David Thompson


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July 16, 2008



You cannot consider yourself of the left and use the word.

Gosh, and her saying that is not at all exclusive or elitist! 'You have to use language exactly like mine, or you are not of the left!'

The left - in favour of diversity and community, especially when everybody is the same.


How long before "progressive" becomes as tainted as "post-modernist", "structuralist", "constructivist" and all the others that have been used as euphemisms for Marxist, and they have to hijack another once-positive word? How about Toynbeeism? Hmmm, a bit too pejorative, perhaps.


"It’s interesting to note how readily vulnerability is assigned to “a largely voiceless group” that isn’t actually defined anywhere in the article. Apparently, it’s no longer necessary to specify who or what is vulnerable, or how; one can merely assert that something, somewhere is."

The chavs that hand around outside my local off-license don’t look vulnerable and voiceless to me.


That should be "hang around" not "hand around".


Oh lord, it's the brigade of the perpetually offended come to the rescue of yet another group of potential victims.


I guess if you specify who the vulnerable voiceless group is, the voiceless might - well - voice their concerns at being patronised.


But where would we be without the Designated Victim Group, on whose behalf we claim to speak - selflessly, heroically and always for the best possible motives?

John D

Lefties are always upset about working class people being "voiceless" - except when they're pissed off about multiculturalism or paying too much tax.


Ah, that’s when the “voiceless” becomes “middle England,” and thus evil.


Voiceless and vulnerable? Absolute proof that these Guardianistas never, ever come into actual contact with them. Ask the local shop owner, the elderly person on an estate or walking home, the poor bastards who have to live near them - whatever they say, I guarantee it will not be "they are voiceless and vulnerable".

They acknowlege no other authority but their own, no boundaries to their behaviour, they accord no respect to the feelings or wellbeing of others. They are the product of the Guardianista social engineering of the past thirty/forty years. They are, in short, a total nightmare for the law-abiding (a phrase which would be in 'scare quotes' if used on the BBC or the Guardian). If anything, the popular reaction to 'chavs' is extremely restrained - in many parts of the world their behaviour would result in them being beaten with clubs, not made the butt of mild jokes.


"It’s my understanding that “chav” is most often used to describe a subset of dysfunctional prole – a feckless, belligerent and unpleasant person with limited foresight, self-control issues and antisocial leanings."

It should be, but it often isn't. I've been around quite a few middle-class types who do, in fact, use the word 'chav' to describe people who are 'merely' working-class. That is, people who I hold dear (such as every single member of my family). So yes, personally I object to certain middle-class cretins dismissing good, decent people because they're too ignorant and lazy to see the difference.

That said, I'm in full agreement with your article. Aimed correctly, there's absolutely nothing wrong with calling certain types of people 'chavs'. I used to live among them - most of my family still does - and we despised these scumbags just as much as everyone else. More so, in fact, given that it was us that actually had to live with them. Unlike, of course, Zoe Williams and anyone called Jemima.

Mark T

You cannot consider yourself of the left and use the word. It is sneering and patronising and – perhaps most dangerous – it is distancing, turning the "chav" into the kind of feral beast that exists only in tabloid headlines. It is worse than other forms of snobbery because it so clearly links poverty and being working class to criminality and fecklessness

Jemima and Tom have obviously never lived in a provincial town, where the victims of criminality and fecklessness are indeed the vulnerable poor, and the 'chavs' (let's be quite clear - the poor themselves use the term to describe antisocial fuckers who push past grannies, yell obscenities and harass and intimidate the general public) are most likely from an equal or higher social strata.


It seems to me that “chavness” is as much a matter of nihilism, infantilism and antisocial worldview as economic status. It’s a “two-fingers-to-you-fag-smoke-in-baby’s-face” kind of thing. The kind of people you wouldn’t want living next door, or next door to your parents, but whom Zoe, Tom and Jemima pretend we ought to love. Or at least look on as some unfairly maligned and put-upon section of mankind. I suspect the agonizing says more about the hang-ups of certain Guardian writers than it does the public at large. Guardianistas are, it seems, only sympathetic to the working class - as a concept - when the working class agrees with Guardian orthodoxy. Which, it has to be said, isn’t very often.

