Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd hit the headlines in June 2009 when he uttered the colloquial saying: ‘Fair shake of the sauce bottle mate’. At the time, there was a lot of conjecture about what it meant and whether this was an ‘authentic’ saying of Mr Rudd’s or more a cynical ploy to ‘connect’ with people. To explain slang with slang, Mr Rudd’s appeal for ‘a fair go’ was itself a mixture of two phrases – ‘fair shake of the dice’ and ‘fair suck of the sauce bottle’- and so it was ‘not the full quid’. His country Queensland origins might have explained the usage if he hadn’t suddenly uttered the saying three times in one interview, making it seem a little manufactured. ‘Stone the crows’, it’s just so hard to know if something is ‘fair dinkum’ these days!
I, personally, would like to turn my nose up at all these outdated colloquialisms. But my guilty secret is that I have some of my own favourites that I keep returning to despite the novelty for others wearing off long ago (if it ever existed!).
For example, when I am about to leave somewhere I sometimes say ‘I’m off’, pause for a few moments to judge the tolerance of the audience, and follow up with ‘off like a bucket of prawns in the midday sun’. For some reason this never seems to evoke the level of amusement in others that I feel it warrants. But I still enjoy it. Perhaps it’s something to do with my country NSW origins?
Just recently, I took things down a notch by using the saying ‘I’m cooking with gas’ several times – to the clear annoyance of my family. This seems slightly unfair given that we do have a gas stove – and so what else would I be cooking with?
Just as some people keep returning to favourite ‘Dad jokes’ or cringingly awful puns so, too, do I love my special sayings despite, or maybe because of, their dorkiness. It appears I am not alone. According to Mark McCrindle, writing about ‘Australianisms and Clichés’ in the book Word Up, 78 per cent of Australians admit to using Aussie phrases, with some popular ones including the metaphor ‘spit the dummy’ (58 per cent) and the comparison ‘going like hot cakes’ (53 per cent).
However, he says that attitudes are changing to some of the classic old Aussie sayings, with the ‘reinvented’ Aussie lexicon reflecting our increased sophistication and the influence of such things as American entertainment. It saddens me to think that some of my favourite sayings such as ‘flat out like a lizard drinking’ (which means being very busy and so lizards must drink fast!) may one day fade out of existence. Replacements such as ‘whatever’, ‘talk to the hand’ and ‘LOL’ just don’t cut it for me, but I have hope that the Aussie larrikin language will survive in some form.
Now I hope you realise that it is ‘six of one, half a dozen of the other’ to me as to whether you share my love of colloquial sayings (or at least some of them). I realise ‘you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’ but, then again, I’ve managed to have my say and that’s ‘better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick!’