Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dale's Academy of Political Correction: Ban Word 'Toff'

That Pope of the Politically Correct - Iain Dale - has taken a Fabian-originated Comment is Free article and done a "find and replace" substituting "toff" for "chav" throughout. Here is is. Would probably be funnier still if this wasn't one of his category errors.

There's more to this I think than the CiF piece reveals. They're worried that the word has become some kind of unthinking euphemism for "scum". But "chav" or "Chavi" is I believe an affectionate word originating in Romany and then via Kent and the coarse summer sport of Hop-picking into more general use in the East End meaning simply "child".

As in Jackiey Budden mother of Jade Goody saying of her briefly troubled daughter: "She'll al-ays be mee chavi".

It is almost as if the word "pikey" had come into general use among the upper and middle classes for working people. And not just James May and Jeremy Clarkson "joshing" on Top Gear.

On the other hand "Toff" has no racial under or overtone of which I'm aware at all. Many would surmise it is from toffee-nosed or the like. My dictionary suggests it is a chavi distortion of "Tuft". Literally the proud feather in the cap of any lordly undergraduate.

Perhaps we should ignore Iain and file the word chav with the likes of sandboy, gyp, toerag as common words of possibly rather offensive origins.

INCIDENTALLY: Tom Harris MP was rather drawn to Iain's earlier post on the same riveting subject, citing "Ned" as a Scottish comparator.


Evan Price said...

It is strange that the use of the word 'toff' is increasingly in order to abuse rather than to identify ... but then we have exchanged comments on that before ...

Letters From A Tory said...

Apparently, 'chav' is derived from combining 'cheltenham average', a phrase used by Cheltenham school girls to describe the supposedly lesser mortals who attend the crappy schools in the area.

Chris Paul said...

I don't think that's it LFAT ... coincidence at best.

Did Jackiey Budden go to Cheltenham Grrrls School for Dopeheads and decide daughter Jade Goody was "Cheltenham Average"? And did all those hop pickers; Romany and kentish/of kent folk alike; hear this explained at a lecture at the RA in 1810 and decide to reclaim it?

My kids, and following Tom Harris' lead I'll call them Myra and Ian, attend a bog-standard community high school use the term from time to time. Which is discouraged. "Chorlton Average" perhaps? Though it seems chav is in some ways the opposite of chorlton average in their usage.

Agree with you Evan that "Toff" has become less discriminating than its not so humble origins at some of our finest universities. But "Tuft" or "Toff", it always carried some derogation for most users cf "Swell", "Hooray", "Sloane" etc.