Britain's Chav Controversy

A think tank groups the British slang "chav" with inflammatory racist language.

ByABC News
January 8, 2009, 1:30 AM

LONDON, 17 July, 2008 -- The war on "chav" is on, and when all's said and done, the noisy British teens with their fake designer clothes, gold jewelry, cheap cider drinking and disruptive behavior could be better off for it.

A British think-tank this week is calling on the British media and population to stop using the word "chav." According to The Fabian Society, calling someone a chav is not politically correct, and should be put on the same footing as the "N" word.

"The Guardian and the BBC use the word 'chav,' but they do not use certain words they consider too insulting," Rachel Jolley, Web editor of The Fabian Society, told ABC. "They should reconsider the way they use language."

"Chav" recently made it into the Oxford English Dictionary as "a young person of a type characterized by brash and loutish behavior and the wearing of designer-style clothes; usually with connotations of a low social status." In other words, the teenagers playing loud music at the back of the bus, with the pristine sneakers and less pristine vocabulary.

The chav strives to look expensive while remaining "street," a paradox that results in fake Burberry hats over rock-solid Crocs for chavs, and two-piece tracksuits over 5-inch pumps for their female equivalents, the chavettes. The place you are most likely to spot this social phenomenon is at the mall during school hours.

"They are replicating celebrity styles at the market level," explains Dr. Keith Hayward. Hayward was one of the first to research the phenomenon, revealing that chav had taken off as the national expression to describe this kind of individuals.

"The use of the term 'chav' skyrocketed in British newspapers from virtually zero in the years 1995-2003 to a startling 946 during the last 12 months [of 2005]," he wrote in Crime, Media, Culture in 2005.

As the chav phenomenon grew more common, the media took a hold of its comic effect, in the forms of shows such as the very popular "Little Britain," and the reality TV show "Big Brother," which relies heavily on chavs making a nuisance of themselves on the show to keep its audience captivated.