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13 Words You Will Never Hear the Royal Family Say

Some terms are considered too improper to be spoken by royalty. In her book Watching the English, social anthropologist Kate Fox explains which words are banned from the royal family’s vocabulary and the surprising reasons why.

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Tea

FYI, we’re talking about the meal, not the soothing, healthy drink. In many parts of the United Kingdom, the evening meal that takes place between 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. is called tea. However, this term is typically associated with the working class. Members of upper social classes, including the royal family, call this meal dinner or supper.

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Portion

The royals don’t watch their portion sizes to lose weight. Instead, they watch their helping sizes, using another upper-class term. Check out these myths about the royal family that are totally false.

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Pardon

If and when (we can be optimistic!) you get the honor of meeting anyone in the royal family, you’ll want to act on your most polite behavior, excusing yourself when necessary. But whatever you do, don’t say “pardon.” We may think it’s formal, but apparently, it’s like a curse word to the royals. Instead, say “sorry” or “sorry, what?”

Prince William and Catherine of Cambridge and their childrenDominic Lipinski/AP/Shutterstock

Toilet

Blame this word’s French origin for why it’s banned in royal circles. If you’re looking for a restroom in Buckingham Palace, ask for the loo or the lavatory. Find out exactly what to do if you ever get to meet a royal.

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Patio

Some Brits have a patio in their backyards. The royal family, however, accents their landscaping with a terrace.

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Lounge

While some Brits use the phrase “living room” to describe the main front room, the more common term is lounge. The royal family, on the other hand, uses neither. They refer to it as a drawing room or sitting room. Don't miss the 12 times the royals broke their own protocol.

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Couch

And what do members of the British upper class sit on when they relax in their sitting rooms? It's certainly not a settee or a couch, two words used by those in the middle class or lower. Instead, the royal family would sit on a sofa.

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Perfume

When your friend says she found the secret to making perfume last longer, stop her mid-sentence. The royals don’t say “perfume,” remind her. They say “scent,” as odd as that might sound. In the United States, the only person we can imagine saying, “I love your scent” is an obsessed stalker, but maybe if we say it enough, we’ll get used to it. Maybe. Check out these candid, rarely seen photos of the royal family.

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Posh

Mark this as one of the British slang words you didn’t realize you knew. Sadly, the royal family doesn’t use it—nor does the rest of upper-class society, even though their lifestyle is the epitome of the word. They replace posh with smart.

Catherine Duchess of CambridgeShutterstock

Function

Americans know that attending a work function simply means going to an event hosted by or relating to your workplace. But the way British people refer to social gatherings is a telltale sign of what class they are in. Here's how Kate Fox breaks it down: Lower-class people go to a "do." Those in the middle class usually call it a "function." Upper-class people just call it a party.

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