How They Say It In Australia (1941)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Wed Aug 15 02:49:14 UTC 2001

   By request, from THIS WEEK magazine, NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, 29 June 1941, pg. 9, col. 2:


_Here is some of their_
   _colorful slang_

   AN AUSTRALIAN soldier, safely out of Crete, would probably refer to the invading Germans as a lot of "bloody cows."  The Australian doesn't mince words, and his characteristic expressions often reveal--in the curious way language can--the colorful vigor of life on the continent "down under."
   American slang is famous throughout the world.  Native Australian expressions also have a flavor of their own.  And in spite of the influence of American moving pictures, they are not dying out.
   "Fair dinkum" is the traditional Australian equivalent to _bona fide_ or "honest injun."  The diminutives of the phrase are equally common.  For instance, a truth may be confirmed in either of two ways: You'll hear that "it's dinkum" or sometimes that "it's so, dinkie die."
   "Bonzer" is the Aussie's superlative of approbation.  "It was a bonzer do," he'd say for a swell party.  "Good-oh" is his word for okay.  Not infrequently will you hear the traditional good-oh further colloquialized to "goody-oh."
   "Tucker" is food in general, any meal, while "cupper" is a cup of tea.  A "fillet" (pronounce it fillit) is a chunk of steak and not to be confused with a filet mignon, and all canned goods are "tinned goods."  If you want a delicatessen, you must learn to look for a sign that reads "Ham and Beef" or "Small Goods."
   Part and parcel with any outing, be it an afternoon's ride or a picnic, is the "billy."  At midafternoon the excursion halts, a fire is made and you "boil the bill"--that is, make tea.
   _Introducing the Bowser_
   GASOLINE is not, as in England, called "petrol," but when you stop at a filling station to buy gas, it is surprising when you are told to back up to the "bowser."  The bowser is a gasoline pump.
   A "cobber" is a pal, and "clobber" is clothes.  "Mingy" means stingy and a "throttle box" is the throat.  If the food is all gone, or there's not a drop in the bottle, the Australian will tell you there's "not a skerek left."  And the empty bottle's a "dead marine."
   During the last war, the soldiers are known as "diggers."  So revered has this title become that today it is a traditional salute.  As the American might say, "Hiya, fella," the Australian says: "G'day, dig."
   If you want to buy a friend a drink, you say, "I'll shout you to a drink."  If he buys you one, he "shouts," and if you both pay for your own it's a Yankee or Scotsman's shout.
   "Good job" means atta boy or nice (Col. 3--ed.) work.  "Yakka" is hard work.  If you have to go back to the office after hours to finish a job, you "work back," and if you're up to your ears in work or doing anything as hard and fast as you can, you're "flat out," which finds its origin in Australia's favorite sport--horse racing.
   When you call on the telephone, you do not say, "Algernon Rhodes speaking," you say, "Rhodes here."  If you ask somebody to meet you at quarter _of_ eight, he will be very confused until you clear it up by saying quarter _to_ eight.  And if you say you'll meet across the street, you should say "over the road," even in the most congested parts of the largest cities.
   A hotel, even the best, is a "pub."  A salary is a "screw."  "A drawing pin" means thumbtack, and be it ever so humble your living room is a "lounge."
   From the bush, by which name the Australian designates the great outback of his continent, comes a cry that rings of home to all Australians.  It's a call synonmous with "Yoo-hoo."  You hear it in the bush from one sheep drover to another, or one cow hand to another.  You hear it on the docks when overseas liners are being welcomed, and it's the traditional salutation of the distant Australian to the folks back home.  Its first syllable should be long and drawn out, and its last snapped like a whip.  The cry is "coo-ee!"  On the golf course a man may make a drive which he feels must be very close on the green.  His partner laughs deprecatingly and says, "You didn't come within a cooee of it."
   Other random remarks that turn up in ordinary daily conversation are: "Larrikin," a flash guy, a roughneck; "ta," which is used even by he-men as Americans use "thanks" for "thank you."  "No fear" means "you bet."  "My word" means definitely and "my oath," absolutely.
   "Nark" is another dinkie-die term.  A nark is a disagreeable, annoying old fuddy-duddy.  And if someone is annoyed with you he'll be "narked" at you.
   A station is not only a railway station but a sheep or cattle ranch.  Many of Australia's first families socially and financially are station owners.  When a matter needs positive and absolute climaxing, and the Britisher would say "righto," and the American "definitely," the Australian says "too right."
   If you meet a cobbler over the road, and he offers to shout you a drink--accept by all means.  You'll be in good company.  But don't be surprised when you say good-by to hear him respond with a brisk "ta-ta."
   "It's terrific," America says.  But Australia says "whacko."

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