by Daniel Lynch*
The Australian National University (home of the Dictionary Centre) is something of a melting pot of Australian regionalisms, where students from around the country meet, talk, and, occasionally, discover that there are differences in our language based on where we come from. Recently, having finished a rehearsal early, someone commented how nice it was to get an early mark for once. The Victorians in the group were perplexed by the expression, and later when I asked a group of young Melburnians if they knew what an early mark was I received only blank looks.
The Dictionary Centre has records of the expression early mark, meaning ‘permission to leave early’, dating back to 1940. It is especially associated with the classroom and workplace, although our earliest evidence is in the context of an advertisement for menswear: ‘You who remember ‘Haspel of New Orleans’ as the maker of the World’s Lightest Suit will take an early mark for opining his light-weight evening togs just as good.’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Jan.,1940)
A quick search of Victorian newspapers reveals the term is not in common use in that state. The vast majority of evidence comes from New South Wales. Queenslanders know it too, and South Australians use the term early minute (dating from 1987) to mean the same thing. However a similar term in Victoria is strangely absent; it seems that in Victoria people are just given permission to leave early. Do any Victorian readers know of an equivalent for early mark? Please leave us a comment if you do.
See our draft entry for early mark below.
*Guest blogger Daniel is a research assistant at the AND Centre who is studying Arts/Law at the Australian National University.