Say What?

sauce bottle

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I, personally, would like to turn my nose up at all these outdated colloquialisms.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!’

11 thoughts on “Say What?

  1. Ta, Glynis. I enjoyed reading your blog. It is a form new to me. In response to keeping these sayings alive, I’ve always been fond of an engineering friend’s version of your farewell: When I would say “I’m off.”
    And she would respond “About half-a-bubble.” Yes, she made her start in the building trade.

    Am still looking for the origin of my grandmother’s “You great big stand-up in the corner and bawl for buttermilk.” I think I was a bit of a whinger…a term I hadn’t heard til migrating to Oz a score of years ago.
    Keep it up, Pamela


  2. Well Glynis if you think this blog has legs you’re dreamin’
    Buckley’s or none I’d say. You are as game as Ned Kelly for having a go.
    I think your language is very last century! Mine is too.
    One sub genre that I like is the
    Have a Captain Cook, Look
    I’m just heading out to the frog and toad, Road
    I hope my reply makes sense and is not a dog’s breakfast
    Oh well I’ve had a fair crack of the whip



    1. Ha, ha – this is beaut Deb!Between you, me and the gatepost (which I can’t see at the moment), I just thought I’d give it a go but I won’t attempt to pull the wool over your eyes by skiting about it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Having now had two people mention this to me, I should clarify that ‘flat out like a lizard drinking’ actually refers to a lizard lying very flat to drink water, rather than it actually drinking very fast!


  4. Lol – I remember talking to Josh about a bulldozer in the local park and asking him what he thought it is made from. He glanced across at it to consider its structure. His analysis lasted for a several seconds, before turning back to me to announce “it’s made of lellow”.
    I still have a small speech impediment with long words starting with “wa..” or “wo…”, especially if they have extra L’s, R’s or W’s in them. No one seems to notice cos I subconsciously change words or sentence order to avoid using messy W words, but it’s sometimes harder to avoid saying proper nouns. I used to get caught out in my uni days, especially as I lived in mount Warrigal which is west of Warilla, near Warrawong in Wollongong….Had to move 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Cooee Glynis. Love the post. Growing up an ‘aussie’ it’s easy to take for granted some of the old colloquialisms like: she’ll be right, bluey (to a redhead), snowy (blondie), stone the crows…and if we forget someones name we just call them mate. Add to that a drawl and a mumble. No wonder people moving to Australia have a fun time learning Australian English. Ripper of an article! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Doug – yes it’s a very efficient language for when you forget people’s names! I also like the way Aussies can’t leave people’s names the way they are. If they are long we shorten them, if they are short we lengthen them, and if we can possibly come up with a nick name we do so – and the stranger the better. Love being an Aussie!

      Liked by 1 person

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