by Mark Gwynn
Last time he arrived, plastered to the eyeballs, full as a State school. (C. Rohan, Down by the Dockside, 1963)
We sat under the oleanders eating liquorice all-sorts .. ‘God, I’m full as a goog‘, Connie said. (Paul Radley, Jack Rivers and Me, 1981)
He deals with bed crisis on a daily basis as the hospital is, as they used to say, ‘as full as a Catholic school‘. (Adelaide Advertiser, 24 June 2001)
In Australian English the word full is found in various similes to designate ‘fullness’ of three main kinds: (1) being very drunk; (2) having eaten to one’s limits or satisfaction; (3) containing or holding much or many. The earliest forms, full as a goog, full as a boot, full as a bull (or bull’s bum), and full as a state school (with variants such as full as a state school hat rack) are all recorded from the 1930s. A number of other variants emerge from the 1960s onwards, including full as a Catholic school, full as a pommy complaint box, full as the family po (from the French pronunciation of pot in chamber pot), the offensive full as a fairy’s phone book, and full as Centrelink on payday.
Another use of full in Australian English is found in the phrases full up to dolly’s wax and full up to pussy’s bow. These have the same meaning as the similes above: completely full, satiated. Full up to dolly’s wax (usually used in the context of having eaten one’s fill) is a reference to an old-fashioned type of doll that had a wax head attached to a cloth body. Full up to pussy’s bow is an allusion to a decorative bow on a cat’s neck.
Do you know any other Australian variations on the forms beginning with full as a or full up to? We’d love to hear about them. Please help us add to our collection!