South Australia - Miscellany
- Agricultural, Floricultural & Horticultural Shows
- Burying the Dead
- Clocks and Time
- Commercial Travellers
- Empire Day
- Flags and Patriotic Songs
- Fortune Telling, Spiritualism
- Government and Allied Matters
- Guy Fawkes Day
- Land Development
- Language and Allied Matters
- Leisure and Allied Matters
- Local Government
- Male Miscellany
- Metric Systems of Money and Measurement
- Royal Visits
- Squatters and Pastoralists
- The South Australian Company and Allied Matters
- Water Divining and Rainmaking
- Wattle Day
- Weather, Astronomy and Allied Matters
Language and Allied Matters
Language - Twang, Slang and Allied Matters
(Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning's A Colonial Experience)
Editorial note: In this extract Mr Manning uses the voice of his fictional narrator of A Colonial Experience, which provides an imagined perspective from circa 1910.
A young Australian once remarked that the language spoken in this country is the finest in the world, being the only one in which a man can call a black horse 'a fair cow' and still be understood.
(Register, 28 March 1910, page 6.)
Australian Climate and Character
Whatever visitors to the colonies of Australia notice during their stay, and write about when they get home, the climate of the country and the character of the people receive, invariably, a good deal of attention. To what extent climate influences the development of national character is much more than an interesting speculation, because it is linked with matters of high practical importance.
It may either justify or condemn popular pursuits of certain kinds and encourage or check distinguishing tendencies. A familiar aphorism says: 'Sow and act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.' With destiny at one end of the chain it is important to know what is at the other, and actions do not form the beginning, for they are effects - among other things - of environment.
As climate is one of the most permanent factors in the environment of any people, which prompts and controls their acts, thereby establishing habits, it has, necessarily, a large share in moulding their character and, consequently, in fixing their destiny. That its influence is limited and modified by other causes is evident. The Aboriginals of Australia furnish whatever proof is necessary on that score, and this may be corroborated in every quarter of the globe.
It is nevertheless certain that climatic conditions stimulate and impel, or restrain and prevent, according to circumstances. Take, for instance, the passion for sport which is so prominent in the Australian character, and is assuredly fostered by the constant facilities and inducements to seek recreation, chiefly in the open air.
According to some authorities - Herbert Spencer among the number - dryness of climate is favourable to the development of energy, while Anthony Trollope, who visited our shores some three decades ago, and other travellers, say that the considerable alteration in temperature tend to robust vitality, and as there is no doubt that Australia has both conditions, this phase of national character has a reasonable explanation.
Generalisations on the Australian character are often erroneous, because they are based on insufficient premises. Both visiting and resident critics are apt to forget the nation, as such, is nascent and that judgement concerning it is premature. There has not been time enough for the evolution of the typical Australian, and it would be an utter mistake to regard all native born youths as 'corn-stalks'.
In America there is a Yankee and a Canadian type, but their countries are generations ahead of ours in racial development. Mr J.A. Froude was surprised to find that Australians and English were as much alike - to use his own comparison - as leaves that grow on the same branch, the reason being that he expected wider divergences than the circumstances allowed.
Hitherto, emigrants from the old world have not only formed a considerable proportion of the community, but from the nature of the case have given tone and colour to the whole. Their characters were formed before they came, and being in the majority of cases founders of families, they have stamped their own features on their immediate descendants. Probably they were more energetic, resolute and adventurous than the average, and hence the presence of these qualities in larger measure than usual is only to be expected.
Heredity is a potent force and when it acts with, and not against, the general surroundings the result may be predicted easily. The plentiful supply of food, the excitement of a succession of gold discoveries and the stimulus to enterprise by the opening of new lands must also be taken into account.
Climate and national character may be as literally geared together as the wheels of a bicycle, but there is no single force to which either the rate or direction of progress can be ascribed. The Australian in Australia is still very much of an exotic undergoing modifications from his surroundings, the full extent of which cannot yet be ascertained. Reasoning from analogy, the prospect is distinctly hopeful because of permanent conditions that have not escaped the notice of observers. Many years ago, Marcus Clarke described the future Australian as a man with troublesome liver, bald head, bad teeth and good lungs; fretful and irritable, but square-headed, masterful and with plenty of resource.
