Search This Blog

Friday, 17 February 2012

Dinky-di bonzer bandicoots and hard yacker

I've been a bit quiet this week, so far as this blog is concerned.  I have been enmeshed in the basic administrivia of writing, hunting down a really ghastly novel to see if it was as bad as I suspected (it gave its name to a gold hoax in 1898), and one bit of fun.

If you understood the heading, you probably speak passable Australian.  So do I, though Americans listening to me in this Youtube clip might be surprised.  I don't say "crikey" or sound like Paul Hogan, but I use the Australian vernacular without the twanging diphthongs that stage Australians use.

I know the language inside and out, and for a future project (hint: anachronism-free Australian historical fiction for the YA market), I am trying to pin down when the many fascinating and apparently uniquely Australian terms came into use.

In the first stage, I am using a massive online database of Australian historical newspapers. Now before anybody screams, that collection is owned by the organisation which is also one of my publishers, but that is more because we have similar aims and interests, and I don't make a brass razoo out of spruiking them.

See what I mean about the Oz language?  I'm afraid that spruik and razoo are two words I haven't covered yet, but I will get to them in the end.  Mind you, a few of my researches have shown that terms many of us regard as totally Australian, like bob for shilling, or kibosh, are not ours at all.  I'm setting all of that down in a table, so that people can see the context, the date, and a link that will take them straight to the original.  It's slow work, and I do it in bits and pieces, in between other stuff.

There are now about 150 entries, covering 60 or 70 words—I like, when I can, to offer three examples, sometimes more, of each word under study. Note added February 20: I have finished transferring over the Trove list, and there are more than 250 entries. I have no idea how many words are covered.

Finishing the whole thing will probably take me another year, because I will be following up with a trawl through many old colonial books, looking for curious and early uses of words that we in Australian call our own—like the other meaning of sheoak, not as timber, but as colonial beer (presumably because it came in barrels made of that timber).

If you want to look, the database is here.  Take a look at billy, damper and larrikin as three interesting case studies.  Meanwhile, I'm planning a series on fossils, so those seeking science should stay tuned. Here, for the obligatory pictorial element, are a few recent fossil encounters from a wave-cut platform in Permian sediments on the New South Wales south coast.

The difference: these are real, and what I will be discussing is how to make (or to be honest, fake) your own fossils.  Maybe I should say simulate fossilisation.  These are real, though.


No comments:

Post a Comment