Chatham is full of chavs. It always has been. It has only been during the early years of this millennium, however, that people have been talking about them.
Chav, which has its origins in the Romany dialect, was certainly in use in the playground of my Rochester junior school 40 years ago. It wasn’t particularly insulting and was used as a synonym for mate.
So was chogger, for steal, or more particularly take — as in “Oi, chav! You’ve choggered my coat!” (Translation: “I say, old chap, you appear inadvertently to have confused my Macintosh with your own waterproof outerwear”). Chogger, I should add, is pronounced in east Kent as chore.
But what of the claims that Chatham is the home of the chav? Certainly, the characteristics of the chav (foolish headgear, tawdry jewellery, clothing labels displayed on the wrong side, meagre vocabulary, low foreheads, unrefined speech and lack of classical education) can be spotted in many individuals walking down the High Street.
But the same can be said of other towns across this sceptr’d isle. The quaint market town of Faversham, which has a maritime and royal history that even Rochester might envy, is sometimes referred to as Chaversham because of the large number of mouth-breathers who occasionally invade its centre, rattling (in the case of the distaff side) their hooped earrings, exposing their flabby midriffs and sporting what is known, I believe, as a council house facelift (an ultra-tight bun hairstyle definitely not favoured by Her Late Majesty Queen Victoria).
That evidence connecting chav and Cha’am is therefore remote. However, two other theories persist.
First, Chatham was epitome of the working-class town until the dockyard and ancillary industries were destroyed in the 1980s. The proud artisan class was effectively wiped out as the trades all but vanished. Is today’s feckless chav therefore the offspring of this industrial and economic devastation wrought by the Thatcher administration? Nothing to do, no vocational education, no prospect of a decent job? It’s a possibility.
But here’s another intriguing hypothesis. It’s connected with the name Jordan.
An amply proportioned young woman called Jordan, who disrobes herself in some of the red-top public prints, has been hailed by those publications as Queen of the Chav. Although I understand her name is merely un nom d’étape, I wonder if she chose it as un homage to the notorious Mrs Jordan?
Mrs Dora Jordan (1761-1816), I scarcely need remind you, was the greatest comic actress in the British theatre of the late 18th century. Dora, a former milliner’s assistant from Dublin, scandalised polite society when she became mistress to the Duke of Clarence (son of King George III) who later became King William IV (1830-37).
They shacked up in a villa on the Thames where she bore him 10 children before he dumped her after court pressure to marry and have legitimate children.
Mrs Jordan was described by some contemporaries and boisterous and uncouth. That might have suited her sailor prince, who visited Chatham and stayed in a High Street establishment that later became known as the Clarence Hotel.
It’s a long shot … but I wonder?
All comments on chavs and their origins greatly appreciated. Kindly email me.