Not so devo?

The term devo as short for ‘devastated’ first came to my attention when I was watching that phenomenon of television, Masterchef, not so long ago. The eventual winner, Andy Allen, was fond of saying that he would be devo if he got eliminated from the competition. It quickly got picked up in the many comments made in response to the Sydney Morning Herald’s popular parody re-caps. When his best friend from the competition, Ben Milbourne, was eliminated, it was all too easy for commentators to write that Andy must be devo, or as seems to be popular, totes devo (totally devastated) by the loss of his friend. (The friendship also gave rise to jokes about the bromance between Andy and Ben, and references to the two as the bromancers.)

Andy Allen, winner of Masterchef 2012

Aside from the 1980s pop band, devo is also used as a term for ‘deviant’, first recorded in this sense in 1975. I had not heard the term devo, in the sense of ‘devastated’, before, but a quick search on the internet revealed that it has been around for a while, at least since 2004. As with many Australian terms, the word is shortened and ‘-o’ tacked on the end. The addition of ‘-o’ or ‘-ie’ to an abbreviated word is a distinctive feature of Australian English that is especially common since the mid-twentieth century. Examples include compojourno, firie, and sickie.

Devo also seems to be associated with a particularly bogan culture—at least, this has been suggested on Urban Dictionary which says that the word should be pronounced in a ‘bogan accent with an emphasis on extending the –o’. An item in the Sunshine Coast Daily (16 September 2008) supports this: ‘Not surprisingly I was devo (that’s my bogan Collingwood coming out) when the Pies went down to the Saints in Saturday’s game.’ Certainly in the context of Masterchef, Allen’s broad Aussie accent and use of such terms fitted in with his ‘blokey’ persona. (Allen was also a sparkie—a popular term, though not exclusively Australian, for an electrician.) When the Masterchef final featured Australian-inspired challenges, including the making of a deconstructed Golden Gaytime dessert, it was perhaps inevitable that the all-Australian Allen would win. He was not so devo winning the $100,000 prize!

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