With the emergence of every new generation and the exiting of every old one, many of our classic Australian sayings – household expressions of my youth – are vanishing.
I would venture to guess that Australian teenagers of today and many of our young adults would have no idea of the meaning of sayings such as ‘up to pussy’s bow’or ‘three sheets to the wind’.
Not long ago, my sister-in-law was in a hardware store when a well-mannered young salesman asked if she was satisfied with her purchase.
“Bob’s your uncle,” she said, signifying that all was well and she was pleased the lad had asked.The puzzled boy replied: “No he’s not. He’s my father.”
My first assignment in English 1 at the University of Newcastle almost 50 years ago was to write an essay about whether there was a place in our society for Australian slang.
My lecturer, Ray Cattell, gave me a high mark because I suggested that our language was forever changing and there should always be a place for all kinds of verbal expressions, whether they were regarded as slang or “Educated Southern English.”
I argued that even Australian slang could be appropriate in some situations. For example, a punter being jostled in a bookies’ ring at the races would hardly tell a tipster: “I say old chap, that horse you gave me didn’t run up to your expectations”.It would be much more appropriate and accepted more readily if he said: “That nag you put me onto was as slow as a wet week.”
If he was an Aussie barracker on the SCG hill watching an Ashes test match and seeing an English fieldsman drop a simple catch, he would hardly say: “Hard luck old boy. Better luck next time”.He would be much better understood and appreciated with the words: “Get a bag you Pommy mug.”
Words are continually moving in and out of our language and the moving feast has been accelerated even more with what I call the “new language of the thumbs” on Twitter.Twitter language such as “R.U.OK?” or “Great.2.C.U.” are already modern day communication fixtures.
Much of the language I am attempting to classify here is disappearing or has already gone from our slang lexicon. But old blokes like me don’t want to seeit lost forever. And, who knows, someone in the distant future might want to bring these sayings back, or at least record them for posterity.
My first category is the use of Proper Names in slang to express a feeling or point of view. Some examples and their meanings are:“Bob’s your uncle” (mentioned earlier), “I’m alright Jack” (don’t worry about me, usually said sarcastically), “A Joe Blake” (a snake), “the Joe Blakes”(the shakes), “aNoah’s ark “ (ashark), “Brahams and Liszt” (inebriated),“he had a Barry Crocker” (he had a shocker, a bad day) and “a smart Alec” (someone who thinks they know everything).
The next classification could probably be called Comments About the Human Condition:Up to pussy’s bow(can’t eat anymore);full as a goog (full of food or booze);tired as a drover’s dog(very weary);thirsty as a drover’s dog(very thirsty);three sheets to the wind( approaching drunkenness);as drunk as a skunk(very drunk); I’ll be a monkey’s uncle(I’m very surprised) andas smooth as silk(agood talker or a flawless action).I’m sure there are many more you can add.
See Vic’s full list of favourite sayings at theherald南京夜网419论坛
Vic Levi is a former journalist I SAY: Having a Barry Crocker? Maybe you are just three sheets to the wind.