (not a ready-tied, elasticated job) on top and running apparel down below), Americans seem to think they are the dress of choice for weddings. They are SO not. Wouldn’t surprise me to find out that they wear morning dress at dinner. Ooh, I do love a good rant.

  10. nuttycow says:

    Ah Edward… a man after my own heart.

    Dinner is, exactly as you say, posh supper. You have dinner parties (or kitchen sups, depending on the company). Dinner Jackets are NOT for weddings.

    I will insist that all men attending my wedding wear morning dress. Top hats and all. AND NO CRAVATS.

    That is all.

  11. Jo says:

    I think this is a class thing as well as a regional one. I read an article in the Guardian a few years ago which mentioned both loo/toilet and napkin/serviette as important distinguishers, but didn’t specify which was which! Coming from a lower-middle class household in the North, and going from there to Cambridge, I genuinely didn’t know where my toilet and serviette had come from and if they were common or posh! I had to ask someone posher than me. She explained that anything French (toilet, serviette) was a no no, because, well, we hate the French.

    I grew up with toilets, couches, lounges, serviettes and tea (dinner jackets or otherwise never figured). These days I have toilets (or WCs if I’m talking to plumbers), sofas (I agree about World of Leather), a front room (though my parents still have a lounge), dinner (though it’s still tea in my head) and serviettes (which become napkins if they’re not made of paper, but they usually are). Dinner jackets rarely figure, but when they do they are dinner jackets. Supper is a bowl of Weetabix in your pyjamas.

    Despite all this, I do know how to set and clear the table, though as a left-hander I reserve the right to eat, whether with fork or spoon, with my left hand. Ditto chopsticks!

  12. nuttycow says:

    Arg Jo – I left a lovely long comment in reply and it hasn’t worked.

    Can’t remember what I said now although it was something along the lines of “I think you’re onto something with the serviette/paper, napkin/cloth thing” and “I don’t know what it’s like to be left handed so I’ll let you off”.

    You’ll have to make a response up… I’m sure it’ll be much more interesting!

  13. Hannah says:

    Great to have found your blog, Nutty Cow. I’m a bit of a ‘cow’ person too…and I seem to be rather a snob as well as I agree with everything you say. My other half is from Scotland and he says ‘lounge’ etc….I bite my tongue! Another argument we have is where would you place the dessert spoon…? I put it on the inside of the knife (and a small fork inside the fork)…he puts it across the top of the mat – drives me spare!!!!

  14. nuttycow says:

    Hi Hannah, welcome.

    Dessert spoons (which are used to eat pudding, never “sweet”)… well, you take knifes and forks from outside in so theorteically they should be on the inside. However, I hate to side with your fella but from experience, the dessert spoon and fork are either bought out with the pudding or they are laid across the top of the plate.

  15. Edward says:

    I was taught (God knows by whom) that one ate dessert (or pudding, but never, I agree “sweet”) with a fork.

  16. nuttycow says:

    I think you’re supposed to eat pudding with a fork and a spoon… hang on… google time…

    This woman seems to have is sussed.

  17. Milla says:

    Never sweet, and I would argue with dessert because I love pudding. What is loathsome is piss elegance. Happy Birthday for tomorrow, have to go to some mill thing so will not be on computer, a most strange state of being.

  18. Peach says:


    Although, unless you are left-handed, it’s fork in left hand and knife in right…?

    One for your list:

    it is NOT dessert, it is pudding. And it is most certainly not “sweet”


  19. red says:

    Oh, dear I thought I’d left a comment here saying I didn’t think you were snobbish, just ‘proper’ but it doesn’t appear to have worked. πŸ™

  20. nuttycow says:

    Milla – I have no idea what “Piss Elegance” is but I’ll assume it has something to do with your last blog post.

    Peach – yep. Fork in left, knife in right. Isn’t that what I said?

    Red – I’m not sure I believe you πŸ˜‰ but I’ll take the compliment anyway. One day I’ll do a voice post and you’ll be able to see whether I talk as well as I inflict my ideals on people πŸ™‚

  21. Mister Wibble says:

    Stop it – you’re scaring me πŸ˜‰

  22. Expatmum says:

    Now I’m really nervous in case I make a mistake or split an infinitive, but you missed “kitchenette”. (Doesn’t that make you think of lino floors?)
    Anyway, I have recently read the letters of Noel Coward and he uses the word lu-lu. I do remember reading that lu-lu was the original word for loo, so I will now take myself off and try to find out more.

  23. nuttycow says:

    Pah, expatmum, I don’t mind if you split infinitives. To boldy go and all that πŸ˜‰

  24. Jayne says:

    We didn’t have a lounge, sitting or living room when I was growing up. We had the “other room” – as in bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, other room…

  25. Nobby&Me says:

    I am right-handed but I have always held my fork in my right hand and my knife in my left. Hence I always get the table settings wrong for everyone else – it really got on my Mum’s nerves but never got me out of setting the table. Boo hoo.
    So what would you say to my hubby when he asks on a Sunday ‘Do you want dinner at dinnertime or dinner at teatime?’ I want Sunday dinner at lunchtime myself… (I think I need to lie down)

  26. nuttycow says:

    Jayne – welcome…as I said before… it doesn’t matter what you had… as long as you were happy πŸ™‚

    Nobby – hello. Strange person πŸ˜‰
    I don’t know what I’d say back to your husband. Maybe I’d go and lie down with a cold compress?

  27. Mud says:

    You are quite right! I’m sure you are familiar with Betjeman’s “How to get on in society” poem:

    It is great to find that other people are just as picky as I am.

  28. nuttycow says:

    Hi Mud – welcome. I don’t know that poem but I’m going to go and have a look now.

    I love being picky. It makes me feel superior πŸ˜‰

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