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Chav ( ( )) is a term applied to certain young people in the United Kingdommarker. The stereotypical "chav"—known also as a charver in North East England—is an aggressive teenager, typically unemployed or of working class background, who repeatedly engages in anti-social behaviour, such as street drinking, drug abuse and rowdiness, or other forms of juvenile delinquency. "Chavs" stereotypically wear tracksuits and hoodies made by brands such as Nikemarker, Reebok, Burberry and Adidas.

A stereotypical "chav".

Etymology

According to Michael Quinion and others, chav has its origins in the Romani word for child. This word entered the English Language through the Geordie dialect word charva, meaning a rough child, with its origins in Romani . This is similar to the colloquial Spanish word chaval, meaning "kid" or "guy".

The term first appeared in English dictionaries in 2005. 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.

Many folk etymologies have sprung up around the word. These include the backronym "Council Housed And Violent", and the suggestion that pupils at Cheltenham Ladies' Collegemarker and Cheltenham Collegemarker used the word to describe the young men of the town ("Cheltenham Average").

Criticism of the stereotype

The widespread use of the "chav" stereotype has come under criticism; some argue that it amounts to simple snobbery and elitism, and that serious social problems such as Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, teenage pregnancy, delinquency and alcoholism in low-income areas are not subjects for derision. 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.

Commercial effect

Burberry is a clothing company whose products became associated with the "chav" stereotype. Burberry's appeal to "chav" fashion sense is a sociological example of prole drift, where an up-market product begins to be consumed en masse by a lower socio-economic group. Burberry has argued that the brand's popular association with "chav" fashion sense is linked to counterfeit versions of the clothing. "They’re yesterday's news", stated Stacey Cartwright, the CEO of Burberry. "It was mostly counterfeit, and Britain accounts for less than 10% of our sales anyway."

The company has taken a number of steps to distance itself from the stereotype. It ceased production of its own branded baseball cap in 2004 and has scaled back the use of its trademarked checkered/tartan design to such an extent that it now only appears on the inner linings and other very low-key positions of their clothing. It has also taken legal action against high-profile infringements of the brand. In August 2006, a company introducing tuk-tuk vehicles into the south coast town of Brightonmarker, Englandmarker named one the "Chavrolet", which had it painted in the distinctive Burberry tartan. However, the company soon had to withdraw this vehicle when Burberry threatened proceedings for breach of copyright.

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."

Characterisation in the media

Response to the term has ranged from amusement to criticism that it is a new manifestation of classism.

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. A survey in 2005 found that in December 2004 alone 114 British newspaper articles used the word. The popularity of the word has led to the creation of sites devoted to cataloguing and mocking the "chav" lifestyle.

  • The Welshmarker rap group, Goldie Lookin' Chain, have been described as both embodying and satirising the "chav" aesthetic, though the group themselves deny any such agenda, simply making a mockery of the subject. The British car-tuning magazine Max Power once had a beige Mk3 Vauxhall Cavalier stickered to make it look like the Burberry check, named it the "Chavalier" and gave it to the band.




  • In the 2007 film St Trinians the 'Chavs' are depicted as being anti-social bullies.




  • In the 2005 reality TV programme Bad Lads' Army: Officer Class, a number of small time thieves and street brawlers underwent 1950s style National Service Army training to see which of them would be worthy of becoming a British Army officer. The motto of the show was to convert "chavs" into "chaps".
  • In an episode of the revived Doctor Who (episode "New Earth"), antagonist Cassandra takes over the body of Rose Tyler. Cassandra, who considers herself very much a member of the upper class, sees herself in a mirror as the working-class Rose and exclaims in horror, "Oh my God! I'm a chav!"
  • In the channel four drama series Misfits, the character Kelly is a stereotypical Chav and is often referred to as a one.


See also





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