In the name of the Charver

'In the name of the Charver' - 2002, University of Leeds

In 2002 I based a university research project on the 'scally'. I wanted to discover how these people were refered to in the different regions of the UK. I also researched the origins of the numerous regional words I discovered.

A quick summary of the most interesting bits from the research

Full write-up (for the more academic types)


'In the name of the Charver' Revisted - 2005

The conclusion to my 2002 research was as follows:

"At a time when dialect speech is becoming rarer, it is heartening to discover such a rich amount of regional variation existing amongst young people. Furthermore, there is a healthy combination of words with historical origins and ones which have been created in the last few years. It seems that some older dialect speech is still alive, with new dialect words also being created.

The reason this variation still exists and has not become ‘diluted’ can probably be attributed to the fact that magazines and television soaps and dramas (probably the biggest sources for young peoples’ acquisition of non-regional words) do not appear to ever use any of the words investigated here. I feel this is because the words are, in a sense, a slightly derogatory and ‘classist’ stereotype, so writers may steer clear of them for this reason. Perhaps more significantly though, is the fact that most television script writers and journalists are in their late twenties or older and this age group seems less familiar with such words.

It is my hope that the current regional variation remains and it will certainly be interesting to monitor how this variation develops over the next few decades."

Since this research was carried out, the UK has been gripped by 'chav' fever. Popular culture has shown an increased interest in the lifestyle and fashions of the scally. A number of websites, newspaper articles and books have looked at the scally and brought this human species into the forefront of the nation's consciousness.

As mentioned, much has been published in the media and in books and, throughout this, there has been one word used consitstently to desrcibe these people - a chav. A survey in 2005 found that in December 2004 alone 114 British newspaper articles used the word. The notion of the scally has been introduced to a broader range of social groups and generations who had previously been unaware, or uncertain, of the ways of a scally. It is likely that all these people discovering scallies for the first time will have learnt to describe them as chavs. Furthermore, many of the people who had previously been aware of the scally, but perhaps used their own dialect word for them, could have adopted the word 'chav' as a result of the increase in its usuage.

In my original research when looking at the origins of our various regional words, 'chav' was the one for which I found least information. Despite this, it seems fairly certain that 'chav' derives from 'chavvie', an old dialect word for a gypsy or tramp. However, I recently heard it said that 'chav' stands for 'Council-Housed And Violent' - this may be a fitting acronym, but appears to have been attached to the word only very recently.

If we were to repeat the initial 2002 research today, it would be my expectation that there has been a shift in the nation's vocabularly. As I said in 2002, I hope we can hold on to our dialect words for scallies. I, for one, will be staying true to my Manchester roots and using only 'scally', wherever I may be in the country.