The pessimistic strain in the brilliant writer is to be seen in the shading of the portrait and there are many who use lighter tones. It is pointed out that governing races of the world have always been dwellers in the temperate zone, both in ancient and modern times, because tropic heat and arctic cold are fatal to the qualities that ensure permanent ascendancy.
The fact remains, however, when due allowance is made for everything of the kind, that in a climatic sense the most populous portion of Australia, and that which by reason of its resources is likely to be most closely settled, corresponds very closely with the countries that have been the homes of the rulers of the world.
That climatic influences have their dangers must be acknowledged and innumerable services have been preached from that text, full of cautions against devotion to horse-racing, football, cricket and the like. To be forewarned, however, is to be forearmed, and on the whole there is little reason to fear that healthy outdoor amusements to which the climate invites, and which promote physical development, will bring in their train intellectual inferiority or national decay. The evidence from history is emphatically on the other side.
The Growth of Language
A curious controversy was raised in London in 1901 over a literary point, arising out of the new poetical drama 'Herod' in which it was stated that Herod had 'fired the robbers out of Galilee'. Critics were up in arms against the use of an Americanism in a serious work, and a common one at that.
In Mark Twain unwelcome intruders are 'fired out', a humorous doctor even 'fires' drugs into his patients; but for the poetic drama - never! After which came the retort, generally accepted as a crushing one, that the word is sound, classic English, used by Shakespeare in 'Coriolanus' and elsewhere.
This is, in fact, but another example of the point so often claimed by educated Americans, that their language, though developing so remarkably in some directions, has preserved the English of Shakespeare and Milton, while England has, for practical purposes, let it slip.
Australia's original contributions to the written language are but few at present. There exists, however, a great mass of speech almost distinct to be a dialect, and there is a growing desire on the part of the younger writers to fix this on paper. Sometimes the divergences from the older type seem purposeless; it is difficult to see why a brook should always be a creek, a field a paddock or a glen a gully, since the new words are already good English with a slightly different meaning.
To be 'full of a thing' means, in London, to take no interest in anything else; in Australia to have lost all interest. The alteration is ingenious, but has nothing else to recommend it. Curiously enough some of our judges appear to hold briefs for the formal adoption of slang phrases.
One of them referred recently to an improper application by counsel as 'faked'; another described a receipt as 'crook'. Now, these words are not even Australian in origin. They are vulgarisms in any case and they do not express anything that could not be put otherwise. It must be supposed that the judges aimed at what their immediate audience would be likely best to understand.
It is curious to find a Sydney newspaper defending both these words for formal and judicial use, as also 'bloomer', in the sense of blunder, and the abominable phrase 'up to him to resign'. Further, in New South Wales the 'buttoner' is as well known as the politician, and he is called such because 'there is no other word to describe him.' The argument would more justly apply to 'barracker', used publicly by another judge the other day. 'Larrikin' is no longer slang and 'barracker' may follow it into the new great English dictionary of whose all-embracing pages Dr Mahaffy lately sampled one. It contained twelve words and ten of them were new even to him! Thus does the language grow!
The Prince and the Queen's English
It was not until the late 1860s that the Australian 'twang', evident in the speech of native-born South Australians, was subjected to criticism. A letter written by 'An Englishman' in January 1868 complained of a 'colonial twang' falling harshly upon his ears, but, strangely, his complaint elicited no concurrence from any fellow-citizen. However, for posterity, I record in full what I believe to be the first written record of the alleged abuse of the 'mother tongue' on South Australian shores.
In his preamble the complainant refers to the Duke of Edinburgh not admiring 'the pronunciation of the Victorians' but suggests that 'while we are laughing at our neighbours we must not forget that we South Australians are not quite perfect in the use of our mother tongue.' Finally, he alleged that a 'very decided and far from pleasant twang is making its appearance rapidly in the speech of our native-born youths...'
'The barrel organ itself does not grate upon my ear like the real South Australian pronunciation of the diphthongs "ou" and "ow",' he continued, 'where they rhyme with "cow", and of the vowel "i", the pure English sound of which seems likely to be lost in the course of another generation or two.
