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Chav, (// CHAV) is a stereotype and pejorative epithet used in Britain. The stereotype was popularised in the first decade of the 21st century by the British mass media to refer to an antisocial youth subculture in the United Kingdom. The Oxford Dictionary defines Chav as an informal British derogatory meaning a young lower-class person who displays brash and loutish behaviour and wears real or imitation designer clothes.
The term has its origins in the Romani word chavi, meaning "child". The derivative chavette has been used to refer to females. The adjectives "chavish" and "chavtastic" have been used in relation to items designed for or suitable for use by chavs. The word existed in the 19th century, Lexicographer Eric Partridge mentions it in his huge dictionary of slang and unconventional English. 'chaval' was used to describe a boy. There is no connection between its current use and its historical use in Romany history.
The word in its current pejorative usage is recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary as first used in a Usenet forum in 1998 and first used in a newspaper in 2002. By 2005 the term became widespread in its use as to refer to a type of anti-social, uncultured youth, who wear a lot of flashy jewellery, white trainers, baseball caps, sham designer clothes and the Girls expose a lot of midriff.
In the 2011 book, Chavs: the Demonization of the Working Class, the author surmised that the word is an attack on the poor. In the 2010 book Stab Proof Scarecrows, it was surmised that "chav" was an abbreviation for "council housed and violent"; this created a backronym. This backronym was used in a 2012 public statement by Rapper Plan B as he spoke out to oppose the use of the term.
In 2013 on BBC Learning English Professor David Crystal, one of the world's foremost experts on language is featured and states "People talk about 'chav behaviour' or 'chav insults' and that sort of thing. Oh, don't believe the popular etymologies that you read sometimes in the press and on websites. I saw one the other day, people said, 'It's an acronym, 'chav', from council house and violent' - well, no, it isn't, that was made up in recent times".
Besides referring to loutish behavior, violence, and particular speech patterns, the stereotype of a chav includes wearing branded designer sportswear, which may be accompanied by some form of gold jewellery otherwise termed as "bling".
In a case where a teenage woman was barred from her own home under the terms of an anti-social behaviour order in 2005, some British national newspapers branded her "the real-life Vicky Pollard" with the Daily Star running headlines reading "Good riddance to chav scum: real life Vicky Pollard evicted"., both referring to a BBC comedy character parodying chavs. Created by radio host Matt Lucas for the show 'Little Britain', the Vicky Pollard character is a gossiping, drug-running, thieving teenage delinquent, who in one episode trades her out-of-wedlock baby for a CD. A 2006 survey by YouGov suggested 70% of TV industry professionals believed that Vicky Pollard was an accurate reflection of white working-class youth. Also in 2006, Prince William of Wales and his younger brother Prince Harry had dressed up as chavs, resulting in headlines in The Sun naming him "Future Bling of England". The article stated, "William has a great sense of humour and went to a lot of trouble thinking up what to wear".
Response to the stereotype has ranged from amusement to criticism that it is a new manifestation of classism. The Guardian in 2011 identified issues stemming from the use of the terms "hoodies" and "chav" within the mass media which had led to age discrimination as a result of mass media created stereotypes.
The fashion house Burberry claimed in 2007 that the widespread fashion in the UK of wearing its brand of check was being supplied by counterfeit versions of the clothing and that Britain accounted for less than 10% of the brand's sales In response to the rise in popularity of the Burberry brand Christopher Bailey, who was responsible for the company’s overall image including all advertising, corporate art direction, store design and visuals, and the design of all Burberry collections and product lines, said in 2008, "I'm proud we had such a democratic appeal".
The large supermarket chain Asda has attempted to trademark the word "chav" for a new line of confectionery. A spokeswoman said, "With slogans from characters in shows such as Little Britain and The Catherine Tate Show providing us with more and more contemporary slang, our Whatever sweets – now nicknamed chav hearts – have become very popular with kids and grown-ups alike. We thought we needed to give them some respect and have decided to trademark our sweets."
A BBC TV documentary suggested that "chav" culture is an evolution of previous working-class youth subcultures associated with particular commercial clothing styles, such as mods, skinheads, and casuals.
The widespread use of the "chav" stereotype has come in for some criticism. Some argue that it amounts to simple snobbery and élitism. Critics of the term have argued that its users are "neo-snobs", and that its increasing popularity raises questions about how British society deals with social mobility and class.
In a February 2005 article in The Times, Julie Burchill argued that use of the word is a form of "social racism", and that such "sneering" reveals more about the shortcomings of the "chav-haters" than those of their supposed victims. The writer John Harris argued along similar lines in a 2007 article in The Guardian.
The Fabian Society have stated that the term is deeply offensive and that it is "sneering and patronising" to a largely voiceless group. The term has been defined by tabloid headlines. It is language used to belittle. On describing those who use the term the society stated "we all know their old serviette/napkin, lounge/living room, settee/sofa tricks. But this is something new. This is middle class hatred of the white working class, pure and simple." The Fabian Society have been highly critical of the BBC in using the term in broadcasts. The term was reported in The Guardian in 2011 as "class abuse by people asserting superiority".
A Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords on the Equality and Human Rights Commission Meral Hussein-Ece, Baroness Hussein-Ece in 2011 tweeted, "Help. Trapped in a queue in chav land. Woman behind me explaining latest EastEnders plot to mate while eating largest bun I've ever seen." The Baroness responded to the criticism of her tweet by stating she had not meant it in a derogatory manner.
Rapper Plan B made a public statement on his website in March 2012 to oppose the use of the word "chav", describing the term "a derogatory phrase no different to the ones concerning race or sex". Speaking on BBC Radio 1Xtra he said, "When you attack someone for the way they talk, the way they dress, the music they listen to, or their lack of education and you do it publicly you make them alienated".
By 2004, the word was used in national newspapers and common parlance in the UK. Susie Dent's Larpers and Shroomers: The Language Report, published by the Oxford University Press, designated it as the "word of the year" in 2004.
Characters described as "chavs" have occurred in a number of British television programmes. The character, clothing, attitude and musical interests of Lauren Cooper and her friends in the BBC comedy series The Catherine Tate Show have been associated with the chav stereotype. The comedy series Little Britain features a character with some similarities, Vicky Pollard. In the British television series Misfits, the character of Kelly Bailey is presented as a stereotypical "chav". Lauren Socha, the actress who portrays Kelly, has described the character as being "a bit chavvy". The Times has referred to the character as "[a] chavvish girl", and the character has been said to possess a "chav accent". In the BBC TV series Doctor Who episode "New Earth", the character Lady Cassandra is transplanted into Rose Tyler's body (Billie Piper). When Cassandra sees herself in a mirror, she exclaims "Oh my God... I'm a chav!".
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