Thursday, June 09, 2005


The Wonderful World Of Words

The arrival of a new dictionary always causes the news to report on new word inclusions. A full summary can be found here. One of the new words is 'chav', and I would like my readers to help me settle an argument, if they can.

The argument is over the origin of 'chav.' I have whittled it down to three possible options. Here they are:

1) The option preferred by the dictionary, that the word is a corruption of the Romany term 'chavi', meaning child. I personally think this is rubbish - not all children are chavs, and who creates new words from Romany, for fucks sake?

2) My preferred option - that it is a term coined by the pupils of Cheltenham Ladies College, standing for 'Cheltenham Average.' In this case, it is a sneering term applied by posh upper-middle class girls with names like Felicity and Lydia to insult the normal, decent, hard-working townfolk. I live near Cheltenham some of the time, and I can confirm that there is a clash between the townfolk and the collegefolk. The suggestion that this is the source, however, isn't popular with the school:

'Vicky Tuck, principal of the 150-year-old college, was appalled by the suggestion that her girls, schooled so tirelessly in the need to respect other less favoured members of society, could have come up with such a derogatory label.'

'"It is offensive because it's deprecating one group of people against another," she said. "If we're trying to stand for anything here it's respecting all kinds of people living together in harmony. That's what I spend my waking hours trying to do.'

. . .

'Mrs Tuck believes chav derives from chavi, the 19th century Romany word for child.'

Still doesn't make it true, though, does it? And it hasn't been used since the 19th century? Option two sounds better to me. On to:

3) The word is an anagram, standing for 'Council House And Violent.' This is my mate's idea, and he claims he saw it on telly, which obviously he regards as the fount of all wisdom. Certainly, this origin would fit with adding 'asbo' to the dictionary at the same time.

So what is it, readers? 1, 2 or 3?

I hate to pettifog, but in option 3, it is not an anagram but an acronym. Rarely do I hear the word chav nowadays, it being an anachronism here, more prevalent is Scally or Kev.

I would conjecture that the etymology of Scally is simply an alteration of the word rapscallion.

I would conjecture also that Kev is linked strongly to Kevin the truculent teenager from Harry Enfield and Friends.

As for Chav, I prefer the chavi descent, case 1, it's anti-romantic. It is plausible too that in passing someone misheard a traveller or whatnot talking and picked up on it.
You are of course right. It is an acronym, not an anagram. And to think I was criticisng people's grammar two posts ago!
I think it's number one, but number three is funnier. Shame that my favourite derivative didn't make it into the dictionary - Chaverick: a chav that doesn't quite fit in.
'Chaverick' - it's wonderful! I'm so stealing it.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?