'The diphthongs "ou" and "ow" in the mouths of our young [generation] become "aou" and "aow", as "graound". "paound", "raow", "naow", "saour", "paowder", etc. I am afraid that this vile pronunciation will soon become universal in this colony. And I may say the same of the equally objectionable sound given to the letter "i".
'It is now everywhere being turned into "ai" (with the "a" broad, as in "fast"), as "waine", "raide", "quaite" and "raight". The pronoun "I" is made to rhyme with "aye" as heard in Parliament.
'I have heard an otherwise creditable recitation completely spoilt by this "colonial twang" as it is beginning to be called. The young man gets up to "speak the speech" and says "Ai'd as lief the taown craier spoke my laines". "And so would I", says every educated Englishman in the room.
'That either from climatic influences, or from some predominant English provincialism, certain peculiarities will become fixed and permanent in our speech is not unlikely, but such an abominable corruption of our noble tongue as I have indicated should be opposed by the utmost exertions of parents and teachers...'
The Australian Twang
Of late, much has been heard touching certain modes of mispronouncing English to which the name has been given the name of 'the Australian twang'. Not so long ago the ill-treatment at a public concert of one vowel sound was so described. But the transformation of the long 'i' into the open 'a', though common enough, is not distinctively colonial. It is, in fact, a mincing, lackadaisical affectation, for which we have to thank the mother-country. Languid young ladies may think it 'naice' to talk in this finicking fashion, but many would be ashamed to follow their example.
The Australian 'twang' is concerned with the vowel sounds, but in another way. The average colonial youth is censured for a disposition to change 'a' into 'i' and 'o' into 'cow'. He says 'dy' instead of 'day', and 'heow' instead of 'how'. The former is certainly a vulgar Cockneyism, and the Gaiety and other comic representatives of the coster type have made it familiar on the stage.
But whether copied originally from the speech of Cockagne, or an independent Australian growth, this misuse of the first of the vowels is, no doubt, increasing. There is also a similarity of American speech in the marked nasal intonation. These peculiarities mark the 'Australian twang' and they threaten, unless checked, to become fixed forms of an impure pronunciation of our mother-tongue.
The violence done to the vowels by the rising generation in the colonies results, undeniably, from mere carelessness, rather than deliberate intention. But a slovenly mode of speech, that sacrifices both dignity and music, is simply inexcusable. English scholars lament the tendency of Australians to develop a 'pinched, ignoble, and slovenly' dialect of their mother-speech and their warning merits the attention of all who are responsible for the instruction of our young people.
'A Fair Cow'
The intrusive 'eow' sound in such words as 'cow' and 'now' is suggestive of Yankee origin. 'This war is a fair cow', said a Boer War soldier, for whom a kindly nurse was writing a home letter, as he began his dictation - A cryptic and obscure sentence to all but the initiated 'Dinkum Aussie' and his comrades and friends.
Why the milky mother of the herd should find her name a term of offence is hard to understand. The euphemism is believed to have had its origin in the dairying districts of the eastern States, where the cow is monarch of all she surveys and where life is regulated by her needs.
Early and late she reigns supreme, and children are sent milking at dawn and dusk, to the prejudice of their education. The tyranny of the cow is complete and it has been the theme of countless sarcastic paragraphs in comic papers. Her name has become a synonym for all manner of disagreeable things.
The story is told of a self-respecting lady who sent a summons to her neighbour - 'Called you a cow, my good woman', said the magistrate. 'She might as well call you a parallelogram. It is not an insult; the term is meaningless.' 'But she did, your worship', urged the weeping complainant, 'and, what's more, she said she'd prove it!'
Those who are interested in tracing the derivation of mystifying phrases have here a congenial subject for study. The newcomer will marvel to hear what is obnoxious described as 'a cow of a thing', or a difficult task stigmatised as 'a fair cow', but he will soon become familiar with phrases which are now firmly in the slang of Australia.
Another verbal vice to which the young people of this country - and the old people, too, for that matter - are addicted is the use of slang. The ancient Greeks, from motives of policy, often called evil things by flattering names to appease them; their 'Furies', for instance, were called the 'Gracious Goddesses', much in the same way, presumably, as a menacing hound might become a 'nice doggie'.
