Reflections

As I See It (And Hear It) Australia Edition – Idioms and Language

Visiting a country whose unofficial national anthem is Waltzing Matilda, I expected to run into some words I wasn’t familiar with.

For those of you unacquainted with Matilda and how she dances in 3/4 time, here is a video you really should take the time to watch. It will be a thoroughly enjoyable 3 minutes and 23 seconds. You might want to follow along with the words below. Be warned, though, it’s a catchy tune that you might be humming all day.

Verse 1:

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong

Under the shade of a coolibah tree,

And he sang as he watched and waited till his “Billy” boiled

“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Chorus:

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda

You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me,

And he sang as he watched and waited till his “Billy”boiled

“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Verse 2:

Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong,

Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee,

And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag,

“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

(Chorus)

Verse 3:

Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred.

Down came the troopers, one, two, and three.

“Whose is that jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker bag?

You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

(Chorus)

Verse 4:

Up jumped the swagman and sprang into the billabong.

“You’ll never catch me alive!” said he

And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong:

“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Songwriters : Adriaan Van Landschoot / A B Banjo Paterson / James

If you understood all that, well, you understood a lot more than me. If you’d like to know more, wait until the end of the blog and I’ll give you some more explanation.

But I’ve gotten off track.

I heard many wonderful idioms during my time in Australia that I thought you might enjoy and maybe even find useful. I think some of them are also used in England, and I’m sure some came from other places too. I would not be surprised if someone commented “That saying actually came from New Zealand” as it seems (at least to hear the Kiwis tell it) that the Aussies get credited with all sorts of things that came from New Zealand. Pavlova and Ugg boots for example. By the way, I don’t know whether Ugg boots come from Australia or New Zealand, but in the land of their origin they are worn in the house, not out to the shops. But again, I digress.

So here are some idioms and words I heard in my month Down Under. I may not have them all quite right as many I heard only once and for some of them, Google wasn’t much help.

As different as chalk and cheese – two totally different things. This one kind of explains itself. It’s used to talk about two things that are completely different. The context I heard it in was describing two sisters who were “as different as chalk and cheese.”

As happy as Larry – very happy. I don’t know who Larry is or why he’s so happy, but since he has his own idiom, I guess he was very happy. This website has a couple of ideas as to its origin: https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/as-happy-as-larry.html

Larrikin – an uncultivated, care-free person. One possibility for who the above-named Larry is comes this word. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larrikin

Bogan – an unrefined person. While we’re talking about adjectives describing people we should talk about bogans. As one friend put it, bogans are people who wear their Uggs to the shops. We might call them rednecks. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogan

Whinging – (pronounced win’-jing) whining or complaining. This one isn’t very complicated. Something about its sound makes it quite a nice description of what it is. I think I may start telling my children to “stop whinging.” https://www.dictionary.com/browse/whinging

Sling your hook – a polite way of telling someone to go away. For example, if Benjamin Franklin had been Down Under he might have said along with his “fish and visitors stink after 3 days” something about “after that, sling your hook.” https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=sling%20your%20hook

I don’t know him from a bar of soap – similar to our “I don’t know him from Adam.” https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/don%27t+know+me+from+a+bar+of+soap

Making a dog’s breakfast of (something) – to totally mess it up. For example if I tried some of the Pinterest ideas I have seen, I would make a dog’s breakfast of it. https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/make+a+dog%27s+breakfast

Money for jam – a quick and easy way to earn money. If you get paid a lot of money for a simple quick job, it’s money for jam. https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/money_for_jam

Woop Woop – an isolated place – in a country with a population density of 7 people per square mile (with the Northern Territory having about .5 people per square mile) there are lots of places that are considered woop woop. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woop_Woop

Sheila – a woman – She might be a smart sheila or a mean sheila or a pretty sheila. Just about anywhere you would use the word “woman” you can also use “sheila.”

Op Shop – short of opportunity shop – a resale shop, usually for the benefit of a charity – similar to our “Goodwill” but a little higher quality.

Gridiron – in a land with about kinds of football, this is the word you want to use if you want American football. Otherwise you might end up with soccer or one of several kinds of rugby. The Aussies love their sports. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Football_in_Australia

And the best, most often-used saying which I think pretty much sums up Australia, is…

No worries – This multi-purpose phrase of agreement means ok, no problem, and sure thing all wrapped up in one little phrase. You order a chicken and leek meat pie? No worries. You need more water brought to your table? No worries. Want to meet someone at 2 o’clock? No worries. I guess living in a country with 20 of the top 25 most venomous snakes in the world and most dangerous jellyfish in the world (the box jellyfish) just of the coast, saying “no worries” is a good thing.

A note about pronunciation. The Australians treat their R’s differently than we Yankees do. (I hate to break it to my southern friends, but when you go abroad, you’ll be considered “Yankees” too.) They totally ignore some R’s, like the ones in Cairns, pronounced “cans” and Melbourne, pronounced “Mellbohn.” Other times, such as when a word ends with an “ah” or “aw” sound they supply an R to the end of the word. So “saw” sounds like “sar” and “Ella” sounds like “Eller.” To say “The tuna is mine” you’d say “The tuner is mine.” It’s quite charming, really.

