Posted by: secretperson | July 17, 2008

The Word Chav is Offensive

At least according to the Fabian Society. The report is here in the Fabian magazine and Tom Hampson and Jemima Olchawski (yes, presumably pronounced Ol- chav- ski, you couldn’t make it up) have an article in the Guardian’s Comment is Free explaining their position.

It is unintentionally hilarious. Apparently chav is offensive to a “largely voiceless group” and used by the middle class to sneer at the working class.

Most posters have pointed out that Chav does not mean working class but often unemployed feckless people defined by their anti-social behaviour, and that is often other working class people using the term. Alternatively, amongst the young it denotes a teen group, rather like Goths, Trendies, Punks or Moshers (I think Emos is the latest one, always thought that was a flightless bird!)

But then Tom and Jemima are trying to talk to other middle class self identified “progressives” (now there is a word that should be banned). And they have a point that some Guardianistas who would never talk down to an ethnic minority person do look down on the White Working Class. They might use the word Chav indiscriminately, for example when comparing vibrant hard working immigrants to lazy British chavs. They might support the working class as a concept, but frown on the individuals. So maybe the much maligned Fabians have a point, but should have kept their argument internal.

It does show that these (presumably) upper middle class self-appointed guardians of the poor defenceless chavs (I wonder what a gang of burberry clad pissed up 14 year olds would make of their defenders!) are a bit out of touch with real life. They don’t understand how the working class use the word chav, they don’t seem to understand the middle class either:

. The middle classes have always used language to distinguish themselves from those a few rungs below them on the ladder – we all know their old serviette/napkin, lounge/living room, settee/sofa tricks.

The serviette/napkin etc was in fact the upper classes distancing themselves from the pretentious (perhaps nouveau riche) middle classes with aspirations above their station. Quite the opposite of what is implied. I don’t know for sure what class Tom and Jemima fall into, but I would guess upper middle. If so their us of “we all know their old .. tricks” is quite interesting.

To further extend the class system analysis, it is quite a common trick to see the upper middle classes, disconnected from the real world, sneering and patronising the lower middle and working classes, who have aspiration and good jobs, but still have to deal with underclass welfare scum. I of course sit firmly in the middle middle class, perfectly well balanced and above all this sniping!

Ah, just a bit of fun at their expense. But luckily for the Fabians I don’t use the word chav much anyway. Scally does the job perfectly well.

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