Skip to main content

A yob (thug, lout...) by any other name

The Diary has been musing about "yobs" now that Scotland Yard has banned the operational use of the term on grounds that it alienates young people.

("Word might upset thugs," explains The Sun.) A pity, because "yob" is both pithy and a rare surviving example of Cockney back slang ("boy"

backwards).

So what are the alternatives? Hoodlum, hooligan, lout and tearaway are a bit passe and no good backwards, although scum makes the nicely ambiguous "musc". "Youth" is inoffensive but boring and sounds Chinese if you say it back to front. Chavs and pikeys? Not quite thuggish enough. (The new Collins English dictionary defines "chav" simply as "a young working-class person who dresses in casual sports clothing".) We see promise in a regional alternative in Collins: the East Anglian "yarco". It has undertones of youth and narcotics, with a bright Asbo finish.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you