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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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Queen Elizabeth


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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Prince william and Catherine duchess of cambridge


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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Queen Elizabeth II


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?”

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Prince William and Catherine of Cambridge and their children
Dominic Lipinski/AP/Shutterstock


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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Queen Elizabeth II


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

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Queen Elizabeth II


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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Royal Family picture for Prince Charles birthday


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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Queen Elizabeth II


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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Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of Sussex


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.

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Catherine Duchess of Cambridge


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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Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of Sussex
Ray Tang/Shutterstock


“Refreshments” sounds like a refined word to the American ear, something you’d see printed on an invitation to a fancy party or wedding. However, Fox says that refreshments are only served at middle-class events. The royal family and others in the upper class simply have “food and drink.” Here are more bizarre eating habits of the royal family.

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Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge
Tim Rooke/Shutterstock


Despite the particularities in their vocabulary, the members of the British royal family are still human. Like any humans, they occasionally like to indulge in something sweet after a meal. But while we Americans call it dessert, they call it pudding (which includes all types of sweet treats, including actual pudding). According to Fox, dessert is becoming slightly more acceptable to say, as younger people in the upper-middle class are influenced by American English. However, asking if anyone “wants a sweet” after a meal “will get you immediately classified as ­middle-middle or below.”

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Prince William and Prince Harry
DAVID HARTLEY/Shutterstock

Mum and Dad

Ma, Pops, Mommy, Daddy—we all had different names for our parents growing up, but for the most part, they turned into “Mom and Dad” as we got older. Not so for the royal family. They call their parents Mummy and Daddy even as adults. Isn’t it endearing to think of Prince Charles calling Queen Elizabeth Mummy? Next, find out more things you didn’t know about the British royal family.

Claire Nowak
Claire is a writer, editor and digital strategist with more than 10 years of experience reporting on facts, trivia and quotes. Her natural curiosity lends itself to stories on history, trivia and "Did you know?" curiosities, and her work has appeared in Taste of Home, The Family Handyman, The Healthy and iHeart Media. A former editor at Reader's Digest and proud Marquette University grad, she lives in Milwaukee with her fiancé and their corgi and enjoys binge-listening to true-crime podcasts.