Friday, January 28, 2011

Like being flogged with a warm lettuce

some budgie smugglers in action
Australian English is often held up as an example of a variety of English that is full of invention and wit, and I'm not going to argue with that because Australians are also very good at insults. We'll get to the insults in a minute, but for invention and wit, how about taking a look at these Macmillan Dictionary blog posts - one, two and three - and this Oxford Dictionaries article. There are some fantastic turns of phrase here, like tight swimming trunks being referred to as budgie smugglers. The image is an enduring one and reminds me of family holidays in Holland back in the late 1970s where hairy-chested German tourists would strut around the poolside in unfortunately tight Speedos.

Keeping up the theme of tight-fitting garments, the Australian English thong is a particularly dangerous term that gets lost in translation. If I were to get all Sisqo and ask to see you wear that thong-tha-thong-thong-thong, I'd be presented with a flip flop. And rightly so, because in Australian English thong refers to an item of footwear not a cheesewire between the buttocks.

The articles and blog posts above will give you many more excellent examples, including some fantastically rude ones, as well as some fairly obvious abbreviations (beaut, arvo and convo).

Moving on to insults, my colleague Jill (of Australian background herself) has passed on this link to an archive of abuse from the ex-Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating, whose way with words puts the tame banter in our own Houses of Parliament to shame.

World Englishes are part of the AQA A English Language course (unit ENGA3) and not just a bit of fun, so you can actually use some of this in your exam.

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