Mark T

Off topic, but as you are such a fan of nebulous postmodern theorising, I thought you might like this latest Bunting gem -

"Global communications are disrupting all religious traditions, traumatising identity and fuelling a literalist fundamentalism; the result is a gross simplifying of the complexity and paradox that is part of human experience."


The article as a whole doesn't get much better.



Ta very much. Some time ago, it was pointed out to me that “Madeleine Bunting” is in fact an anagram of “Bungle in dementia”. I’ve come to realise this is not entirely coincidental.

Dan Collins

Clearly, The Guardian no longer cares about split infinitives. It is this sort of slovenliness that leads inexorably to the condition of chavity.


I’ve just been reminded that this is really about the distinctions that working class people have always made between their “respectable” and “not respectable” neighbours. Guardianistas generally have difficulty with the notion of being “respectable” as it denotes a certain bourgeois aspiration, which is, of course, counter-revolutionary and thus to be disdained.


chavchavchavchavchavchacchavchavchavchchavavcchavhavchavchavchavchavchavchachavchcchavhavavvchavchavchavchchavavchavchavchavchavchavcchavhavcchavhavchavcchavhchavachavvchavchav, and Jemima, did I mention chav. Have a chav day.


Take this job and chav it, I aint gonna chav it no more. Hey, I think we're on to something..

Audacious Aardvark

The Guardian will prove the end of chavilization as we know it.


Chavlings in love:



The love bites make it special.


The sourcing may be completely apocryphal, but my understanding was that 'chav' was an acronym derived from sociologist-speak for "council-housing, and violent." Seemed reasonable to me.


I recently re-read Atlas Shrugged and what seemed so ridiculous coming from the mouths of characters in print is made frightening by the volume of people (I couldn't say 'individuals' without being intellectually dishonest) parroting that drivel. Force language on the populace to try and control thought - which is a personal violation of the highest order - and succeed in driving out thought and any sense of personal responsibility. A horror and indignance rise in my throat like nausea. There are sheep, wolves and sheepdogs; could the sheepdogs simply up and leave?

Spiny Norman


"...but my understanding was that 'chav' was an acronym derived from sociologist-speak for "council-housing, and violent."

Could be, since some now prefer the nickname "asbos", from Anti-Social Behaviour Order.

Duncan Donuts

Jamima... you jabroni.

Spiny Norman

By the way, I've never understood "chav" to mean working-class whites in general, but rather, welfare-class louts aping American inner-city hip-hop culture... and making utter fools of themselves in the process. Thank you again, MTV.

Spiny Norman

Sorry for the double post.

Damn captcha.

Roderick Reilly

Jemima? Seriously? SNORT!

Let's call people like her -- insufferable, overbearing ninny-twits -- "Jemimas" from here on out.

You someone found the Obama New Yorker cover offensive? What a "Jemima" you are! You think Americans shouldn't eat so much or keep their thermostat at 72 degrees lest they offend the world? You Jemima! Oops! That last one may be racially offensive! You think trans-fats should be banned? Jemima! You think smoking and drinking should be banned? MEGA-Jemima! You're offended by the use of the expression "chavs?" You're the original Jemima! Hope a chav grabs your boobs and calls you a "Jemima," Jemima.


I wonder if it’s significant that one of the authors’ surnames is Olchawski, which could be pronounced “Ol-chav-ski”. Maybe she’s actually just sick of her name conjuring images of unattractive people? Just a thought. :)

Mikey NTH

My brother, a sheriff's deputy who works in the juvenile courts, calls them 'gangbangers' - the little thuggish punks he sees being hauled before the judge every day.


If "chav" and "chavness" are something more familiar to the EU, do any of you mind if we colonists in the US hi-jack chav to see what reaction we get here? GOOD SPORT I SAY! This could be fun!


It seems that the Guardianistas who would speak for the "voiceless" don't actually know enough about the "voiceless" to speak for them.

Additionally: Does the Guardianistas' misunderstanding of "chav" as a derogatory term broadly referring to any member of the white working class reveal their own unspoken disdain for working class whites? Why else can't they recognize the distinction between chavs and the rest?

Craig Mc

I can only wish Little Britain put a Grauniad columnist character in their show. Now there's a rich seam.



