Chav the skum
Chav is a derogatory slang term in popular usage throughout England. It refers to a council house anti-socially violent subculture stereotype of a person who is uneducated, uncultured and prone to antisocial or immoral behavior. The label is typically, though not exclusively, applied to teenagers and young adults who enjoy stabby/shooting white working-class or lower-middle class origin. Chav is used for both sexes, but a male chav is sometimes referred to as a chavster and a female as a chavette. Other synonyms include; 'barry', 'Rick Wing', 'bazzer', 'kev', 'scally', 'shaz', 'sharon', 'townie', and 'trev'. In Scotland a male chav is known as a 'ned' whilst a female chav is known as a 'senga'. The term was first popularised by the Popbitch website and taken up enthusiastically by the tabloid press. It is similar to the United States terms white trash, wigger or nigger, but not the Australian word bogan, which is actually a rough around edges, generally lower middle class white Australian, that is a bit more of a country Australian, drinking lots of beer, driving big Australian cars, there is no similarity to Chavs. Response to the term has ranged from acceptance to criticism that the term is a new manifestation of classism.
Chavs are also very similiar to other antisocial youth subcultures, including charvas and chores.
The word chav is commonly thought to be from the mid-19th century Romany word chavi, meaning "delinquent youth"; but some suggest it comes from a nickname used of people from various towns in England, including Chatham and Cheltenham, sometimes in conjunction with the class label Average.
It is sometimes mockingly redefined as one of several backronyms, including "Council Housed And Violent", "Council Housed And Vile","Council House Assault & Violence" and "Council House Associated Vermin" — although there is no etymological basis for these terms. Although British Police forces use C.H.A.V. as a slang term when referring to 'them' on a regular basis.
It is also said that the word was used in Edinburgh, Scotland in the early 1990s, leading to widespread bemusement on the part of Edinburghers at the sudden popularity of the term in South-Eastern England.
This stereotyped subculture is defined by outsiders. Essentially very few self-identify with these labels and groupings; rather, they are used by those on the outside to categorise those supposedly conforming to the stereotype, which is marked by the similarity of trends in clothing and behaviour.
The essential stereotype is of being loudly lower-class, with 'class' defined by taste rather than income.
Elements of the stereotype
Typical features of the stereotype include:
An image of the stereotypical chav
• The wearing of particular clothing, such as
o Brand name athletic clothing and shoes (stereotypically, "prison-white" trainers / sneakers / Reebok Classics).
o Fake designer clothing and accessories, in particular the distinctive plaid of Burberry.
o A love of "bling", that is, gaudy gold jewellery (in particular hoop earrings for females and sovereign rings for males).
o Sports caps or hooded tops (often both are worn).
o Sports or jogging trousers.
• For females, thickly applied make-up, the heavy use of fake tan, and the hairstyle known as the "Council House Facelift" in which the (usually badly dyed) hair is pulled back into a tight bun.
• An association with crass, drunken behaviour and minor criminal activities, generally carried out under the influence of alcohol, and often after the pubs have closed.
• An association with housing estates and other low-income neighbourhoods.
• The ownership of a large, dangerous attack dog and a heavily modified car, often of low original specification, in the style seen in the film The Fast and the Furious. If a chav should find himself without a vehicle or dog of this sort, the acquiring of such will likely be a central focus for him.
o As seen in the magazine Max Power, a blend of vehicle customisation and semi-clad glamour models.
o Usually incorporating a high specification music system with amplified bass.
• Enjoyment of mainstream rap music (by males) or R&B (by females), and pop and dance music by both sexes. The rap group Goldie Lookin' Chain have satirised the chav aesthetic.
• The frequent use of mobile phones (regardless of location such as cinemas, restaurants, etc.).
• A penchant for confessional television chat shows such as Trisha.
• A proclivity for under-aged drinking and sex.
The Burberry clothing brand in particular acquired such links with the chav subculture that it ceased production of its branded baseball cap. Given the popularity of this item, a counterfeit version is usually what is being referred to.
Media characterisation and comment
The character Vicky Pollard as portrayed in the BBC comedy series Little Britain by Matt Lucas is the most iconic chav or Kappa Slappa — from the name of the clothing brand Kappa and the word slapper. The Gallagher family of the Channel 4 series "Shameless" share many Chav characteristics including alcohol abuse, petty criminality, underage sex and maintaining a large family on state benefits. In this case the family is presented in a sympathetic light in an extension of the "Sympathetic Scally" characters found in Brookside and Boys from the Blackstuff. Also, as Sophie Webster once said in 'Coronation Street', "when we grow up, me and Chesney are going to be chavs!"
Julie Burchill writing in The Guardian in 2005 made a defence of Chav girls arguing that reduced social mobility means that an education as the traditional route out of poverty has limited value. Therefore Burchill claims that it was logical that Chavs would aspire to role models such as Jade Goody and Victoria Beckham.
Derived and similar terms
There are many regional and local synonyms. For example, chav is equivalent to one definition of townie but is more specific in its usage.
Similar terms are scanger (in Ireland, Dublin in particular), spide (Northen Ireland), and ned (Scotland). In South Wales townie and scally are used.
A more comprehensive list of synonyms would include Pikey and Townie, as well as Bam, Bazza, Chaddite, Charver, Chavalier, Chavette, Chavster, Dumbo, Gazza, Hood Rat, Janner, Kev, Knacker, Ned, Ratboy, Rudeboy, Rudie, Scally, Schemie, Scumbag (Dublin, Ireland), Scutter, Shazza, Skanger, Spide, Steek, Stig, Westie (Auckland, New Zealand), Yarco, Telf, and Hatchy.
The act of adding superfluous and cosmetic modifications to something is known as chavving up (or shamming up in Ireland), and is particularly relevant if the modifications actually decrease performance. This has sometimes been used - occasionally derogatively but usually as a joke - of the case modding scene.
Related terms for urban or suburban miscreants can be found in the dictionary entry for "chav". The popularity of these terms has grown since the 1980s, and their usage reflects both serious and light-hearted issues arising from changes in British urban life.
There are a number of collective nouns for a group of chavs, among the most popular being a chavalanche or a chavalcade.
Prince Harry has recently been cited, due to his penchant for baseball caps, sportswear, drinking, and drugs, and for his associations with glamour models. However, his aristocratic background would be at odds with the council estate stereotype.
For a certain group of chavs David and Victoria Beckham are particular role models. The footballer Wayne Rooney would fit the stereotype better, due to his use of abusive language and the anti-social behaviour depicted in the tabloid press.
Michael Carroll is widely regarded as being the epitome of chav culture. When the petty criminal and former dustman won the National Lottery Jackpot of over £9 million, he spent a large proportion of his winnings on gold jewellery, alcohol, drugs and cars.
The Reality Television star Jade Goody is widely regarded as a Chav rolemodel having had two highly publicised pregnancies with no obvious income.
Charlotte Church and Colleen McLoughlin are often referred to as "Queen of the Chavs" by tabloid newspapers and gossip magazines for their apparent lack of style, drunken behaviour, choice of laddish rich boyfriends and no appreciation for the value of money.
• Hooliganism / Yobs
• British English
• White trash