‘Par­don’ is way bet­ter than ‘what’

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

IT’S A de­bate that has long di­vided the classes: Whether to say “what?” or “par­don” when ask­ing some­one to re­peat them­selves.

Among the up­per ech­e­lons, the favoured term has al­ways been “what?”, with “par­don” widely deemed to be worse than swear­ing.

But, decades af­ter novelist Nancy Mit­ford fa­mously branded “what” as “U” (up­per class) and “par­don” as “non-U” (mid­dle class), it seems the tide has turned.

Up­per-class bi­ble The Tatler has deemed “par­don” to be the more ac­cept­able phrase, de­scrib­ing it as “re­fined” and “well-man­nered”, while “what” is likely “to be snapped or even roared”, and can leave the speaker look­ing “ar­ro­gant”.

The so­ci­ety mag­a­zine said: “Chil­dren find it es­pe­cially hard to de­liver a pol­ished “what” and are ex­tremely likely to ap­pear spoilt and even thug­gish.

“And so, al­though ac­cepted high-born wis­dom tells us that ‘what’ is the way for­ward, we rec­om­mend ap­proach­ing it with cau­tion.”

How­ever, The Tatler ad­mits its de­ci­sion will “hor­rify” some.

In her book Class, novelist Jilly Cooper con­fessed: “I once heard my son re­gal­ing his friends, ‘Mummy says that par­don is a much worse word than f***’.”

For those who can­not bring them­selves to ut­ter “par­don”, other terms deemed to be so­cially ac­cept­able in­clude: “Sorry?”, “Eh”, “Could you re­peat that?” and “Hm?”

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