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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Aussie Slang.

This post is a straight out cut and paste which is something I try to avoid usually but Philip Adams, who is a popular journalist here has done such a great job that I decided on just doing this intro to his article.


Phillip Adams
August 26, 2006
SLANG was something the headmaster at Eltham High School detested.
He disapproved, too, of swearing- which is closely related - and chewing gum.
Also of having your socks around your ankles, water bombs, bringing your dog to school and conducting mutual genital inspections behind the bike shed.
And Mr Moody didn't much like Batman comics, fart jokes or peeing contests in the boys' loo.

But slang was a special problem. It offended his sensibilities.
Which is why he'd probably be happy with the fact that, these days, most of the slang words of his/our era have disappeared, only surviving in Dad and Dave jokes, copies of The Sentimental Bloke and the Macquarie Dictionary.


Marvellously descriptive terms such as dill and drongo have been displaced by the trans-Pacific dickhead.


Some years ago I used this column to launch a campaign to save Australian slang from extinction.
The idea was that each of us would adopt a favourite and forgotten colloquial expression and promise to use it at least once a day.
You might choose drongo and apply it to a politician.
If you combine sexual responsibility with athleticism you could choose franger - a far more evocative term than rubber, French letter or condom - and educate the staff at the local chemist as to its meaning.


Take the letter D as a random example.
Apart from drongo and dill, we have dinki-di, dinkum, dole, dukes,
dag, daisy-cutter (that's a low foot pass in Aussie Rules), daks, decko, darl, dazzler, dead loss, dead spit (denoting a strong resemblance),
dero, dibs (pertaining to marbles), dicky-whacker (someone guilty of the sin of Onan), digger, ding (a minor car accident), dung-puncher and dim-sims (applicable to both Chinese food and testicles).


Explore Aussie slang from A to Z and marvel at its richness.
Yes, even Z. There's zac for the now-defunct sixpence.
Or simply think of a topic, like alcohol.
Slang for the pub includes bloodhouse, boozer, pisser, rub-a-dub
and rubbidy while inebriates are, among other things, alkies, booze artists, dipsos, guzzle-guts, piss-pots, two-pot screamers or winos.
And they can be write-offs, blind, flaked out, full as a bull's bum, a pommy complaint box, a catholic school .
Last time I looked there were 120 terms for drunkenness and 30 for vomiting.
And over 300 for various forms of sexual intercourse, so there's plenty for everyone.


If you're more poetic than promiscuous, the joys of rhyming slang await you.
There are dozens of examples to defuse dangers and make light of threat.
Like after dark for shark, Jimmy Dancer for cancer and Joe Blake for snake.
Or take something that can be even deadlier- the meat pie rendered ceramic by some days in a roadside caf's kiln.
Add some tom sauce and it becomes a do-or-die-with-a-dash-of-dead-horse ... and instantly the inedible Four 'n Twenty is transformed into something as lyrical and lilting as anything quilled by Les Murray.


Diminutives might attract.
Aggro, ammo, arvo, blowie, bookie, brekkie, cabbie, cardie, compo, cossie, demo, freebie, frostie, garbo ... right down to Vinnies for St Vincent's.
There are thousands of 'em! Including lots of names like Singo, Richo, Davo.


But you get the picture.
In a world where we all speak American television, or SMS shorthand, or computer jargon, we're losing or have lost a vast and vulgar vocabulary.
Our verbal biodiversity is being replaced by the mealy-mouthed and mass-marketed.
How long is it since you heard someone describe a face as a moosh? Or legs as Ginger Meggs? Or mammaries as norks? Or an arm as a Warwick Farm? Or an ear as a Germaine Greer or simply a lug? Teeth used to be chompers or clackers. Heads were beans, conks or noggins. Fingers? Onkaparingas. A nose? A Lionel Rose or a schnoz.


Ten years ago I wrote an introduction to Midge Johansen's Dinkum Dictionary expressing concern about a colloquial crisis.
Now what I feared has come to pass.
We've lost our lingo.
Just as our jokes are overwhelmingly overseas jokes in local cossies,
just as our iconic brand names now belong to global companies,
just as our film industry now expends its energies making Matrix and Superman movies,
just as our foreign policy is dictated from Washington,
just as our elections embrace the terminology and policies of US "law and order" campaigns,
just as the hamburger has lost its egg and beetroot,
just as Telstra has Sol Trujillo and 90 per cent of our TV programming comes from Los Angeles,
just as we sing our songs in American accents, we now talk their talk.


So adopt a word or phrase today.
Carn! Dunno. Emma chissit? (How much is it), Yes, let's bring back Strine.
Gonna or, if you prefer, gunna. Myxo, placky, mushie, rollies, rellos,
dry as a pommy's towel or me stomach thinks me throat's cut.
We're losing Australia day by day, word by word. (As evidence, spell-check went bonkers with this column.)
Don't give up without a fight.
Tell 'em to go to billy-o.


Now for anyone who has waded through all that and still can't work out what it was about I apologise and offer a translation service for specific bits that you can't work out for yourselves.






10 comments:

Jack K. said...

It's good to know that there are folks out there who genuinely care about their culture. Slang is an important part of culture.

Alas, it does change from generation to generation.

Thanks for your herculean effort to help it survive.

BTW, I haven't the foggiest notion what all of those words mean, even with your wonderful definitions.
snerx.

kenju said...

I recognized a few, Peter, or should I say I could imagine the meaning of a few.....LOL

Walker said...

I don't know most of that slang becausde i guess I am Canadian but upo here in the Great white north we do our best to use slang in every second !@#$$% word LOL

Pamela said...

yeah, I'm dizzy.

Puss-in-Boots said...

That's the first post I've understood for a long time...

I agree, Peter, we're too Americanised (nothing against our US friends, of course) but, we're not American, we're Australian. Listen to the young kids of today talk and their accents are more American than Australian...

Such is the power of TV, Disney and Eminem and the like. Strewth!

Meow (aka Connie) said...

I love the good old Aussie Slang, and wish it were used more by the younger generation. My father in law used lots of different phrases, which have stuck with my hubby !! My parents (both German) even use the odd phrase or two !!
Have a great week, Peter.
Take care, Connie

{i}Post said...

Oh Lord, you lost me at "dill." Although, i must admit it sounds better than dickhead.

Dave said...

Yep, there wasn't much of that I understood Peter! *LOL*

Dave said...

Yep, there wasn't much of that I understood Peter! *LOL*

Jeanette said...

Gday Peter,
Nothing wrong with a bit of Aussie slang.. hahaha I purchased a book last week called "Great Aussie slang" and inside the back cover printed in China...