Friday, 22 January 2010


’Pleasant’ is an entirely middle-class word. It’s one that many people I know would never use, except in an ironic or derogatory way. A person’s attitude to you may have been ‘pleasant’ -- meaning, ‘pleasant enough, I suppose, but not amounting to warm or convivial’. My daughter, asked about the weather on her weekend break in Ghent, said ‘OK, not bad, not stunning’ -- then summed it up in ‘pleasant’, spoken with a particular class-laden slight lisp -- Bakhtin’s ‘stylisation’ of a speech genre.

‘Pleasant’ is the obligatory undirected general smile worn by certain middle-class women in getting on a bus, as if warding off hostility or violence (after all, who might be on a bus?). It’s milk-and-water, non-committal, incurring no risk of being taken up.

Talk to a working-class person and their mien is never ‘pleasant’. It’s frankly warm or humorously sardonic in a friendly way, or openly convivial (’All right, mate?’) -- or frankly unwarm, hostile.

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