Hopefully, literally, begs the question: the three most annoying misuses in English

26 May 2014, 6.12am AEST
Baden Eunson
Adjunct Lecturer, School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University

Baden Eunson does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
Provides funding as a Founding Partner of The Conversation.
Winston Churchill had no problem ending his sentences with prepositions.
Atrocities in English are committed every day. Here are three of the worst. You may be surprised, but hopefully you won’t literally explode with anger. Continue reading

Bogans and hipsters: we’re talking the living language of class

Bogans and hipsters: we’re talking the living language of class


Christopher Scanlon
Associate Dean (Academic), Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at La Trobe University

Christopher Scanlon does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Australia’s a class-free society? If that were so, many of our most popular movies and TV shows such as Ja’mie: Private School Girl simply wouldn’t make any sense. AAP/Supplied by EckFactor
Egalitarianism is an article of faith in Australia. While the nation still faces issues of class, Australians tend to be uncomfortable about discussing these or acknowledging their extent. Interestingly, it has fallen to Australian authors such as Tim Winton and Christos Tsiolkas – as well as American writer David Simon, creator of the TV series The Wire – to wonder at and question the taboo. Continue reading

Hugh Mackay, social commentator, ‘The Good Life’; how our values are reflected in our language

What this has done is produce a culture that promotes “personal identify and individuality at the expense of connectedness and cooperativeness and communality and even at the expense of egalitarianism,” says Mackay. “We are now caught up in the marketing of brand ‘me’”, much to our detriment. Signs of this include the proliferation of the prefix ‘my’ in front of everything and the huge popularity of social networking sites like Facebook which Mackay refers to as “a bragging medium. One of the signs of the damage that’s being done by the ‘utopian complex’ is this obsession with me and how I’m feeling.”

He notes that author Lily Brett has hit on a couple of words that are symptomatic of our predicament, one being ‘excellence.’ “Everything now is a ‘centre of excellence’: a primary school, a car show room, excellence in mental health care. We hope that everyone is doing their best but excellence is an exception,” says Mackay. As is ‘awesome’, another word that’s way overused. For example, when I called Telstra the other day, the operator replied, “that’s awesome” when I told her my name. “So the language has been ramped up to match this idea,” Mackay says.

Sounds of Aus quotes

a)    “The cultural DNA of this country is in the sound of the way Australians speak. The famous, and hauntingly beautiful, Australian accent is a miracle no other culture’s ever come up with… You can tell an Australian the minute he opens his mouth”

(John Clarke, Sounds of Aus, ABC, 2007)

b)    “The accent, I believe, is going to be there for a long time and we should capitalise on it! Be proud of it, you know, it’s a wonderful calling card to say “G’day, mate!”

(Max Walker, sports commentator and ex-cricketer, Sounds of Aus, ABC, 2007)

c)    “Generally speaking there’s three types of Australian accent…the Broad Australian Accent would be…the very strong Australian accent…the General Australian Accent…a little bit more of a neutral, less strong Australian accent…and then there’s the Cultivated Australian Accent or the Received Pronunciation”

(Georgie Harding, Speech Pathologist, Sounds of Aus, ABC, 2007)

d)    “The accent is a thing that defines the Australian language, it’s that which defines Australian identity, and it’s that which has been utterly resilient and simply refuses to change.”

a)    “…we feel comfortable and not self-conscious any more, we’re very happy to express ourselves using the accent that we have”

(Dr Felicity Cox, Phonetician, Macquarie University, Sounds of Aus, ABC, 2007)

b)    “[My father] said “nobody wants to hear Australians talking because the voice is funny so it’s better to hear American voices or English voices ‘cause they sound better.” I said “they do? Why?” And he said “Oh well, they just do. You don’t want to hear Australian accents” and I thought “Well, I do.””

(Bruce Beresford, Film Director, Sounds of Aus, ABC, 2007)

c)     “Banjo Paterson…after four shows was fired because people couldn’t stand the way that he spoke, they just said it was just too awful to hear this Australian accent”

(Barry Crocker, performer, Sounds of Aus, ABC, 2007)

d)    “Fifty years ago people were saying “Australian English? Substandard.”

(Dr Bruce Moore, editor, The Australian Oxford Dictionary, Sounds of Aus, ABC, 2007)

e)    “I would much prefer an English, refined, voice.”

