Slang for "white trash with high-class attitude?"
March 28, 2010 6:30 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know any American slang (preferably country or southern) that is for this concept: "poor people/lower socioeconomic class people who behave in upper class ways" ?

I'm a TV writer working on a script, this isn't about politics. I'm writing a character who may not have the most enlightened view of the world. So hopefully we can avoid discussing whether words like this should exist or whether the concept is fair or accurate or even makes sense.

I'm looking for a caucasian equivalent of the "house n***er", "field n***er" concept - (again, sorry for slurs, it's for fiction/drama).

If some people call trailer home owners "white trash," is there a word "white trash" people use to refer to people in their class (neighbors, same socioeconomic situation) that they perceive as behaving more like middle-class suburbanites?
posted by mscottveach to Society & Culture (58 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Putting on airs?
posted by amro at 6:33 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ears.
posted by Evangeline at 6:34 PM on March 28, 2010

posted by randomstriker at 6:35 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Siddity. Courtesy of several members of my southern (albeit, black) family.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 6:36 PM on March 28, 2010

Oops..typo...that should be bourgeois.
posted by randomstriker at 6:36 PM on March 28, 2010

Just want to mention the Dictionary of Regional American English. As a tv writer you would find it a helpful resource.
posted by mlis at 6:36 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, this isn't exactly slang, but that's the definition of "uppity". The word has acquired racist connotations, as it was commonly used as a slur against African Americans who acted in a manner not befitting a slave, but that's the original and more general meaning.

"Too big for one's britches" is a phrase that means approximately that; it refers to a person who thinks he or she is better than his or her social station actually indicates.

"highfalutin" is another good word for what you're describing.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:37 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Acting like whitey? I kid. "Social climber" is not really gonna be in their vocabulary. "They think they better than us."
posted by fixedgear at 6:37 PM on March 28, 2010

Puttin' on airs.

Too big for their britches.

I've heard both expressions used for the concept you're describing.
posted by cooker girl at 6:38 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

A Macy's attitude in Walmart underwear.
posted by amyms at 6:39 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

hoity-toity, la-di-da, elitist
posted by sallybrown at 6:40 PM on March 28, 2010

The word I've heard used to describe the concept is bougie. Also "champagne taste on a beer budget," but that's not exactly an epithet.
posted by melissa may at 6:41 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm from the southern Ozarks and grew up in a very rural area. I've always heard "hoity-toity" and "big hat, no cattle." I also second MLIS' recommendation of the DARE.
posted by Coyote at the Dog Show at 6:43 PM on March 28, 2010

In my small town Appalachian upbringing that was called "gettin' above yer raisin'", (raising, not raisin). My great-granny once told my aunt she was gettin' above her raisin' for wanting to take a bath every night!
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 6:47 PM on March 28, 2010 [9 favorites]

"Uppity" is exactly the term.

As Salvor Hardin explained it used to be purely a racist term used by whites to denigrate blacks. It's still a racist term in that regard, but when I lived in Atlanta in the 1980s I heard it used by well-off whites to describe poor whites (the racist connotation of the word was still intended and added injury to the insult.)

"Highfalutin" is the one you want to use. It's "uppity" without the racial connotation.
posted by three blind mice at 6:47 PM on March 28, 2010

poser/poseur? wannabe? preppie? snob? WASP/waspy? tryhard? sellout? someone who's trying to be like someone from the other side of the tracks? someone who thinks their shit don't stink? privileged? socialite?
posted by miasma at 6:51 PM on March 28, 2010

Too big for their britches
High falutin
You think you're hot snot on a silver platter, but you're really cold boogers on a paper plate. I don't know if that's a southern one or not, but I've heard southern people saying it.
Or, the classic, and perhaps most common, "they think they're hot shit."
posted by ishotjr at 6:53 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

She thinks she shits potato salad.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 6:53 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Five pounds of shit in a three-pound bag."
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:54 PM on March 28, 2010

"Puttin' on airs" is the right answer.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:58 PM on March 28, 2010

That's what they call "actin' above your raisin'."
posted by spilon at 6:58 PM on March 28, 2010

Living on silk-stocking row.
posted by sugarfish at 7:00 PM on March 28, 2010

Oops, I mean "gettin' above your raisin'."

See here and here for example.
posted by spilon at 7:01 PM on March 28, 2010

"forgetting where you came from"
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:11 PM on March 28, 2010

They think their shit don't stink.
posted by CwgrlUp at 7:21 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

getting back to the idea of a (modified) noun used to describe these people, i'm gonna say, "snob." thing is though, due to the origins, there isn't going to be a direct equivalent to "house/field negro."
posted by rhizome at 7:29 PM on March 28, 2010

Lace curtain Irish, sort of.
posted by chinston at 7:30 PM on March 28, 2010

As Salvor Hardin explained it used to be purely a racist term used by whites to denigrate blacks.

That does not appear to be correct.
posted by electroboy at 7:32 PM on March 28, 2010

This may not be precisely what you're after—it's more a New England thing—but the epithet "lace curtain Irish" refers to people of Irish descent who attempt(ed) "to achieve social status with a show of material things in a hostile British-oriented, American Protestant society." A relevant quote, from this article on Irish-Americans in Quincy, Mass.:
In the 1870s and 1880s, Irish families that had saved some money started to move into South Boston, Brighton, Roxbury and Dorchester. At that time, going those few miles from the city center felt like a suburban move, said Thomas O’Connor of Braintree, a historian and Boston College professor who has written on the Irish experience.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the first cycle of Irish families moved from Boston and its outskirts down to the South Shore. They were called "lace-curtain Irish" or "two-toilet Irish."
posted by cirripede at 7:37 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

posted by Mhead at 7:42 PM on March 28, 2010

My grandmother, who was born in the century before last, and spent every minute of her life, as far as I know, in east Texas, always did this by referring to a consumer item, usually not quite the latest thing though. (My aunts, from the same part of Tx. or La., and mother did too when they got older.) Like: "She got a new TV, didn't she?" or "Bet they finally got plumbing inside." If nothing else, sheets were always good. "They're still proud they sleep between sheets." (really, people used to only use one and a blanket, or just a blanket.)

