Ned (Scottish)

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Ned is a derogatory term applied in Scotland to hooligans, louts or petty criminals,[1][2] latterly with the stereotypical implication that they wear casual sports clothes.[3][4] Such usage in Glasgow dates back to the 1960s or earlier.[5]

Early use of term[edit]

The Oxford Living Dictionaries dates the term to the early 19th century.[6] Former Chief Constable of Glasgow Sir Percy Sillitoe noted use of the word by gangs and police in the 1930s.[7] Leader columns of newspapers in the 1960s featured the term in relation to teenage gang violence.[8] In a 1962 book the crime writer and broadcaster Bill Knox referred to stolen cars turning up after having been taken "by a bunch of neds who want transport for some house-breaking job". He publicised the term more widely in his 1970s police report series Crimedesk, made and broadcast by STV.[5] In his 1975 novel Rally to Kill, Knox described "neds" as Glasgow's "tag for small-time hoodlums", saying that "neds" and their families from the Gorbals had been rehoused elsewhere in the city, "taking their violence with them to the new areas".[9] A 1982 analysis of crime fiction notes Knox's 1977 novel Pilot Error describing Strathclyde Police as being unconcerned about "neds" getting hurt in a fight as long as no-one else is affected, and translates the term as "Glasgow slang for hoods".[10]

In his 2002 autobiography Granny Made me an Anarchist, the Glaswegian writer Stuart Christie described the Glasgow "Neds" as preceding the Teddy Boys of 1955, as a hangover from the poverty of the 1930s. These "Neds" had long hair parted in the middle and smoothed down with liquid paraffin, commonly with a "dowt" tucked behind their ear as a fire hazard which in urban legend had resulted in one "Ned" getting severe burns. He describes them as slouching along with their elbows projecting aggressively, wearing a white silk scarf tucked into their tightly buttoned jacket and carrying a cut-throat razor in its breast pocket. Over this, on outings for a fight or a dance, they allegedly wore an old tweed overcoat with weapons such as hatchets or hammers concealed in the lining. According to Christie, the "Teds" who followed them also had a reputation for wild behaviour, but were too concerned about their clothes to engage in aggression.[11]

Ned culture[edit]

Neds and ned culture are associated with violence, particularly in poorer housing schemes constructed on the periphery of towns or cities in the post-war era. These lack the social facilities of city centres where former working-class areas have been redeveloped, and gangs of bored youths hang around isolated areas drinking and taking drugs. They are likely to carry knives as part of a culture of violence leading to Scotland having a higher murder rate than England, though gun crime is rare and the murder rate is significantly lower than that in the United States.[12][13] Common slang terms are "to chib", stab with a knife or sharp weapon, and "a square go" meaning a fair fight between two individuals.[3][14]

One folk etymology for Ned is that it stands for "Non-Educated Delinquent," a backronym which arose long after the word "ned" came into use.[15] In 2003, the Scottish Socialist Party MSP Rosie Kane tabled a question to the Scottish Parliament condemning use of the word ned, which she said was degrading and insulting to young people as it stood for non-educated delinquent.[16]

A 2011 study using ethnography as a methodology of linguistic research found working-class adolescent males in a high school in the south side of Glasgow deploying a number of distinct social identities: as well as those identified as "neds" by themselves and others, pupils were grouped as "alternatives" (sometimes called "Goths" or "Moshers") who enjoyed rock music and wore black clothes, "sports" who enjoyed football and rugby and wore trainers and sports clothing, and "schoolies" who generally did not play sports but played musical instruments. Unlike other groups, the "neds" socialised in the street rather than being engaged in the school culture. Each group had a characteristic way of speaking, and used this to create social identity. Those in the "ned" category, for example, lowered tones in words such as "cat", and extended the vowels. This in itself was insufficient to identify someone as being a "ned", consideration of clothing and social activities was also needed. Both the "neds" and the "sports" had an attitude of enjoying engaging in physical violence, while the "schoolies" avoided violence, but antisocial behaviour was often only carried out by a small minority of adolescents, and many in the study distanced themselves from the stereotypes. The "ned" group were just as concerned about violence and crime as the others.[17]

In 2007, it was reported that in Glasgow the term Tea Boy had become an increasingly popular alternative to "ned". "Tea mobile" (a play on mobile phone corporation T-Mobile), a reference to a ned's automobile, had also spun off from this term.[18]

In Dundee the Roma word gadgie (a non-Roma man) has been used historically; however, Ned has been introduced by popular culture. In all other parts of Scotland and parts of north east England (particularly Newcastle upon Tyne) gadgie retains its Roma meaning.

