16 July 2008

You're chaving a larf, ain't ya?

Oh dear. Kerthump!

Sorry, that was me falling off the chair because I've been laughing so hard. The Fabian Society has decreed that the word "chav" must be banned. I'd like to know how they propose to do this. Quite apart from the fact that chavs themselves use the term, the case for banning it is pretty thin.

Even very offensive words, such as nigger, are not banned - they just don't get voiced in polite society. It doesn't stop some people using it, though. How would a word be banned, anyway? Would parliament have to pass a law? Would the police then be obliged to arrest anyone heard using "chav", take them down the station and charge them? Would the courts become clogged with non-chavs and chavs alike being found guilty and told to pay fines?

The hackneyed phrase "PC gone mad" springs to mind here, in terms of what the Fabian Society proposes. You cannot legislate against thoughts or words - that way lies the Unspeak of 1984.

Here in the UK, we have no overall body to determine the acceptability or otherwise of the words we speak and write, unlike in France, for example, where the Academie Francaise decrees what homegrown neologisms must be used in place of imported English words and even how words must be spelled. Thank goodness - I lived in France for a while and never quite got the point of the Academie and its rule of law. Controlling language ultimately attempts to control people's thoughts and is a form of censorship.

Chav is as much a part of the English language in this country as the words tea and cricket. And until the government does actually pass a law against its use, the Fabian Society would be better off picking a battle it can win...


Anonymous said...

Is the Fabian Society still around???

The Académie Française doesn't have the kind of power that results in censorship... they just decide what goes in the dictionary or not (they're sort of like the ppl who run the OED, only with matching outfits and more prestige).

However they're the embodiment of the idea that not all words uttered in a French accent or in the context of a French conversation are automatically "French." This includes neologisms and inhabitual turns of phrase. For example, an observation that the weather is "pretty" ("il fait jolie!") will most certainly invite guffaws and the observation that "ceci n'est pas français."

Rather frustrating for we Anglophone wordsmiths!

Unknown said...

The Academie does advise the French government on quotas and so on, though - for example, the law that was passed banning English words in advertising (or having to have an asterisk with a translation below) was drafted by the Academie. It also suggests quotas for non-French songs played on the radio and other similar stuff. Not a form of censorship?

The Fabian Society does still exist. Apparently. It has a website, after all. I'm not quite sure what the point of it is any more, though...