Friday, October 06, 2006

A yob is just a backwards boy

This week has seen lots of headlines along the lines of "These PC nutters are taking away our freedom of speech" and "PC PCs can't call yobs yobs" and other such things. So, what's the problem with Political Correctness this week?

Apparently, the Metropolitan Police Authority have rethought their use of the word "yob" in documents and reports relating to anti-social behaviour committed by young people. The word sets up a "them" and "us" mindset, according to Cindy Butts, the deputy chair of the MPA, and stereotypes groups of young people as troublemakers.

So, what is a yob? Etymologically, "yob" seems to come from cockney backslang: it's "boy" spelt backwards. Semantically, it seems to refer to any young person who behaves in a way that falls short of society's expectations of good behaviour, be that smashing up a bus shelter, shouting obscenities at old ladies who won't give a football back, or happyslapping on the escalators at Clapham South.

It's all a bit remiscent of the "hoodie" and "chav" debates of last year. If we use these labels do we run the risk of stereotyping all young people who wear hooded tops or sport knock-off Burberry clobber? Or if they're acting like yobs, should we just call them yobs? And does it matter? Well, I think it does, but I'd welcome your comments below...

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