Australia’s bard: C.J. Dennis’ Songs of a Sentimental Bloke and Australian English

by Harriet Mercer*

Although it has been nearly a century since the 1915 publication of C.J. Dennis’ verse narrative Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, Dennis’ comic use of the Australian vernacular continues to endear the work to contemporary readers.

The Songs tell a humorous love story as Bill ‘the Bloke’ tries to reform his rough larrikin habits in order to win the affections of Doreen, a young pickle factory worker. The book is full of examples of Australian colloquialisms, particularly words relating to the world of the urban larrikin (then a word meaning ‘hooligan’). Continue reading

Words from our Word Box: update 3

Click on the logo to go to the Word Box page

by the ANDC team

This is our third update on the contributions that have been made to the Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word Box, our website feature which you can use to alert us to new or unfamiliar words and phrases. These contributions allow our editors to identify new material for our general Australian Oxford dictionaries and also for our archive of Australian words, and to share these findings with you. We thank everyone for their submissions and encourage you to contribute—just click on the Word Box image at left to post your word. A few of the more interesting contributions from the last three months are discussed below. Some we have come across previously and some are new to us. We welcome any comments about your understanding or experience of these words. Continue reading

‘The Man from Snowy River’ and Australian English

by Mark Gwynn

There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away.
And had joined the wild bush horses – he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
(opening lines of ‘The Man from Snowy River’, 1890)

Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson’s poems and his use of the Australian vernacular have endeared him to generations of Australians. In the Australian National Dictionary (a dictionary of Australian English using quotations to provide evidence of how words are used over time) Paterson is quoted 78 times. His poems provide valuable evidence of 19th and early 20th century Australian English—particularly the language of the Australian bush. In this blog I will look closely at some of the Australianisms found in ‘The Man from Snowy River’.

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Australia: Our home is girt by sea

by Mark Gwynn

Since the adoption of ‘Advance Australia Fair’ as Australia’s national anthem there have been a number of vocal critics. Some of these critics are nostalgic for the former anthem ‘God Save the Queen’, others prefer the unofficial anthem ‘Waltzing Matilda’, while others are uninspired by the tune and lyrics. In this blog I will look at one very particular criticism – the retention of the word girt. The word is archaic and rare in other Englishes but thanks to the anthem Australians know it well.

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Nevil Shute and A Town Like Alice

by Amanda Laugesen

Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice was published in 1950, and remains a classic tale of romance and war. As a novel written by an Englishman who had just moved to Australia, the novel reflects Shute’s attempts to capture the Australian vernacular as he depicts the heroic Jean Paget, Joe Harman, and the life and people of the Queensland Gulf Country.

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A hundred years of gumnut babies

by Julia Robinson

At the Australian National Dictionary Centre we have been tweeting for nearly a year (@ozworders) about Australian words and language, with forays into history, literature, and popular culture. We enjoy our interactions in the Twittersphere, and it’s always a good day when we attract new followers. Last week we tweeted on the occasion of the birthday of children’s author May Gibbs, and we were delighted when two famous Australians chose to follow us: Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, the gumnut babies themselves. They tweet (@MayGibbsNutcote) from Nutcote, the heritage-listed house (now a museum) in Sydney’s Neutral Bay, designed and built for May Gibbs in the 1920s. Continue reading

The Melbournisation of Sydney

by Julia Robinson

In a twist on the usual Sydney–Melbourne rivalry (aka Sin City vs Bleak City), Sydneysiders have begun to notice the effects of a distinctly Melbourne influence on their Harbour City. It’s known as the Melbournisation of Sydney, a trend in urban development:

The Melbournisation of Sydney has been most evident in the past 10 years. We’ve made our restaurants feel like basements, turned the lights down to Euro-Melburnian dimness, lobbied the government to get small bar licences, and allowed our Italians to cook Tuscan and Ligurian instead of Leichhardtian. (Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July 2010) Continue reading

The evolution of a word–the case of ‘Clayton’s’

by Julia Robinson

Recently we posted a blog about ‘Kylie’, a term apparently coined by former Treasurer Peter Costello: ‘Then he thanked the Opposition for asking a “Kylie” – an “I should be so lucky” question giving the Government a parliamentary free kick.’ (2004 Adelaide Advertiser, 2 Dec.) As any Gen Xer will know, ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ is the title of one of the songs that made Australian singer Kylie Minogue famous. We noted that this new sense of ‘Kylie’ is not an established usage; it is not widely used, and is always followed by a mention of the song title as an explanation of the term. Continue reading

Schoolies and schoolies week

by Mark Gwynn

Over the coming weeks the Australian tradition of schoolies week will be observed across the country. This is a period of post-examination celebration marking the end of secondary schooling for Year 12 students (schoolies). While these celebrations occur in various locations across Australia they are usually associated with students going to the Gold Coast in Queensland. In Australian English the word schoolie has a longer history than many people may realise.

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