Similar euphemisms are used freely in modern life. We, like the ancients, avoid the words 'death' and 'die' by the most extraordinary periphrasis. There may be, perhaps, some rational motive at the back of this, but one almost feels that the unctuous 'pass away' and 'cross the bar' are not so remote from the ribald 'peg out' or 'kick the bucket'. All four expressions are to be deplored and it is no defence of the ribald ones to say that they are at least as good as the others.
This ebullient nonsense manifests itself in various forms, one of the most common being ironical expression - 'You're a nice one', 'You're a beauty', 'Not half'. The labels 'I don't think' or 'dickin', like the Latin scilicet, may or not be attached to mark the irony. The fashionable 'O Yeah!' is a recent fruit of the same tendency and I have heard a youngster of four use it with fine appreciation of its irony.
Why do illegitimate expressions such as 'boshter' possess such a baneful fascination for the small boy? And who invents these etymological outrages - these base coins of currency of speech which attain universal circulation with such astonishing celerity?
Their origin is as mysterious as their fascination is inexplicable. They come, apparently, from the streets, speedily ingratiate themselves into the vocabularies of the cultured classes, and even attain to the dignity of newspaper publication, though it be with the reservation of quotation marks. Usually, however, the popularity of these grammatically disreputable terms is as evanescent as it is extensive.
They are used by the multitude while their novelty charms, and then discarded in favour of the latest accretion in the 'slanguage'. Sometimes, indeed, they acquire respectability because they fill, readily, a blank in the authentic vocabulary, and are smuggled into the next official dictionary - the historical expression 'boycott' is a case in point.
This transformation threatens to recur, for example, in the case of 'wowser' - a curiously expressive word of hazy derivation and even more dubious definition, but one which epitomises a type immortalised by Charles Dickens in the Reverend Chadband. In fact, the chief charm of slang words lies in their brevity and expressiveness and, although Doctor Samuel Johnson would reject contumely the claims of many baseborn adjectives to inclusion between the sacred covers of his dictionary, most folk less etymologically aesthetic than that conservative lexicographer, will continue to relish the lucid epithets which spring so mysteriously into being and as imperceptibly fall into disuse and oblivion.
Of the use of slang in Australia, it is almost literally true that - as the current 'gag' asserts - 'Everybody's doing it'. No one nowadays is pained to hear a refined maiden allude to the weather as 'bonzer', or an educated young man refer to his shortage of 'dough'. Nor is this habit surprising in view of the singular fertility and felicity of the Australian language. What, for instance, could surpass in brevity the virility the glorious expression 'stoush'? 'Job' and 'biff' are pale and puny things beside it and even 'bash' fades into a feeble insignificance before its pugilistic splendour. 'Stoush' is the apotheosis of verbal vigour, just as 'smooge' is the very embodiment of the spirit of servility.
And could the human countenance be more luminously described than as 'dial', the proboscis more lucidly designated than as the 'boko', or the whole head better summarised than as the 'block'. Before the insidious allurement of such coined words as 'coot', 'quid', 'cobber', 'dilly', 'boodler', 'barmy', 'bloke' and the rest, even the most genteel speakers may occasionally forget their gentility and lapse into colloquialisms of the vulgar.
Small wonder, then, that the graceless juvenile delights in the acquisition of a complete vocabulary of these illegitimate idioms and exhibits his treasures on all possible occasions. His shocked pastors and masters are doubtless justified in reproving his slangy, as well as his twangy, tendencies, although, after all, the former failing is not very grave, and may even serve a moral purpose in that an ejaculatory 'darn' or 'blooming' may be used in emergencies where a more lurid expletive might in their absence be employed.
It may be a question whether any word that Australia has produced has had time to receive promotion from the ranks of slang into those of the language, as accepted by serious writers; but it is difficult to imagine a 'swag', a 'billy' or a 'damper' being called anything else by the most severe of essayists.
