Last updated at 16:22 BST, Tuesday, 13 September 2011



In this week's programme Callum and Yang Li talk about the word 'yob'. Is Callum a yob or is he a gentleman?

A man pointing and shouting

Is this man a yob?

The script for this programme

Callum: Hello and welcome to The English We Speak. My name is Callum Robertson.

Li: And I'm Yang Li.

Men: Come 'ere then! Oi! Come on then! Want a fight? Who are ya?!

Li: Oh Callum! Who are all those horrible men that I can hear on my headphones?

Callum: Well, Li, they are yobs.

Li: Yobs?

Callum: Yes, yobs. Yob is our phrase for today. It's an informal word that refers to a man who is loud and rude and possibly rather violent.

Li: Oh, that sounds like you!

Callum: What are you talking about, sounds like me?! What do you mean? Are you asking for a fight?!

Li: No, no, no! But do you see what I mean? You sound like a yob.

Callum: Erm... yes, OK. Sorry about that. Hmm. Anyway, I chose this word because as many people will know the UK recently experienced some violence on the streets of London and other cities. 'Yob' is a word that the British press used to describe the rioters. Let's hear some real headlines from some British newspapers:

  • UK riots: 11 councils to evict 'riot yobs'.
  • Ken Clarke blames 'feral' yobs.
  • 600 riot yobs left DNA on windows.
  • Riot yobs filmed attacking cop cars.
  • Riot yobs can't hide.
  • UK riots: young yobs back on streets despite David Cameron's pledge.

Li: Ah, I'm not sure I remember seeing this word yob on the BBC news site.

Callum: Well no. It's a very negative and judgemental word. The BBC tends to avoid this kind of language in its news stories. But this is a piece of British slang that is very common in the UK. And we also sometimes use the word yobbo.

Li: Yobbo. Hmm. But where do all these words come from?

Callum: Well, interestingly, what we have here is an example of backslang. If you read the word yob backwards, what do you get?

Li: Erm... B.O.Y., boy.

Callum: Exactly. And that's what the word used to mean, but now it refers to a rude and violent man, often a young man but not always.

Li: Listen Callum, I'm sorry about earlier. I don't really think you are a yob. You are a gentleman.

Callum: Oh, thanks Li.

Li: But in any case you know if we were to get in a fight I would beat you. So don't you try that again!

Callum: OK.