America Has Class
Economic class, that is. I know, America was founded as the great classless society, where all can rise or fall according to their efforts. To her great credit, America shed the bondage of institutionalized class found elsewhere across the globe. No person may claim nobility, no babe must take the merchant’s station, no child must live as a beggarly untouchable. Royalty does not exist.
America does break down into classes. What serves as the distinguishing factor? Economics (ethnicity as well, but that factor has diminished over the past generation). And the fascinating part — each economic class speaks a different hidden language. Have you ever felt perplexed by the behavior or appearance of someone in obvious generational poverty? Generational wealth? How about from generational middle class? Like as not, that person was acting upon their hidden rules of economic class, and you did not possess the translation.
I’m going to give it to you.
Dr. Ruby Payne (site here) pioneered the subject of generational poverty research; the table below comes from her work. Now realize it refers to the hidden rules of generational poverty, middle class, and wealth, not situational poverty etc. It also describes general patterns, not absolutes, so please don’t share your anecdote about how the such-and-such category does not apply because your Aunt Ethel’s situation blah blah blah. Just read and enjoy the social science of it all! And yes, Mr. Byrd, I recall your objection to that term.
Now y’all speak the language.
Hidden Rules of Economic Class
|DRIVING FORCES||Survival, relationships, entertainment.||Work, achievement.||Financial, political, social connections.|
|POSSESSIONS||People||Things||One-of-a-kind objects, legacies, pedigrees.|
|MONEY||To be used, spent.||To be managed.||To be conserved, invested.|
|PERSONALITY||Is for entertainment. Sense of humor is highly valued.||Is for acquisition and stability. Achievement is highly valued.||Is for connections. Financial, political, social connections are highly valued.|
|SOCIAL EMPHASIS||Social inclusion of people he/she likes.||Emphasis is on self-governance and self-sufficiency.||Emphasis is on social exclusion.|
|FOOD||Key question: Did you have enough? Quantity important.||Key question: Did you like it? Quality important.||Key question: Was it presented well? Presentation important.|
|CLOTHING||Clothing valued for individual and expression of personality.||Clothing valued for its quality and acceptance into norm of middle class. Label important.||Clothing valued for its artistic sense and expression. Designer important.|
|TIME ORIENTATION||Present most important. Decisions made for moment based on feelings or survival.||Future most important. Decisions made against future ramifications.||Traditions and history most important. Decisions made partially on basis of tradition or decorum.|
|EDUCATION||Valued and revered as abstract but not as reality.||Crucial for climbing success ladder and making money.||Necessary tradition for making and maintaining connections.|
|DESTINY||Believes in fate. Cannot do much to mitigate chance.||Believes in choice. Can change future with good choices now.||Noblesse oblige (the moral obligation of those of high birth, powerful social position to act with honor, kindliness, generosity, etc.)|
|LANGUAGE*||Casual register. Language is about survival.||Formal register. Language is about negotiation.||Formal register. Language is about networking.|
|FAMILY STRUCTURE||Tends to be matriarchal.||Tends to be patriarchal.||Depends on who has/controls money.|
|WORLD VIEW||See world in terms of local setting.||See world in terms of national setting.||Sees world in terms of international view.|
|LOVE||Love and acceptance conditional, based upon whether individual is liked.||Love and acceptance conditional and based largely upon achievement.||Love and acceptance conditional and related to social standing and connections.|
|HUMOR||About people and sex.||About situations.||About social faux pas.|
|CONFLICT||Physical fighting is how conflict is resolved. If you only know casual register, you do not have the words to negotiate a resolution. Respect is accorded to those who can physically defend themselves.||Fighting is done verbally. Physical fighting is viewed with distaste.||Fighting is done through social inclusion or exclusion and through lawyers.|
*Frozen Register: always the same (Lord’s Prayer, wedding vows, etc.)
Formal Register: standard sentence syntax and word choice of work and school (complete sentences and specific word choice)
Casual Register: language between friends and is characterized by a 400-800 word vocabulary (non-verbal communication is often used)