The men usually kept it to clubs a cars. "And he hasn't got a Cadillac yet." "There goes the Elks next Man-of-the-Year, I guess." "Did the country club let Bob in?"

Maybe the best Americanism for this, though it isn't Southern, is "Lace Curtain Irish".
posted by Some1 at 7:48 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

"All hat, no cattle" is the Western version.
posted by ErikaB at 8:14 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Too poor to paint, and too proud to whitewash.
posted by Houstonian at 8:23 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

"Well! Who does she think she is?" Optional to insert a fancy person at the end: "Who does she think she is? The queen of England?"
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:23 PM on March 28, 2010

New Money hillbillies.
posted by mecran01 at 8:25 PM on March 28, 2010

She or he "drinks beer and thinks s/he burps champagne"
posted by Neekee at 8:43 PM on March 28, 2010

I like poseur (if this is coming from someone lower on a socioeconomic class, poser) and wannabe.

I`ve also seen IRL `frau frau` (pronounced froo froo) from an upper-/middle-middle class quasi-midwestern girl (who had pretensions of her own; ethnicity-slumming, nerd glasses on a model-body, and movie-face).
posted by porpoise at 8:54 PM on March 28, 2010

Generally what I've heard in rural Texas is just the generic term "snotty women"; I can't pin down any corresponding phrase for men, though I'm sure one exists.
posted by crapmatic at 8:56 PM on March 28, 2010

I think amro's got it, "putting on airs."

I was thinking that in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain had used this phrase, but upon checking, I found that he wrote: "It's so. You can do it. I had my doubts when you told me. Now looky here; you stop that putting on frills." (This was Huck's dad finding out that Huck was able to read.)

and a bit later:

"When he had got out on the shed he put his head in again, and cussed me for putting on frills and trying to be better than him; and when I reckoned he was gone he come back and put his head in again, and told me to mind about that school, because he was going to lay for me and lick me if I didn't drop that."

So maybe "putting on frills" is a bit more old fashioned and authentic, if that's what you're going for.
posted by smcameron at 9:04 PM on March 28, 2010

High-tech redneck.
posted by chiababe at 9:22 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by canadia at 9:43 PM on March 28, 2010

"fake", as in, "she's so fake".

Also, seconding "Too big for their britches"
posted by amtho at 12:20 AM on March 29, 2010

As mentioned above, "Lace curtain Irish" is a great example of this but doesn't apply to the demographic you mention. (side note: in The Departed, Mark Walhberg calls Leonardo DiCaprio's character "lace curtain.") I've also heard the phrase "brand new" as in "oh, stan showed up at the party talking about his fancy job and acting all brand new" but that's also urban northeast.

More general descriptions might be "snobby/snooty" "uppity", or "too good for us" but if you let us know a specific state you might get some better regional slang.
posted by emd3737 at 12:24 AM on March 29, 2010

"Hollywood". "He thinks he's all Hollywood."

In my experience, "boo-gee", "bourgeois" is pretty much exclusively used by African-Americans to castigate other African-Americans who "get beyond themselves". It's not used by Caucasians.
posted by orthogonality at 1:21 AM on March 29, 2010

Derail: in the UK we sometimes use "Jumped up."
posted by MuffinMan at 2:27 AM on March 29, 2010

Too big for one's britches seems most like what you are looking for, but there's always "looking down your nose" at someone, which isn't as specific, but it's another one for you.
posted by Red Loop at 3:42 AM on March 29, 2010

They think their shit don't stink.

This is what I thought of immediately.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:44 AM on March 29, 2010

Mule in a horse harness.
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 6:32 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

"When (Faulkner) returned to Oxford after the Armistice, the townspeople saw the RAF uniform and the studied mannerisms and no visible means of financial support and consequently began to call him 'Count No Account,' or 'Count No ’Count' for short."
From here.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:57 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

"No better than she ought to be be" or "fur coat and no knickers" come to mind, but I suspect they're not American Southern.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:21 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Both the low cash+high class attitude and its opposite the high cash+low class attitude could be described by the word Hipster.
posted by cirrostratus at 9:33 AM on March 29, 2010

posted by SuzB at 2:54 PM on March 29, 2010

I'm working with two African Americans from the Southern US right now, and they just used the term bougie.
posted by dmo at 6:22 AM on March 30, 2010

30k millionaire
posted by phritosan at 7:41 AM on March 31, 2010

sorry, to explain, 30k is their average yearly income but they spend it like they're millionaires
posted by phritosan at 7:41 AM on March 31, 2010

I've heard thousandaire before.
posted by electroboy at 8:56 AM on March 31, 2010

I asked my Mom about this question today (born early forties in the southwestern part of Virginia). She said everyone she grew up with used "they're acting like the Got Rocks."
posted by dmo at 7:53 PM on April 3, 2010

So mscottveach, what did you end up using?
posted by amro at 12:11 PM on April 4, 2010

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