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I've been watching Citation Needed again, and I came across this bit from Episode 1x03:

TOM: And today we are talking about Stephania Folini.

GARY: Of course! Stephania Folini, of the Wiltshire Folinis...

This isn't the last time this snowclone, of the Wiltshire snowclones, was used in the Technical Difficulties' career - Episode 1x09 has the Wiltshire Yamalo-Nenets - and I'm sure it wasn't the first time either, although I don't feel like trawling through their Reverse Trivia podcast right now to make sure.

Now I know what and where Wiltshire is (it's a county in England), but I want to know why Wiltshire? Is it a Monty Python bit? Some other British comedian? Did the Technical Difficulties make it up whole cloth?

For the record, I've also heard it without reference to Wiltshire. In Episode 5x05 of Leverage (the one with the cheerleaders), Sophie pretends to be "Amber von Cleve, of the Cleveland von Cleves" and "Debra Scott, of the Scotsdale Scotts" to two different Congresspersons. Sophie Deveraux (and her actor) being English probably had something to do with that, now that I think of it.

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    The basic "snowclone" (adaptable formulaic construction) here is just Oh! [specific] X of the Y X's! - where [specific] X is provided by the context, but Y could be any random / non-existent / whimsical subcategory of X. There's nothing special about X being a county, and no particular reason why you've come across Wiltshire. Personally, I suspect that the Monty Python team (or at least, UK TV comedy in general half a century ago) may have used Rutland at least as often. Feb 1, 2020 at 18:19
  • How do you definitively know there is no reason the OP keeps coming across the Wiltshire variant. Couldn’t it just be a reference you personally have no awareness of?
    – Spagirl
    Feb 1, 2020 at 20:16
  • @Spagirl To be fair, I've only come across "Wiltshire" specifically in the context of TechDiff, and only twice that I can remember, at that. It's possible the reason is just "They think 'Wiltshire' sounds funny" - although rewatching Ep. 1x09, I find there's an additional reference to "own[ing] most of Cheshire".
    – No Name
    Feb 1, 2020 at 20:29
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    Worth noting, perhaps, in connection with the British upper classes, is the phenomenon of the 'county families'. Each county has upper-class families collectively sometimes called the 'untitled aristocracy'. The 'Wiltshire Folinis' would be understood in this context. Feb 1, 2020 at 21:31
  • "Of the X Ys" is a very common idiom, meaning of the members of the Y family who live in or come from X location. There's no reason to believe that "Wiltshire" and "Folini" are particularly "special" in a work of fiction -- they're just names picked out of a hat.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 1, 2020 at 21:31

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It is certainly not made up by the podcast. Let me start by explaining the saying when it's not being used ironically or sarcastically.

Back in the day (100+years ago) in Britain when people didn't move their home around much, and there was a strict class system, most areas of the country had a few prominent upper-class families. If you met someone from that area with that name you could reasonably bet they were related to the family. For example if you run into someone called Edith Crawley in Yorkshire they are probably related to the Crawley family. If you are yourself upper class you probably know someone from that family and this gives you an immediate connection.

However family names are not unique, so if you were to run into someone called Edith Crawley outside of Yorkshire they might or might not be related to that family. To establish if this is the case, when they introduced themselves you would traditionally ask "of the Yorkshire Crawleys?", meaning "are you related to the prominent Crawley family of Yorkshire?". This also has the benefit of establishing whether Edith is part of a prominent upper-class family, or another (probably less prestigious) family that happens to have the same name, which would have a bearing on how you treated her. Of course she might be from another prestigious Crawley family somewhere else, in which case Edith might reply "No, of the Wiltshire Crawleys".

I do not know enough upper-class people to know if this was actually done in real life or is merely a trope of fiction, although it was intended seriously in most of the fiction where I have encountered it. These days it is either used ironically or to indicate the speakers snobbishness (because by asking the question they betray their own fixation on whether other the person is related to an important family or not).

In the example you cite it is of course being used sarcastically. Folini is not a traditional British name, and so it is unlikely that there is a prominent upper-class family in Wiltshire with the name Folini. Although in these days of world travel who knows.

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    Similar tongue-in-cheek use of this sort of construction is possible in the small Australian State of Tasmania. Within insular semi-rural communities a few surnames can predominate - not just amongst high status families but amongst very humble families too. These family names can come with a tough reputation. For example, “She’s marrying Jack Boneweather of the West Coast Boneweathers. But don’t worry, I’ve met him and he’s actually lovely.” Feb 2, 2020 at 5:20

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