Sharing A Staircase

I was reading today about a fascinating application developed by UCL that puts surnames into a sort of league table of poshness. Since this combines both my interest in names and snobbery, I was instantly hooked.

It gets its information from a database that plots the frequency of surnames against geographical locations and socio-economic information from the census. Weirdly, the National Trust now looks after or owns this thing (not sure which).

Well, what about a socio-demographic breakdown of Hong Kong In The 60s?

Curiously, only 10% of the population have a more “high-class” name than “Kan” and it’s in the Mosaic category Just Moving In:

Many people are from minority ethnic populations and in particular from the Chinese community which has traditionally chosen wherever possible to live in recently built accommodation… Choosing to live in the newest types of property, often in the trendiest ‘up and coming’ urban areas, they are nonetheless traditional in some of their values… This belies any notion that such urban lifestyles automatically embrace the bohemian, free thinking existentialism, so often associated in the past, with artistic contemporary loft-dwelling city populations.

I admit I’m a horrible, horrible yuppie. But at least I’m not a filthy-rich, hedonistic, jetsetting Greenberg (which is a surname so posh that 0% of the population can beat in the class stakes)! “Greenbergs” are most often found in the Global Connections category:

These people are prosperous, self-confident, optimistic, well-educated, well-informed and ‘cultured’ in the broadest sense. They are driven by performance and the need to achieve… They define themselves according to the choices they make, and less by affiliations to family, community, religion and the other conventional reference points. They consume conspicuously, but this is not a result of any need for approval… These people represent the aspirational group of many others, in that they have ‘made it’. They have all the glittering prizes of contemporary, wealthy urban life.

Unfortunately, Tim’s humble background is cruelly revealed by his surname: 94% of people have a posher name than “Scullion” and it belongs in the category Sharing A Staircase (potential album title??):

These people are perpetually worried about money… For routine shopping, which is frequent, discount stores are normally used. Predictably, price is the major criterion for choosing both store and products. These people, like many in similar circumstances, find they have little interest or time for cooking, or for considering dietary requirements carefully. Convenience foods such as oven ready frozen meals are seen as perfectly adequate… These people are fatalistic but they often fantasise about a better life. In truth, their lives revolve around the ever-pressing need to make ends meet and then to search for impulsive and immediate self-gratification which provides an occasional escape from what is usually an unpleasant reality.

You could see Hong Kong In The 60s as a grand social experiment in uniting the dizzy heights, despairing depths and bourgeois middles of British society.  How long before we are riven by band set-tos about “dinner”, “supper” and “tea”?

Try it and let us know if you’re Burdened Optimists or Greenbelt Guardians: National Trust Names.  Or read more about Mosaic and geodemographics from the ever-erudite Momus.


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