An abbreviation of a word or term beginning with the letter U. Adjective sense 1 ("characteristic of the upper classes") was coined by British linguistAlan S. C. Ross (1907-1980) in a 1954 article, and popularized by the English journalist and writer Nancy Mitford (1904-1973).
I may also note here that the U-demarcation is of two types: - (1) a certain U-feature has a different, non-U counterpart as non-U wealthy / Urich; (2) a certain feature is confined to U-speech and it has a counterpart which is not confined to non-U speech e.g. the pronunciations of girl as [l], (? [?j?l]), [?æl], [l] are U, but many (perhaps most male) U-speakers, like all non-U-speakers, use the pronunciation [:l].
, Alan S. C. Ross, "U and non-U", in David Milsted, Brewer's Anthology of England and the English, page 120:
To TAKE a bath is non-U against Uto HAVE one's bath.
1956, Nancy Mitford, Noblesse Oblige: an Inquiry into the Identifiable Characteristics of the English Aristocracy:
In a treatise that still causes ripples in English society, Mitford defined various terms as either U (upper class) or non-U.
A wedding is a great occasion for u/non-u indicators. The u mother will be quietly dressed; the non-u one will be more ostentatious and have a corsage. The u father will be wearing his own morning coat and a carnation. The non-u father will bolster his carnation--on his hired morning coat--with a sprig of fern, and perhaps even carry a pair of grey gloves.
The U/non-U priority rule will be in accord with servant master-type rules if masters are U and servants are non-U, for then the rules support each other. But since a master who cannot command is not a master, a non-U sergeant must take priority over a U-recruit, the same with impoverished aristocratic chauffeurs working for nouveau-riche plebeian millionaires.
Was it all a huge joke ... this U and non-U business? Yes and no. John Betjeman assured me that it was. But some jokes have an element of cruelty and a great many sensitive people, particularly women, must have suffered agonies of embarrassment because they were uncertain as to what was 'done,' and what was not.
1992, John Algeo, "Sociolinguistic Attitudes and Issues in Contemporary Britain", in Tim W[illiam] Machan and Charles T. Scott, editors, English in Its Social Contexts: Essays in Historical Sociolinguistics (Oxford Studies in Sociolinguistics), New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, ->ISBN, page 165:
The concept of U (for upper-class British usage, as opposed to non-U, or everything else) was introduced by Alan S. C. Ross (1954) and was taken up by Nancy Mitford (1956), becoming for a time something of a parlor game in which the participants tested themselves and everyone else for signs of U and non-U status.
1992, Stephan Gramley, Survey of Modern English, page 38:
Other, perhaps more contentious generalizations, which nevertheless contain a certain amount of truth, are that afternoon tea is U, starts at four and typically consists of tea, thin sandwiches and cakes.
1993, Philip Pettit, "For Holism, against Atomism", in The Common Mind: An Essay on Psychology, Society, and Politics, New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, ->ISBN; 1st paperback edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire; New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1996, ->ISBN, part II (Mind and Society), pages 205-206:
To speak of lavatories is U, of bathrooms non-U; to lay cloth napkins at table is U, to lay paper napkins non-U; and so on through a myriad of equally trivial examples. I assume that there is something distinctively collusive in the way Sloanes use the U-concept: that as they individually decide whether something is U or non-U they look over their shoulders to make sure they stay in step--the community is the authority--rather than looking to the thing itself to see what profile it displays.
Eventually, as we now know, the present-day use of lunch and dinner became established among the fashionable classes. As the 20th century dawned, the pages of Punch magazine are full of references to business lunches and evening dinner parties. Meanwhile, the lower orders of society continued to use dinner for their midday meal, and so the U/non-U distinction was born. But the story of lunch and dinner is not over yet. Expressions such as lunch-box and packed lunch have reinforced a change of usage among many non-U children, so that they now happily talk about school lunches (though still served by dinner ladies).
In this article I use the terms upper class (abbreviated: U), correct, proper, legitimate, appropriate (sometimes also possible) and similar expressions (including some containing the word should) to designate usages of the upper class; their antonyms (non-U, incorrect, not proper, not legitimate, etc.) to designate usages which are not upper class. These terms are, of course, used factually and not in reprobation [...]. Normal means common to both U and non-U.
Proposed in 1908 as part of the new Latvian spelling by the scientific commission headed by K. M?lenbahs, which was accepted and began to be taught in schools in 1909. Prior to that, Latvian had been written in German Fraktur, and sporadically in Cyrillic.