“Does the Guardianistas’ misunderstanding of ‘chav’… reveal their own unspoken disdain for working class whites?”

There is, I think, a dissonance. I suspect the above says more about the hang-ups and dishonesties of certain Guardian writers (and their presumed readership) than it does the broader population. When I hear the term “chav” being used, it’s generally by working class people to denote the kind of riffraff they wouldn’t want as neighbours. I.e., people who are feckless, criminal, lazy, antisocial, etc. Of course, this implies bourgeois aspiration among those who use the term, which may jar with certain Marxist leanings. (God forbid the “oppressed” proletariat should actually quite like bourgeois middle-class values. What of the great Class War then?)

The Fabian Society and the Guardian attract quite a few people who claim to have great sympathy for the working class – at least as an ideological abstraction – but their politics and assumptions are often at odds with those of the people they claim to care about. Hence the endless efforts to “correct” them. And when the “voiceless” start expressing views directly at odds with Guardian orthodoxy, then the “voiceless” mysteriously become “middle Englanders” or “little Englanders” and objects of disdain.


""Chavlings in love:

when did liza minelli relocate to essex?


Zoe was on the beeb this morning (breakfast telly), and I found myself agreeing with here just a tiny bit when she talked about the 'liberal left' and their tendancy to create issues where none existed before. I think I'd best go and lie down in a dark room for a minute to recover.

Mary Jackson

The prejudice shown here against those voiceless Guardianistas is very offensive.


Here in the US we don't beat around the bush and refer to these people as white trash.

Horace Dunn


Where you lead, the Daily Mail is sure to follow. See -


I had always thought (like Glover in the Mail article) that the word Chav designated someone who adopted a particular aspirational style and demeanour (i.e. trying to keep up with the Beckhams) and that while Chavs were perhaps predominatly working or lower-middle class they were not exclusively so. Clearly, as the thread here shows, most people's "take" on it is quite different.

Interesting that this debate should have been started by the Fabian Society. The early Fabians, of course, like Sydney and Beatrice Webb, egged on by GBS, were great proponents of eugenic theory - "the breeding of the right sort of men" as Beatrice put it. Their dislike of universal suffrage (votes for riff-raff) is well known. Given this history it makes it all the more peculiar that Guardian types insist on eliding being left wing with being decent, caring and humanist.



This tickled me:

“In short, they are a little bit vulgar or, if you prefer, somewhat impervious to what is considered good taste.”

And the point about not necessarily being poor is important. I wouldn’t think of chavs as being “voiceless” or victims of anything, except perhaps themselves. The word also has an implication of obnoxiousness, of being ill-mannered to the point of belligerence and possibly criminal. Again, not likely candidates for sympathy or protective feeling.

This seems not entirely unrelated…


Squid Vicious

Maybe she doesn't realize it, but in the States, the name Jemima is completely unknown except as part of a clearly racist insult.

I would even go so far as to say that it is deeply offensive to a largely voiceless group and - especially when used in normal middle-class conversation or on national TV - it betrays a deep and revealing level of racial hatred.

That's right, she should ban herself. Racist.


I have to say my understanding of the term chav is that it is connected to bad taste. For example wearing Burberry or aspiring to be like a B list celebrity like a footballers wife, Jordan or a Big Brother contestant. Jade Goody is a Chav par excellence.

Therefore in this sense, I think it inevitable that it has snobbish connotations.

Nevertheless Zoe and Jemima are unconvincing and worse, unoriginal. Julie Burchill made the same comments several years ago, and much more entertainingly so.




Thanks for that. It’s interesting how the meaning has, apparently, changed from one mainly denoting a low-grade fashion tribe. What’s more interesting, though, are the efforts to rob decent working class people of a perfectly legitimate word to distinguish themselves from their less deserving neighbours. It seems to me that suppressing such terms - which is what Tom and Jemima are advocating, vainly - would deny a way to distinguish the good from the bad, the deserving from the undeserving. Maybe this lack of discrimination serves a worldview in which antisocial behavior must always be caused by misfortune and unfairness, rather than the fact malevolent scumwads live among us.



Horace Dunn

Does anybody wonder why it took two people to write this rather silly article?

Is it a case of good old-fashioned job creation, or the first-ever example of mutual navel-gazing?

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