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One meaning of the word 'chav', as now used, is as a derogatory label for a superficial person addicted to clothes with designer labels. A way to slag someone off. A superficial label in its own right which says more about the user than the person they are slagging off. By their own definition, people who use chav in its new, malicious sense, are therefore a bit of a 'chav' themselves - not to mention being a monumental slag.
Originally a gypsy word for child or youth, chav was commonly used as a term of endearment and greeting among the working classes. As a synonym for 'mate', as in a dozen regional dialect equivalents. 'Butt' and 'wuss' and 'man', for instance. It is there in the Only Fools and Horses dvd box set - from Boycie, if I remember, and it must be somewhere in the collected scripts of Galton & Simpson, and Croft & Perry. It was a real, helpful, social word, available to all to ease the flow of conversation and make a working relationship easier to maintain. And now it has been kidnapped, subjected to a garish media makeover, and turned into an insult. Now it is a slur whose only purpose is to generate the emotions of hate and contempt. All it can ever do is cause trouble - and for what? Why do we need to sacrifice a perfectly innocent, useful word to make way for this term of abuse? It's an act of vandalism far worse than anything any chav would spraypaint on a concrete wall in Walthamstow. Why does New Grub Street need it?
'Chav' also means a person with a blinkered or ignorant frame of mind, susceptible to loud aggressive behaviour in public, and a generally instinctive, hedonistic lifestyle. (Again like the Daily Mail and The Sun) But in fact it is now a term so wide as to be meaningless, other than in terms of its one true reference point, social class. However the Hackocracy likes to spin it, chavs are the working classes on their day out. On Epsom Downs in their funny hats, singing their raucous rude songs about winkles and puddings and beer. The same sneers can be heard in every Servant - Master gag in human history. They are a reflex defence mechanism of a middle class under threat from below. In this case from a working class with more spending power than ever and the historic new ability of co-ordination and communication. It is therefore more necessary than ever to control the language as well as to convey the message that the lower orders are simply not capable of dealing with money or success or fame - that they are simply too vulgar. As the Daily Mail calls the Beckhams: "The celebrities that taste forgot." As if The Mail was an arbiter of taste.
Farcically enough, by calling them 'chavs' the Mail is patronising the working class with a word which does in fact mean 'child'. But that is no excuse for giving hate such a word to use. In this case, one which enables the user to feel innately superior to a vast sector of humanity, and also to feel horror at the prospect of any possible bond or common purpose with these 'Yahoos' - another example of a universal term of alienation. A word which reinforces the notion of inequality; that some people are simply more human than others, and therefore more deserving of the good things of life. And some people are just animals who deserve to be herded and bred and driven and eventually culled like cattle .
From being the first word a baby heard, 'chav' is now a hate word. Another way of dividing people from each other rather than bringing them closer together. That is a little linguistic tragedy, but as part of the greater ruthless swindle of Consumerism, it is as much a babykiller as the girl who oils the spring that turns the thing that winds the nob, that makes the thingumybob - that's going to win the war!
Poor old chavvy is just another victim of this need. Another Rose Cottage in the path of the motorway. It's a shame the Fabian Society still seems to think it can have the motorway and the cottage. That it can eradicate the symptoms of class conflict without removing the causes. But what else can you expect from people in straw hats who travel by punt? Why can't they just say what they mean? People who use chav as an insult are just slags.
Already, entire towns are being labelled Chav Towns. The hunger of the media for stereotypes is insatiable.
And now the hate sites have started up, inciting violence against these new sub-humans.
One particularly raving lunatic claims of Stourbridge:
But beware, anyone not drinking Stella will be immediately glassed by some footballer’s jumper wearing try-hard and then kicked around the floor via his Rockport’s for being ‘a gayer’.Immediately.
3/11/08 John Prescott on Class