Fair crack of the whip

by Mark Gwynn

The Lord’s had a fair crack of the whip and He’s missed the bus. It’s surfing for me. (Lawson Glassop, We Were the Rats, 1944)

So I say we should give Fatty a chance. After all, he is Australian and our national motto is: Fair suck of the saveloy. (Australian, 27 December 1997)

The expression fair crack of the whip is used elsewhere but is recorded earliest in Australia, from 1902 onwards. It means ‘an equitable opportunity; a reasonable chance’. It is also used as an interjection, meaning ‘give (someone) a chance!’. In Australian English there are several variants of this idiom, all with the same meaning. They can be found in written sources from the 1980s, but probably go back some years earlier.

In the variant fair suck of the sauce bottle (with its elliptical form fair suck), the ‘sauce bottle’ is probably originally a reference to a bottle of alcoholic liquor. Interestingly in 2006 the then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, used a slightly different variant: fair shake of the sauce bottle. It is possible that Rudd may have mangled the earlier idiom or heard this expression elsewhere—his use of it is still our earliest evidence. This variant has now entered the Australian lexicon. Another common variant is fair suck of the sav (or saveloy).

Do you know any more variations on the idiom fair crack of the whip? We’d love to hear about them. Please help us add to our collection!