We holidayed in Adelaide earlier this month (despite it not making an appearance in my sparse blogjune posts), and while there, I discovered that my mother-in-law knew some corkers of sayings.
It began when we were watching a renovation show (I hate renovating in real life, so I don’t know why we watch these things), and she mused that outdoor showers allowed people to “…see you in the altogether”. I had never heard this saying for nudity before, so she had to explain that she didn’t like to say the word “naked” as it was vulgar! She was shocked that her sayings aren’t well-known, but then reasoned that many were handed down from her father, born in 1889 (seriously).
She regretted explaining the terms, because then I pressured her for “more fun sayings”. One from her English background is: “She thinks she’s the white hen’s chicken” (it means someone who is up themselves). Or someone looking like “The wreck of the Hesperus”. Or “It’s a wigwam for a goose’s bridle” (like “Seeing a man about a dog”).
General ones such as “Working like a drover’s dog” or “He’s as crooked as a two-bob watch” or “Pig’s whiskers” or “Lower than a snake’s belly”.
These sayings reminded me of the diamond in the rough song in the Disney Aladdin movie: “She’s a petunia in an onion patch”/”She’s a lily on a dunghill”.
And a source pleading for modest anonymity also suggested “As cunning as a shit-house rat”.
My favourite, which was from EJ, about a cloudy sky: “Not/just enough blue to knit mittens for a cat”. As you can see, there was only a small amount of blue at Hallett’s Cove when we visited. Apparently the “s” in Hallett’s was dropped off some time ago. It may surprise you to learn that my mother-in-law sticks with the previous term!
I could only contribute “Things are crook in Tallarook” – as we didn’t really have any sayings when I was growing up. K’s saying was about a good ability to reach things: “a bigger reach on them than a sick dog”!
It was also interesting to hear context about growing up in SA – the rag n bone man would collect rubbish “You know, bits and bobs”, someone would collect from the grate of the fire, and there was also the night soil man. One of those moments that really crystallises the value of social history, and the need to better capture experiences that seem so far away, but were really only quite recent.
…and I have realised I did a brummy post on a similar topic for blogjune 3 years ago! Nothing like a classic, you know?
Today I described a less-than-ideal car to a colleague, and she labelled it a “brumby”. I thought this was very unusual, so I have checked for the term in many Australian slang books and I can’t find it listed anywhere. I would have usually labelled such a mechanical battler as a lemon or a bomb.
One could say it “Handles like a bag of shit tied with a piece of string in the middle” (Howey, 2012, p. 17).
I couldn’t find brumby listed for “dud car”, only as a “wild horse, similar to a mustang” (Tuffley, 2012, p. 11), a “wild outlaw horse” (McCulloch, 2010, p. 8) “…especially one descended from runaway stock.” ( Lambert, 2004, p. 30).
A great project about Australian words is the Ozwords blog, they recently featured the distinctly Canberra words “guvvie” and “ex-guvvie”, I hadn’t realised it was a regional term.
Here are some Australian slang words/terms I wish I hadn’t learnt:
Bondi cigar = Turd in the water (Lumsden-Ablan & Ablan, 2011, p. 10)
Rat coffin = A meat pie (Hunter, 2004, p. 87)
Unit = Big muscle man (Lumsden-Ablan & Ablan, 2011, p. 68)
Mystery bags = Sausages, so named because offal is sometimes used as a bulking agent. (Tuffley p. 36)
Bride’s nightie = A level of great speed. ‘He took off like a bride’s nightie.’ (“Blind Freddy” & Miller, 1988, unpaged)
Yonnie = Skimming stone (Lumsden-Ablan & Ablan, 2011, p. 74)
A friend said that brumbies were imported cars with a questionable reputation, so perhaps it is just a localised term. After writing all this and feeling thoroughly confused, I think I may have misheard, as I’ve now found a listing for:
Brummy = inexpensive; of poor or inferior quality (Australian slang, 2008 p. 41).
I guess my hearing is a bit brummy, ay (a word used at the end of a sentence, Lumsden-Ablan & Ablan, 2011, p. 7).
(2008). Australian slang. Camberwell, Vic : Penguin books
Blind Freddy. & Miller, Dennis. (1988). The Australian dictionary of insults and vulgarities. Castle Hill, N.S.W : Peter Antill-Rose and Associates
Howey, Andrew. (2010). Aussie slang pictorial : what’s it like mate. Melbourne, Vic : Brolga Pub
Hunter, Jenny. (2004). The true blue guide to Australian slang. Frenchs Forest, NSW : New Holland Publishers
Lambert, James. (2004). Macquarie Australian slang dictionary : complete & unabridged. Macquarie University, N.S.W : Macquarie Library
Laugesen, Amanda. (2013, May 22). Canberra word: guvvie (and ex-guvvie). Retrieved from http://ozwords.org/?p=4586
Lumsden-Ablan, Melanie. & Ablan, Roque Bo. (2011). Oz’isms : a tourist’s guide & a giggle : Australian ‘fun’etic slangwich : it’s not wat ya say it’s ‘ow ya say it–. Gordon, N.S.W : Sagamore
McCulloch, Marie. (2010). ‘Ripsnorter’ : book of Aussie words & sayings. [La Trobe, Tas.] : Marie. I. McCulloch
Tuffley, David. (2012). Australian slang : a dictionary. [Australia] : Altiora Publications