Someone has asked which is correct, napkins or serviettes. There is no correct, right or wrong but there’s a story (of course) leaving you to decide.
With the Industrial Revolution (late 18th C.) a strong, emerging and visible middle class took on some new vocabulary to sound more genteel and “refained”. The humble napkin became serviette, from the French.
It all backfired when in the 1950s a study and thesis highlighted words and expressions seen as class delineators in the English language, words that had been adopted originally to sound “naice” but were seen as trying too hard. Much was made of a printed list of some words identifying the differences between U and non-U language (upper class and non-upper). Serviette is at the top of the list as a class delineator, along with lavatory (posh) instead of toilet (twee). (It makes for interesting reading.)
So some words are posher (although the term posh is not posh, unless it’s used ironically). In the main, “smart” vocabulary is more down to earth and Anglo- Saxon, and “refained” words (strangely often taken from everyday French) are what my father would have called “bungin’ on side”, trying too hard to be “naice” and sounding rather twee It was all meant to be light hearted but some took it very seriously.
Posh Twee and “refained”
U’s sweat They perspire
U’s are rich They are wealthy
U’s eat vegetables They eat greens
U’s wear scent They wear perfume
U’s die They pass
U’s have jam They have preserves
I don’t want to be posh or not posh but I prefer the old, down to earth language, calling a spade a spade. Sadly friends die. You can’t hide it by saying they have passed.
I’ll share with you the word that most makes me cringe. It's “home” instead of “house”, especially a “home with drapes” rather a “house with curtains”.
“She has a beautiful home” (rather than a nice house) is enough to make me pass out with rage.
(The real-estate business has a lot to answer for.)