Long ago in Britain there were Celts in the North and West and the English (often referred to as Anglo Saxons) in the East and South – there was a difference between rich and poor, but in the main things tended towards a natural egalitarianism – then in 1066 along came the Normans and occupied the place – turning the Anglo-Saxon English into a politically and economically dispossessed people in their own country.
The Normans held the English in pretty low esteem, they didn’t appreciate their culture or traditions and for maybe two centuries in many ways they were still quite easy to view as cruel continental occupiers. As time passed along came Kings like Henry IV (crowned 1399) who was quite definitely an Englishman and the Normans of England simply developed into the upper class of the English. The Normans did not go away they were just Anglicized .
Of the original English (Anglo Saxons) the bulk had become the lower/working classes of the new system whilst those who had managed to interface with the Norman system had become the new middle classes of the country (the story in the Celtic fringe was a little different). As with today there was some gradual movement between the classes, but by and large for generation after generation people tended to remain in the class in which they were born.
By now the up and down movement has probably caused the genes on the island to become pretty well mixed, but still this tripartite division of British society into upper, middle and working classes remains and we can tell that it has its main origins in the Norman occupation (rather than the tripartite class system of the Aryans etc) because of the things that are symbolic of class.
Upper class values and taste remains centered around the traceable descendants of the Normans – the aristocracy. They may have been weakened by the rise of the industrial middle class nouveau riche in the 19th century, but this new upper class simply took over many of the symbols and tastes of the old Norman class and tried to mix itself with those it was replacing, mimicking many of its values and tastes, sending their children to the same or similar schools, building and decorating houses in similar ways and otherwise assimilating itself to the once Norman upper class.
The working class however couldn’t have been more English in its un-Norman regional Anglo-Saxon-Celtic and Norseness. The English dialects (destroyed not so long ago as a deliberate standardizing policy of the state school system in which teachers were taught to strongly discourage pupils from the spoken use of dialects) were the place where the original Englishness had remained most strong and this Englishness or Anglo-Saxonness was a taboo and still is.
This is why I can say “excrement” without shocking anyone but if I say “sh*t” it is shocking. Yet sh*t is simply the pure English word for poopingtons – excrement is the French word that we got for these yukky bottom doo doos from the Normans. The real pre-invasion English word is forbidden, slang and a swear word whilst the Norman French word is “proper English”. If you doubt that many pre-invasion English words are forbidden simply try and use them in a letter to the newspaper, as a questioning audience member on BBC Question Time or in a biology exam (rather than the Latin and French words that are “acceptable”).
This is why I can say “copulate” (from the Latin), but not “f*ck” which probably came into English from the Old Germanic…
This is why I can say “v*gina” (from the Latin) to my doctor but not “c*nt” which probably came into English from the Old Norse…
This is why I can say posterior (from the Latin) in front of anyone, but must avoid the word “bottom” (from the Old English) in polite company and must never say “ars*” (from Old English) at all.
Indeed if I use the words like excrement, copulate, v*gina, posterior (obviously in their proper context rather than out of the blue) I will be showing myself as polite and assimilated to the Norman civilization – basically revealing myself to be “educated” – and probably at least middle class, but if I go round and use sh*t, f*ck, c*nt and ars* in the same scenario I will be revealing myself as “coarse” “impolite” and almost certainly “working class” (essentially an unreformed Anglo-Saxon rather than a person assimilated to the Norman upper class).
It makes you think doesn’t it.