To have (or not to have, which is, all illogically, the same thing) 'Buckley's chance' indicates a phrase worthy to live with 'Hobson's choice'; but the former is unknown outside Australia. So are 'push' and 'sool', capital words both, and the latter fills a clear want in the language. 'I shouldn't have married him if Mrs Wiggs hadn't sooled me on', complained a lady of the Cabbage Patch; but she learned to say it only after she came to this country, and to this day an Englishman has no articulate word with which to encourage his dog.
There is a slang - of the 'push' - in which policemen are 'Johns' and girls are 'Toms'; but that dialect has no literature, and is too restricted in use to be worth consideration. On the other hand 'boshter' and the mysterious 'dickin' of incredulity or discouragement, although certainly slangy, are part of the vocabulary of every schoolboy. The Australian mind seems prone to the use of slang even on serious occasions. At a recent criminal sittings in Adelaide a witness on a grave charge testified that 'she sang out'; the court, without comment, took it down as 'she called out.'
A recent University report tells how candidates in examinations have been penalised for writing in an essay, of 'an all right time', and for referring to a statesman in history as 'poor old Tommy.' A brief and breezy conversation was heard when a great singer was here. 'Tom and Dick and I went to the Clara Butt concert.' 'Who shouted?' 'Clara Butt'. Irreverent the story may be, but the joke is perfectly sound - in Australia. In England it would be almost meaningless.
To be 'scratched', to 'give points' to any one, to be 'fairly stumped', or 'euchred' (or, nowadays, 'bunkered'), to be 'knocked out' - how expressive are all these terms! To 'be in at the death' is a phrase which has worked itself quietly into the language and dropped its inverted commas - the badge of shame. So has to be 'handicapped' - or 'overweighted' - which was, of course, a purely sporting idiom at first.
A word which now deserves canonisation is 'hedging', a term perfect in its summary of early recklessness, wise recognition of the facts and shrewd guarding against them. 'Prig' and 'cad' - are those words slang today? They certainly were not long ago, but now the language cannot do without their crisp definition of types well known but otherwise nameless.
'Bounder' is on its trial, but is likely to follow them upward and outward. Thus, slang may be considered indispensable to any language not numbered with the dead. The well of pure English is no longer defiled; but there is more than a 'colour' of gold in the strange accumulation of outside matter which so constantly drifts in.
The Australian boy reads his American books and he, undoubtedly, adopts much of their slang; he may read, too, the English public school stories which teacher-preacher authors have cunningly sugar-coated with English schoolboy lingo. He still, however, shows in his own speech a sturdy independent strain. 'Footy' remains the Australian for English school's 'footer' and 'nit' for the classical 'cave', 'crawler' or 'sneak'.
The proficiency in 'slanguage' attained by some of Australia's young hopefuls is almost sufficient to move their elders to repeat the expostulatory enquiry of the bishop addressed to the profane cabman, remonstrating eloquently with his horse: 'My good fellow, where did you learn the language?' And the lads, like the cabman, might respond - 'You can't learn it - it's a gift!'
Slang Terms - What Some Mean
Slang is not a modern product, for many words that crop up, seemingly with a gloss of novelty on them, can be traced as having their origin a century ago or more in England. 'Cold bunny' is an expression used by schoolboys today. What does it mean and where does it come from? Those who use it consider it a term of derision equivalent to 'rubbish', when it is used as a rejoinder to a statement by another person. Perhaps the cheapness of rabbit as food in Australia may have led to its adoption.
'Hot air', to which oratory of some politicians has been likened by weary electors, is another expression heard frequently. It signifies talk that lacks the significance intended by the speaker. Possibly the originator remembered that hot air rises quickly. 'Fag' shares with 'smoke' and 'coffin nail' the honour of representing a cigarette, while the 'makings' is the tobacco required by an amateur to roll one. The connection with the 'fag' of school life is obscure.
'Bloke' means the male of the human species, is as common in England as in Australia.; 'cove' and 'chap' are also used. For the weaker sex 'tart', 'tabby', skirt', 'piece', 'sheila' and 'cliner' do duty in circles that are not exactly select. A rendezvous between persons of the opposite sex is a 'date' or a 'meet', the origins of which are evident. Failure to meet is a 'blue duck' for the one who waits.
