I am wondering what "with that slightly haughty tone that creeps into her voice when she’s been shown up" means in the following sentences:

‘Such fond memories of Brighton,’ Mum is saying to Hannah. ‘You know, I performed down there a couple of times.’ Oh God. Not long before she starts telling everyone about that time she had penetrative sex on screen for an arthouse film (never got a release, probably now on PornHub).

‘Oh,’ Hannah replies, ‘we feel a bit guilty about not getting to the theatre more often. Where did you perform? The Theatre Royal?’

‘No,’ Mum says, with that slightly haughty tone that creeps into her voice when she’s been shown up. ‘It’s a little more boutique than that.’ A toss of her head. ‘It’s called “The Magic Lantern”. In the Lanes. Do you know it?’

‘Er – no,’ Hannah says. And then, quickly, ‘But as I say, we’re so out of the loop we wouldn’t know anywhere, even if it’s the place to go.’

  • Lucy Foley, The Guest List, Chapter 14

This is a thriller novel published in 2020 in the United Kingdom. One hundred and fifty guests would be gathering at some remote and deserted fictional islet called Inis an Amplóra off the coast of the island of Ireland to celebrate the wedding between Jules (a self-made woman running an online magazine called The Download) and Will (a celebrity appearing in a TV show program called Survive the Night). The day before the actual wedding day, during the rehearsal dinner, Jules sees her mom, who once worked as an actress, talking to Hannah, who lives in Brighton, about how she used to act at a theater in Brighton. (The narrator here is Jules.)

In this part, I am wondering what (1) "that slightly haughty tone" and (2) "shown up" mean in particular.

(1) By "that slightly haughty tone", would it be all right to understand that her tone was somewhat arrogant? Or... was her tone somewhat close to being boasting?

(2) By "shown up," would that mean that she became visible, like a spotlight is focused on her? Or would that mean she was embarrassed? I am confused because there seems to be so many meanings of "show up"... (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/show%20up)

  • 2
    It's definition 2. Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 15:07
  • Dear @KateBunting, thank you very much for the comment. So she is internally embarrassed! I sincerely appreciate your help. :) Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 9:20

1 Answer 1


Haughty is being used here to mean assuming a superior manner or tone of voice typical of someone who is in authority (or rich/ titled/ important/ in high office etc) who is trying to impress someone else.

To be shown up means to have one's faults/frailties/failings exposed.

So Mum, who feels embarrassed about the status of the theatre where she performed, is trying to impress Hannah with the supposed importance of The Magic Lantern.

  • Dear Ronald Sole, thank you very much for the explanation. So she "put on airs" about her theatre, because she is internally embarrassed that she didn't perform at Theatre Royal and instead performed at a smaller theater! I wouldn't have been able to grasp its meaning without your help. I sincerely appreciate your help. :) Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 9:19
  • 1
    You have put it better than I could. Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 13:30

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