So maybe you’ll want to spice up your American English with a phrase or two from Down Under. If you do you’ll be happy as Larry. Just don’t make a Dog’s breakfast of it. Ok?

No worries.

And if you’re still curious about what Waltzing Matilda is talking about, here’s some more information from the National Library of Australia

Matilda is an old Teutonic female name meaning “mighty battle maid”. This may have informed the use of “Matilda” as a slang term to mean a de facto wife who accompanied a wanderer. In the Australian bush a man’s swag was regarded as a sleeping partner, hence his “Matilda”. (Letter to Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Churchill, KG from Harry Hastings Pearce, 19 February 1958. Harry Pearce Papers, NLA Manuscript Collection, MS2765)[27]

swagman

a man who travelled the country looking for work. The swagman’s “swag” was a bed roll that bundled his belongings.

billabong

an oxbow lake (a cut-off river bend) found alongside a meandering river

coolibah tree

a kind of eucalyptus tree which grows near billabongs

jumbuck

a sheep[27]

billy

a can for boiling water in, usually 1–1.5 litres (2–3 pints)

tucker bag

a bag for carrying food

troopers

policemen

squatter

Australian squatters started as early farmers who raised livestock on land which they did not legally have the legal title to use; in many cases they later gained legal use of the land even though they did not have full possession, and became wealthy thanks to these large land holdings. The squatter’s claim to the land may be as uncertain as the swagman’s claim to the jumbuck

Just for the fun of it, you might want to go back and spend another 3 minutes 23 seconds listening to the song and you just might be able to figure out what in the world it’s talking about

Reflections

As I See It, Australia Edition – Immigration and Food

We are wrapping up a month-long stay in Australia and I thought I’d share some observations with you.

Obviously, nobody can totally understand and certainly not capture the entirety of a society in one blog post. This is not that. This is just some things I noticed during my time there.

One of the first things I noticed was the diversity of the population. I think many assume, as I did, that Australia is mainly Caucasian with an occasional person of Aboriginal or Polynesian origin. Instead, Australia is a mix of people from literally all over the world. There is a heavy Asian influence, but there are also people from India, the Middle East, and all over Europe. The Aussie (said Ozzie, by the way) accent is interspersed with all kinds of other accents. There weren’t quite as many Africans and even less Latinos, but they were represented also. A pretty standard question for us when meeting someone became “where are you from.” That didn’t mean what part of Australia are they from. It meant where did they or their parents immigrate from.

With that ethnic diversity comes some lovely flavorful food: Turkish, Indonesian, Thai, Korean, Indian, American… The list is practically endless. Their food is very good and flavorful and fresh.

A recurring theme is meat pies. They come in many varieties. All of the ones I tried were very good. They are like the fresh non-preservative version of Hot Pockets, but they actually taste good.

Their coffee is mostly espresso with an occasional instant. A plunger coffee (French press) was seldom seen, and I only saw a standard coffee-brewing-pot in one place, a breakfast buffet that was at a tourist destination and trying to appeal to many different appetites. A really good medium coffee is A$4.50 (about $3.25 American dollars). If you take your own reusable insulated cup they give a A$0.50 discount. Starbucks tried to make it there and failed miserably. The little coffee shops and convenience stores all serve delicious coffee, much better than Starbucks, and cheaper.

Along with the wonderful coffee comes lovely pastries and desserts. I didn’t eat any that I didn’t like. One specialty is their pavlova, an egg white dessert filled with sugared cream and drizzled with passion fruit sauce.

The restaurants don’t give free refills on drinks. Most places your drink is just a can or bottle, self-served out of a refrigerator. The places that do serve your drink in a cup don’t give you ice because then you wouldn’t get your money’s worth. They also supply the table with glasses and a large glass bottle full of water. This is nice, since refills aren’t free. As far as variety, they have the standard flavors of Coke, Diet Coke, an occasional Pepsi, and many other flavors such as Ginger Beer, Lemon Lime & Bitters, and Mexican soft drinks.

They are not very big on soups, which I missed. The few soups I did taste were very good, but that wasn’t a menu staple.

There are some strange combinations that seem very odd to an American’s tastebuds, such as putting beets on a hamburger. Pumpkin is eaten as a vegetable, not an ingredient in desserts. They eat in the European way with the knife in the dominant hand and the fork in the non-dominant hand.

If you want ketchup you ask for tomato sauce. On their menus their “entrees” are our “appetizers” and their “mains” are our “entrees.” Their portions were generally plenty but not gargantuan like many American restaurants serve. The exception was a place we went called “California Cafe” where the portions were very large. Below is a picture of their “Mac and Cheese Burger” that would be impossible to fit in the mouth of any human without mutant jaws. The food was very fresh and flavorful everywhere we went.

I have heard that there is a push in their political system to shut down immigration, but it hasn’t happened yet. I imagine that even if it does, the variety of flavors have become a solid part of Australian culture which is a beautiful and delicious thing.