Australia has V.D. (Vernacular Disorder).

budgerigarListen here…

or…

Welcome.

Language is a wonderful thing; the variety, the way sounds are made and their interpretive meaning is one of the wonders of the world.  As a tribal protective medium it works a treat insulating the tribe from those who would listen in, it only gets complicated when the tribe wants you to listen in.

Strine, the quasi-official English dialect spoken by Australians is not, in fact, a language at all, more a tourist ‘thing’ but there is some truth to the fact that the way we say things can, for the uninitiated ear, be a problem.  The ubiquitous ‘she’ll be right’ meaning everything will be just fine, hunky dory, ripper, or ‘no worries’ is indeed a pronouncement. In speech they are a natural expression suggesting that all is well with the world.  But when it appears in print, well that is when it takes on a completely different character. NO WORRIES is more a statement i.e. there are no worries here to be had, leave your worries outside if you please or a statement of fact that at the time of reading there is, in fact, nothing to concern yourself with.

So what are our international visitors to expect from the headline ‘Budgie Smugglers return home!’ a story that hit the tabloids this week.  You would have to assume a cartel of smugglers dealing in the illicit supply of yellow, green and blue budgerigars, probably to the English, have arrived back in Australia but that is not the case at all.

To understand this you need to visualise something.  Imagine a smallish dead bird, wings folded neatly over its back, beak tucked into its breast, head forward lying front down on a table.  Now over the stop of this stretch a piece of spandex or similar material so the shape of the bird protrudes from the fabric. It forms a sort of slope up the wings to a bulge at the end.  Now try to imagine that from a vertical viewpoint.  Remind you of anything? Think male bits and swimming costumes. Getting the idea now? That’s right, the front of a young buck wearing a pair of lycra tight swimming costume looks like a dead bird, the budgie bit, hidden in a stretch fabric pouch, the smuggler bit.  Ergo ‘budgie smugglers’ are a synonym for swimming costume.  Who would have thought.

Strine is full of such eclectic descriptors ‘dry as a dingo’s donga’ is another phrase that has to do with a male gender appendage.  It means thirsty but I have never taken a close look at a dingo’s donga so I cannot tell you from experience if their a peculiarly dry or not.  The point is that language is often more of an idea that a fact.  “Its pissing down’ does not have to inform you that we are talking about rain, you just get the idea, you get the picture.  When spoken it works, when written down it has a completely different character and can be very confusing.

Visitors who try to use slang in any country always end up looking stupid so trying to say ‘g’date mate’ will almost certainly make you come a gutser because you will not be able to come within cooee of the way it should be said and when it should be said.  It needs to be slow, soft almost with an almost silent ‘g’ and there are, phonetically speaking, at least to ‘a’s’ in ‘mate’…..’g’dai maate but never a pronounced ‘I’.

Rhyming slang percolated from the mouths of Cockneys in London, Frog and toad etc, why, who knows.  Why make something short and succinct like phone into dog-and-bone or stairs into apples and pears.  In print it makes no sense whatsoever ah, but spoken it enriches expression and adds colour and spice to the way we communicate.  There have been the bad periods in expression; the 70’s had the misfortunes of adding ‘but’ at the end of every sentence. “I’m staying home tonight but”.  It was horrible but no less ugly than the current ‘like’.  Everything is ‘like’ as if the English speaking world cannot find the descriptors it is seeking.  Sown throughout the spoken words,  it is a slang of no colour, no imagination.  It is empty of expression, meaningless like ‘but’. Give me ‘strine’ any day just don’t write it down.  Such is life, until the next time this is Brodie Goozée .

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