(Heather Pym, born and bred in Adelaide, Sounds of Aus, ABC, 2007)

f)     “I don’t think it matters what you sound like as long as you’re educated you can do whatever you want and I don’t think “wow, geez that blokes got a shocking accent, he might have finished school sort of top of his class at Sydney University, but I’m not gonna put him on here at this law firm ‘cause he sounds like too much of an ocker from the bush” there’s no way that’s going to stop you now.”

(Neil Breen, editor, The Sunday Telegraph Sounds of Aus, ABC, 2007)

(Dr Bruce Moore, editor, The Australian Oxford Dictionary, Sounds of Aus, ABC, 2007)

e)    “There isn’t one classic Australian accent”

(Victoria Melewska, voice coach, Sounds of Aus, ABC, 2007)

Differences are just a slip of the mother tongue

Differences are just a slip of the mother tongue

February 17,  2013

Ian Rose

There’s no worries about celebrating Australian English

  • Likewise, breezy conversation closers such as ”no dramas”, ”too easy” or  (my personal favourite) ”good on ya” convey the kind of casual optimism that  is the secret envy of my morose compatriots. We Brits, at least those of my  generation, born and bred on a soggy little island, raised on fish-fingers,  mushy peas and Margaret Thatcher, can find a positive outlook something of a  stretch.

    There is an almost athletic vigour to many Australian expressions, which  again concurs with the outdoorsy, boisterous national stereotype. You lot don’t  just arrive, turn up or get there. No, you insist on ”rocking up”. I don’t  believe I’ve ever rocked up anywhere, and I doubt I ever will, no matter how  long I remain here. It sounds so energetic. It’s telling that the sedate British  greeting of ”How are you?” is rendered more dynamic, with its emphasis on  motion, by the Aussie variant, ”How ya goin’?”

    There’s one word, used more widely here than in Britain, that strikes an odd  chord for me. The first time I heard a violent physical assault described as a  ”bashing” on a news bulletin, I almost choked on my (Marmite on) toast.  Getting ”bashed” always sounds a bit cartoonish to me.

    Naturally, my own speech these days betrays the time I have spent in  Australia. I no longer correct myself on the occasions I mistake flip-flops for  thongs or a beer bottle for a stubby. I love saying ”No worries” and I’m even  beginning to mean it when I do. My language is changing, and so is everyone  else’s.

    Language doesn’t stand still, not even the fusty old English language. Right  now it seems in the throes of some kind of seismic shift, getting freaky with  hash tags and acronyms. It seems likely that a hundred years from now,  whatever’s being spoken and ”written” around these parts won’t look a hell of  a lot like what we have now. Which is why it’s also worth reflecting, on  International Mother Language Day, that Australia is the custodian of the oldest  known languages on earth. And that most of them are endangered.

    Ian Rose is a freelance writer.

    Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/differences-are-just-a-slip-of-the-mother-tongue-20130216-2ek07.html#ixzz2aK1oFk4Q

Daggy KRudd has the skillz to grab the youth vote

Daggy KRudd has the skillz to grab the youth vote

July 26, 2013

Isaac Johanson

The PM has young people atwitter with his ability to connect on social media.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd visiting Aquinas College in Ringwood. Photo: Pat Scala

A few weeks ago, before Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister, he started following me on Twitter. I felt a brief thrill. Maybe he was trying to poach my allegiance from Julia Gillard, but I was nonetheless flattered by someone famous following me. I may only have a measly 11 followers, but the big KRudd was one of them.

Continue reading

gday or not gday. It’s a question of hanging on to our linguistic identity

G’day, or not g’day. It’s a question of hanging on to our linguistic identity

July 7,2013

Listen here mate, you’re not my bud

Crikey! Iconic Australian language is under threat.

Streuth! Iconic Australian language, such as that used by Paul Hogan’s (pictured) character Crocodile Dundee, is under threat.

With all the carry-on in Canberra in recent weeks you probably missed Oxford Australia’s word-of-the-month for June: it was meat-safe cot. I challenge you to work it into a conversation sometime today; I challenge you to explain it.

