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A colloquialism, meaning an aggressive, unpleasant or uncultured person. Yob is usually used to refer to young men, or a particular culture that celebrates violence, alcohol and disrespect.

The term dates from the mid-19th century and is usually cited as being derived from “boy” backwards. A backwards boy would be an ill-mannered or uncouth young person to be avoided. Another possible derivation is an acronym of “youth of Britain.”

Yob culture has become an increasingly publicised and even politicised issue in Britain. Several issues have raised the public perception of a yob culture.

Successive studies on binge drinking have shown that the British public, and Britain’s young people in particular, drink more in total and drink more at one sitting than any other European country. Bluewater, a shopping mall in Kent, banned the wearing of hooded sweatshirts or baseball caps on its premises. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 introduced anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs), binding court agreements for repeated low-level offending that often carry custodial penalties if broken. Ruth Kelly, the education secretary, has commissioned a group of advisors to examine disruption in classrooms. The practice of happy slapping, often described as “the latest craze” by the press, involves yobs attacking passers-by and recording the assault using video phones. Happy slapping has provoked much head-shaking in the media, following its highlighting by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, and a case where a 16 year old girl was beaten so badly she was hospitalised for two days.

Is there a culture of yobbery in Britain? Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, has talked of a 'loss of respect' amongst young people. Michael Howard, the leader of the Conservative Party, has attacked 'yob culture' in the House of Commons. Others, such as Professor Rod Morgan, the government’s chief advisor on youth crime, have warned of the effects of tarring an entire generation of young people with the same brush.

Government measures to deal with the problems of yob culture have included the aforementioned ASBOs; dispersal orders (similar in principle if not punishment to the old Riot Act), where a public gathering can be broken up with the sanction of arrest by a police officer; enforcement orders which are flexible but can impose 9pm curfews on under-16 year olds; fixed penalty fines for public drunkenness or disorder; police powers to close pubs or bars that serve drunken people; and council by-laws that make alcohol consumption in certain places an arrestable offence.

Although most legislation and political ire has been aimed at young people, it has been noted that older people and professionals are just as likely to misbehave under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol-fuelled violence is one particularly troubling facet of yob culture. Home Office statistics show that 40% of violent crime, 78% of assaults and 88% of criminal damage cases are committed while the offender is under the influence of alcohol. The Institute of Alcohol Studies estimates that 1 in 4 'acute' (i.e. emergency) male admissions to hospital are under the influence. 75% of accident and emergency admissions at midnight are drunk. And yet, at the same time as this government talks of the problems of yob culture and public drunkenness, it plans to liberalise licensing laws so that pubs will be able to serve alcohol 24 hours a day if they so choose. Joined up government?


Props to Noung for corrections.

And finally: a bit of fun. Are you a yob? Find out with the Observer’s quiz - http://www.guardian.co.uk/quiz/questions/0,5961,408093,00.html

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