The criticism of the “Chav D” event in the recent article “Stop chavving a laugh” (January 23rd 2007, p. 12) is underpinned by one fundamental, and unfortunately incorrect, assumption. It supposes an equivalence between a relatively new creation, the “chav”, and a much older concept, the “working class”.
The term “working class”, present since at least 1850, refers variously to those without means of production, working in manual jobs for a wage, or to those within families of this description. The term “chav”, according to the OED present since around 1998, refers to a subculture defined by brash or loutish behaviour, a typical mode of dress, and respect for lack of an education or job.
A working class person, then, is by no means necessarily a chav. The undersigned would consider themselves, upon economic status, as working class, but would not at all consider identifying as chavs. Nor is a chav necessarily working class. The term “unworking class” has been coined as a synonym, and one only has to flick through “Heat” or “Hello” for examples of people revelling in chav culture as a decidedly profitable career.
The article has the right sentiments in “[looking] at solutions […] rather than laughing at the dress sense of the working classes.” Yet in this confusion of terms, it itself unfairly and ignorantly insults this entire subset of the population. At the same time, it flatters chavs– a culture glorying ignorance and petty criminality– as deserving of sympathy, where perhaps in its place a good dosage of mockery and contempt– Chav D– is in order.
James Harrison Fisher, Langwith College
Edward Evans, Derwent College