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I wonder if there is a word for someone from an upper-class background who deliberately adopts some lower-class mannerisms (such as using words associated with lower social status or putting on an accent).

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    Of course, one might say that this person is "slumming", though that term is more often used facetiously. – Hot Licks Jun 3 '15 at 12:41
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    I think there might be a few different ways this could be interpreted, and perhaps a different word in each case. Is this person mocking lower-class people, is he seeking to "be like" or curry favour with lower-class people, or his he outright deceiving or pretending to be? I'd imagine there'd be a nuance to each scenario that you'd wish to capture with your word. – robert Jun 3 '15 at 14:44
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    One possibility is vernacularizer, which may be especially on point here, since vernacular can mean, according to Merriam-Webster, "using a language or dialect native to a region or country rather than a literary, cultured, or foreign language." – Sven Yargs Jun 3 '15 at 23:09
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In the UK this is often called 'Mockney' from mock+Cockney.

Cockney
Linguistically, Cockney English refers to the accent or dialect of English traditionally spoken by working-class Londoners. In recent years, many aspects of Cockney English have become part of general South East English speech, producing a variant known as Estuary English.

Several British politicians are guilty of this, in feeble attempts to make themselves more appealing to the working classes.Here is Conservative MP George Osborne at it, as recorded by The Telegraph newspaper.

Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair was also guilty of it.

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An equivalent expression in AmE would be to say that someone has "Gone/went Ghetto"/redneck/cholo/trailer-park.

  • The thing with "mockney" though, and what I think the OP wants, is that the adopter stays resolutely upper/middle class and would never think of even visiting lower class areas, let alone live there; although once "gentrification" begins in such places, they may be drawn... – Margana Jun 3 '15 at 12:16
  • note that almost all of these terms in american english carry racial undertones which may offend the listener. being 'ghetto' is associated with blackness. 'trailer trash/park' or 'redneck' associated with whiteness, etc. Basically different types of underclass. – hownowbrowncow Jun 3 '15 at 13:53
  • @hownowbrowncow Interestingly, the word “ghetto” originally referred to primarily-Jewish neighborhoods, and has only since been expanded from Jewish to any ethnic minority-majority neighborhoods. The term is not specific to blacks, except in certain parts of America where black-majority neighborhoods are the only minority-majority neighborhoods encountered. – KRyan Jun 3 '15 at 14:51
  • @hownowbrowncow - The US of A is a land of many races and cultures. While there is certainly something to offend every member of the populace, the majority of Americans accept it as a side-effect of freedom. Various ethnic, racial, and regional ideosyncrasies become fashion at times. The words used to describe these trends will always be offensive to the "enlightened ignorant" - those who willfully ignore the xenophobic instinct that is an integral part of human nature and insist that all people are the same. The rest of us just laugh it off. – Oldbag Jun 4 '15 at 10:59
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Certainly with regard to the accent (but with associated aspects too)- mockney:

"pronunciation of English by someone who pretends to speak like a cockney, in order to seem as if they are from a lower social class".

The result of the popularity of such style, though, is inevitably to raise the staus of the formerly "lower class", until the gesture becomes meaningless.

  • Sorry to repeat your idea, Mynamite; you posted just while I was correcting my typos, – Margana Jun 3 '15 at 10:15
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    If the person not only adopts the mannerisms, but also frequents lower-class venues, he is said to be slumming. "Seeking out the poorer quarters where the ragged people go, looking for the places only they would know." — The Boxer, Paul Simon (and yes, I know that the boxer was a poor boy and so wasn't slumming, but that lyric came to mind.) – Brian Hitchcock Jun 3 '15 at 11:23
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    @BrianHitchcock - I also thought of "slumming" initially, but I rejected it because it's more about 'hanging out' with the riff-raff, than adopting their speech or mannerisms. – Oldbag Jun 3 '15 at 11:36
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Such a person might be referred to as a poser or wannabe: someone who acts or dresses in ways they believe align them with a different (e.g. poorer or "lower-class") culture, thereby posing as relatable to people in that culture or even as a member of that culture.

These terms don't suggest mockery of the target culture. In fact, they describe someone who admires a culture enough to emulate it. The terms are used derisively, as such people are generally perceived as foolish.

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Lame: adjective, lamer, lamest. 1. crippled or physically disabled, especially in the foot or leg so as to limp or walk with difficulty. 2. impaired or disabled through defect or injury: 3. weak; inadequate; unsatisfactory; clumsy: 4. Slang. out of touch with modern fads or trends; unsophisticated. --Ref: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lame

  • I'm sorry, but the original question seems to want a term for someone who is in touch with modern fads, and who expects that "adopting lower class mannerisms" is being more sophisticated. – Margana Jun 3 '15 at 20:11

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