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The BBC's Niall Dickson
"New laws could help change public attitudes"
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Wednesday, 6 December, 2000, 12:53 GMT
Yob culture: It's a fine line

yob culture n, derogatory, intentional oxymoron (cf Definitely Maybe). Everyone knows what yobs are (as with its extension, yobbo). But a precise definition of yob might be harder to come by - in its earliest days it simply meant "boy", an apparent example of back-to-front slang (cf bonk).

USAGE: Yob culture is to be a major target of UK Government policy, ("We need to tighten the law significantly in respect of what I call the yob culture", Tony Blair, November 2000). Incl. measures against drinking in public such as fixed penalties, and most notably a widely leaked proposal to allow local authorities to set up curfews for those under 16, partic. on streets of troubled areas or estates, meaning they should not be out on the streets between 9pm and 6am.

CONTESTED USAGE: One big problem facing the government is defining what actually constitutes yobbish behaviour. Is it just the kind of behaviour represented by Tony Husband's long-running Private Eye cartoon, Yobs? (see Internet links) Or does getting arrested for being drunk and disorderly in Leicester Square constitute it? How about drinking 14 pints in a day? At what point along the line of

  • shouting
  • swearing
  • fighting
  • graffiti
  • shoplifting
  • underage drinking
  • drug taking
  • and mugging
does bad behaviour become yobbishness? Where does football hooliganism fit in? Is the term restricted to teenagers? Jane's Police Review has asked why should a Last Night of the Proms crowd not constitute yob culture?

CONTESTED USAGE 2: And should an extreme case such as the fatal stabbing of 10-year-old Damilola Taylor, be classed as yobbishness, as many newspapers have done (if indeed the killing turns out to have been committed by other children)? Or is it in a different category altogether? And if it is yob culture, what good would a curfew have done? Damilola died at around 5pm.

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See also:

05 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Yobs at centre of Queen's speech
04 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Teen curfews 'to combat yobs'
04 Jul 98 | From Our Own Correspondent
The English and their image problem
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