Alexander Waugh

Nanny Knows Best

In Defence of Aristocracy

By

HarperCollins 160pp £15 order from our bookshop

THE USE OF the word ‘toff’ to deride anyone of a certain peculiar breeding seems to have gained an unopposed currency. Popular newspapers positively encourage it. One day it might be fun to go through a week’s editions of The Guardian replacing every instance of the word with ‘yid’, ‘towel-head’ or ‘prole’ just to see how it reads. Of course these terms will always stir up hornets’ nests but it is interesting – is it not? – that ‘toff’ should be the only such term of abuse to have passed through the great filtering machine of political correctness without the raising of a single media editor’s eyebrow. Perhaps the reason for this is that toffs don’t particularly mind what they are called and, even if they did, would be too well mannered to complain about it. How many generations of toffs were brought up on Nanny’s old mantra, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me’?

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Tarantino's latest film is 'a fairy tale about Hollywood, where fantasy is an industrial product and the boulevards… ,
    • 'I don’t think we’re here on Earth to be Happy. I think we’re here on Earth to help God. I am a messianic writer'.… ,
    • 'Darley’s book is not a mad dash through this most compelling and complex of English counties. Nor is it another ti… ,
    • 'Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition,… ,
    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,