Turns out they are cots covered in wire mesh to protect against insects and flies and early last century kids up to the age of five slept in them, particularly in rural areas. They’re now highly collectable pieces of Australiana, apparently. Certainly they’d be conversation starters – for instance, how on earth were parents allowed to put their children in cots Oxford describes as ”designed rather like a large meat safe, completely wired in with drop panels”. These days we reserve that sort of treatment for asylum-seekers.

Frankly, as words-of-the-month go, it’s not a particularly strong one. Put up against 2013’s first five words-of-the-month – Fonzie flat, stubloon, Canberra bashing, bunger and chook lit – it suffered by comparison.

You’d be familiar with each of them, as in: ”I was in the Fonzie flat (a self-contained dwelling usually above a garage) looking for me last stubloon (a brass token with an exchange value of one stubby of beer), when I turned on the telly, lit a bunger (cigarette) and there was Andrew Bolt Canberra-bashing (the act of criticising the Australian federal government and its bureaucracy) again – fair dinkum, even a bit of chook lit (fiction written for older women) would be more fun.”


It’s terrific that our language experts are celebrating such words, some new, some old, but I fear few of them will ever make it into common usage. They’re destined to remain curiosities, particularly as our language becomes more and more Americanised. If you doubt me, consider this: ”G’day” and ”G’day mate”, probably the most Australian of all our sometimes curious expressions, are under threat. If we’re not careful, it will be replaced by the hideously truncated greeting favoured by Americans: ”Hey”. Worse, ”Hey, buddy”. That’s two American words. Crikey.

The Urban Dictionary is already on to this, noting in one of its ”G’day” entries that it is an Australian expression meaning ”Hello friend” which ”most Australians don’t use” because they ”see it as very stereotypical”. Really, I’m a stereotype? (Don’t answer that.)

I decided to test our diminishing ”G’day” quotient on an early morning walk last week. Fresh off the plane from the US, where I’d spent the past month delighting friends and strangers alike with my ”G’days”, I tried it on the locals. Didn’t get one in reply. Got a ”Morning”, a ”Hi” and, worryingly, two ”Heys”. What’s going on here?

The emotionally bankrupt ”hey”, a contraction of ”hey there” usually accompanied by an upwards jerk of the chin, started appearing in American movie and TV scripts in the mid-’90s. It’s rarely said with any real gusto; screenwriters like to use it to signal trouble in a relationship, often the morning after a particularly heated argument or exchange when the oomph has gone out of a relationship. Inevitably it has crept into our language too, particularly among Generation Y. I asked one of them last week whether they ever used G’day to greet friends. ”Only ironically,” was his reply. Meaning, if we wanted to mock older Australians who’ve long regarded it as the building block of pretty much every conversation, big and small.

It’s not entirely generational though. It’s also geographical. G’day is most at risk where hipster culture thrives. I don’t think there’s too much to worry about up in Goondiwindi.

If the expression is falling out of favour in some parts of our country, I suspect it’s a reaction to its overuse in the ’70s and beyond, particularly in tourism advertising. For the past decade, Australian businesses have been showcasing their ”capabilities” to American markets under the banner of G’DAY USA. It’s ironic that American culture is devaluing the very expression that identifies us so readily in that country.

Paul Hogan and Lara Bingle have a lot to answer for. Their Tourism Australia campaigns – his worked, her’s didn’t – helped build and then reinforce our image as beer-swilling, prawn-grilling beach-bums. I understand why many want to distance themselves from that and present a more modern face. I worry when it starts to cost us much-loved Australian idioms though. Particularly when they’re supplanted by lazy American expressions. ”Hey” is bad enough, but if ”buddy” gets any more traction, we might have to march on our various parliaments. It’s unthinkable that it would ever replace ”mate”.

It might fall to the PM to protect these crucial building blocks of our language. Kevin Rudd is partial to a G’day; in fact, he rarely begins a conversation without it, recognising perhaps that it’s the quickest way to establish an emotional bond with the listener.

I can live without ”stone the crows”, ”banana benders”, ”budgie smugglers” and the like, but I reckon ”G’day” and ”mate” are two words worth fighting for. If we lose those we might as well crawl into the meat-safe cot and stay there for good.

Bruce Guthrie is a former editor of The Age and The Sunday Age.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/gday-or-not-gday-its-a-question-of-hanging-on-to-our-linguistic-identity-20130706-2piv7.html#ixzz2YJoKJekb