Thursday, January 29, 2009

Aussie language

After just a few weeks here, I've started to realize why Australia produces so many great writers, songwriters and poets: these people just love language!

We went last night to see Marco Gliori, a poet who was performing at the Noosa library. He's in the same tradition as Max Boyce, Attila the Stockbroker, or Pam Ayers -- comedians who perform in verse, rather than serious poets who recite (yes, I know my references are rather dated!). It was great fun, and it felt like taking a bath in a warm tub of linguistic excess.

This is a great country in which to perform in that vein. The language here is exuberant and playful. It`s not just the rich field of slang terms, although that certainly makes listening to morning radio entertaining (yesterday I heard an ad for a meat pie shop that offered a special`for tradies guaranteed to keep ya full from smoko till knock-off`. And I actually knew what they were talking about!). There are plenty of other examples which have been collected in Australian slang dictionaries like this one --

But that`s only a part of it. There`s also a rich appreciation for a new turn of phrase or new word. Names are always changed, just for the fun of it. Sharon is Shaz, Andrew is Rew, Isaiah is Izzy. Others are created on the spot. I heard a singer named Ange something-or-other interviewed in a conversation which began `How ya going Panjo`She started laughing and said she`d never heard that one. I tried to picture a Canadian host doing the same thing, making up an abbreviation for someone`s name on the spot, and couldn`t do it. (`Today we`re pleased to welcome Shania Twain to the studio. How ya going Shanny`)

But the most entertaining of all is the bluntness of officialdom. There`s a government-sponsored ad on t.v. these days urging people not to speed. The tag line is `slow down, stupid.`McDonalds recently sponsored a campaign against drunk driving, with the tag line `If you drink and drive, you`re a bloody idiot.` News stories are even better. Some examples from yesterday`s Daily Telegraph: in a story about hooligans on Australia Day, the president of Australia`s version of the legion said they were `bloody dickheads`; the commissioner of corrective services, commenting on a prisoner who hacked his finger off in a protest, said `Took him 20 minutes to saw it off, the idiot`; the education director-general, referring to an ad campaign that got the back-to-school date wrong, called it a `stuff up`. That`s in the first five pages of a fairly respectable paper.

I love it! I`m not sure I`ll ever again be able to write straight Canadian news copy, though.


leo said...

on ya mate

hows the ball n chain goin?

The Queen said...

Isaiah is going to have to tell them that his real nickname is Bruno because of his magnificent imitation of a grizzly bear! Sounds like you're all having fun. We had our own Australia Day assembly here today, and we heard that it was 35 and sunny down there. No thanks - I'll stay up here in the beautiful snow!
Mme Bailie & class

Andrew said...

We've been hearing stories about the amazing Australia Day assembly. Sounds fantastic. Almost made me wish we were there.
Yeah, the weather's fantastic here. Not like the weather they've been getting in south Australia -- well over 40 in the shade for several days now. Yikes!