British psychologist Adrian Raine has expressed contempt for what he feels is the glorification of ned culture in the Scottish media. He has also opined that ned culture is closely correlated with psychopathy.[19]

By 2006 the term chav from the South of England[20] was used across the United Kingdom, with ned often seen as the synonymous Scottish term. Other local terms are "schemies" in Edinburgh and "scallies" in Liverpool.[21]

In popular culture[edit]

Neds became a staple of Scottish comedy, and neddish characters feature in sketch shows such as Chewin' the Fat,[3] Still Game, Limmy's Show and Burnistoun. Scottish soap opera River City has featured neds such as Shellsuit Bob.[22]

Neds is a 2010 film by director Peter Mullan which won best film at the San Sebastian Film Festival in September 2010.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ned". Dictionary of the Scots Language. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  2. ^ BBC News - Ned arrives - it's official, 12 July 2001, retrieved 8 May 2006
  3. ^ a b c BBC News - Neds make it into the dictionary, 9 June 2005, reporting definition in Collins English Dictionary; retrieved 8 May 2006
  4. ^ Middle class kids 'attracted to ned and chav culture'. BBC News. 10 September 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  5. ^ a b "The chavs and chav-nots in a bitter war of words - News". Edinburgh Evening News. 29 August 2007. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
    Knox, Bill (1962). Little drops of blood. Published for the Crime Club by Doubleday.
  6. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, definition of "ned", retrieved 1 June 2011
  7. ^ Sillitoe, Percy (1955). Cloak without dagger. p. 143.
  8. ^ Stirling Observer counties edition, "Stop the Rise of the teen-ager" July 1960
  9. ^ Knox, Bill (1975). Rally to kill. Published for the Crime Club by Doubleday.
  10. ^ Dove, George N. (1982). The police procedural. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press. pp. 79–80. ISBN 0-87972-188-X.
  11. ^ Christie, Stuart (2002). My Granny Made Me an Anarchist. Oil & Gas USSR. pp. 87–88. ISBN 1-873976-14-3.
  12. ^ "Scotland's murderous heart | Society | The Guardian". London. 20 October 2005. Retrieved 2011-02-05.
  13. ^ "BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Extra police target 'ned culture'". BBC News. 2 February 2004. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
  14. ^ Matt Bendoris (2 Feb 2011). "Meet bouncer who staged Neds fights | The Sun |Home Scotland|Scotland Features". London: The Sun. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
  15. ^ Dr Alistair Fraser (2011). "Programme Note: NEDS". Glasgow Film Theatre. Retrieved 2011-02-05.
  16. ^ "BBC News | UK | Scotland | Holyrood urged to protect 'neds'". BBC News. 2003-06-05. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
  17. ^ Andrew Denholm, Education Correspondent (21 January 2011). "Study shows 'neds display identity through their clothes and accents' - Herald Scotland | News | Education". The Herald (Glasgow). Retrieved 2011-02-06.
    Fiona MacLeod (21 January 2011). "'Neds' have their own style of pronunciation to distinguish themselves, study says - News". Edinburgh: The Scotsman. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
    "PME School Of English : Neds - it's all in the voice". Birmingham City University. 20 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-06.
    Robert Lawson. "University of Glasgow :: Postgraduate Research :: Robert Lawson - University of Arizona". Archived from the original on 2009-07-22. Retrieved 2011-02-06. and Full Report
  18. ^ MacFarlane, Colin The Real Gorbals Story: True Tales from Glasgow's Meanest Streets, Mainstream Publishing, 2007
  19. ^ Raine, Adrian. "21st Century Television's Faltering Moral Compass". The Economist. 8 April 2009.
  20. ^ OED online, retrieved 21/3/11
  21. ^ Beal, Joan C. (2006). Language and Region (Intertext). New York: Routledge. pp. 53–54. ISBN 0-415-36601-1.
  22. ^ Traynor, Frances (7 August 2002). "BBC Scotland finally takes the wraps off its new show, River City". Daily Record. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  23. ^ "BBC News - Peter Mullan's Neds wins film awards". 2010-09-26. Retrieved 2012-03-15.

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