To have 'the wind up', or to be 'windy', meaning to be afraid, are war terms that have persisted in civil life. Liquid refreshment has many names. 'Booze' and 'spot' are familiar to most people, as is the invitation to 'stop one', otherwise to partake. The person who has imbibed too well is 'shot', 'shikkered', 'squiffy', 'blotto' or 'three sheets in the wind'. Possibly the ability to absorb liquor like blotting paper led to the coining of 'blotto'.
Rhyming slang, in which a word of totally different meaning is chosen because they rhyme was responsible for 'the old pot', representing father. 'The old pot and pan' stood for 'the old man'. By this method 'bread and jam' is a tram or 'twist and twirl', a girl. 'See you chip' for 'See you later' is an abbreviation of chip potato.
The following example shows it at work at full blast: 'His barrel-of-fat blew away and while he chased it along the field-of-wheat he fell on his knees and tore his round-the-house.' Gratuitous nonsense, yes; but we do like the rhyme, don't we?
The Pronunciation of English
Periodically, the attention of English speaking people is invited to the pronunciation of the English language. No long time has elapsed since a leading London journal was seriously exercised over what it was pleased to call the impending degradation of the English language by an invasion of Australianisms, instancing among others such shocking examples as 'new chum', 'swag', 'billy-can', 'damper' and 'coo-ee'.
The examples were not very felicitous, since the majority were familiar to English ears long before this continent was trodden by English feet. But the general proposition was true, that the English language has been enriched and impoverished by a limited number of novel phrases and vocables, which are as distinctly redolent of the soil we live on as any of our flora.
The pastoral industry, to wit, has given it the 'sundowner' and 'rouseabout'; party politics have presented it with the 'stone-waller (the 'rail-sitter' has a trans-Pacific origin), and out of the unwholesome fermentation that taints the moral atmosphere of Australian cities - there has sprung up the 'larrikin'.
Owing to the soft impeachment, as we must, we do not see anything in it to be ashamed of. Words are, after all, the symbol of things, and unless we adopt the suggestion of the projectors of Laputa, and carry things about with us in our pockets in place of using their verbal equivalents, our language must grow and be diversified concurrently with the growth of our civilisation.
The case is otherwise with the pronunciation of words an common use; and I must admit, ruefully, the prevalence among us of forms of speech, some of which are barbarous as they are unpleasing. Examples occur too easily to the mind. 'Tuesday', for instance, is no longer a day of the week - 'Chewsday' has taken its place. Nobody now suffers from the jaw ache, he has 'jorake.'. The 'cow' has been supplanted by that outlandish creature the 'kiaou'.
We are acquiring an international reputation for expressive and original slang that almost rivals that of America. Although it is, perhaps, a little too much to expect that 'a fair cow', 'dinkum bloke' and 'bonzer' will ever be accorded a place in dictionaries, there are many crisp and individual words and phrases that, by virtue of their virility and aptness are, year by year, finding a place in those cut-and-dried alphabetical columns, to widen and enrich the language and bring it up to date. Indeed, their is a distinct ripeness about such words as 'dinkum', 'strewth', 'snodger' and 'stoush' - rough, honest words, to which many of us have embraced and to which we still cling. Such tenacity, one trusts, is prompted more by a spirit of loyalty than by a misguided sense of the aesthetic.
We shall never eradicate the vernacular. It hits the nail on the head. However much the purists complain, nothing can be done about it. The young generation wants to express itself tersely, vividly, humorously, in the jargon of the age. Slang has always been in vogue among educated people quite as much as the uneducated. There is good and bad slang and the only type I would deprecate is the sign of a poverty-stricken mind; for instance, 'awfully jolly', 'too right' and the great Australian adjective 'bloody' which is used too freely by the lazy Australian in odd and inappropriate places.
One cannot control the evolution of a language. In each generation certain words slip into oblivion and new ones take their places. The most graphic, useful and euphonious slang remains with us, becomes familiar and is accepted - the rest will simply disappear.
The instinct for variety and vividness of expression is sound enough provided it does not run riot. The literary artist, with the same urge for vivid and emotional expression, takes to metaphors instead of slang and, even through him, coined words gradually find their way into the language. To yield, however, to the slang impulse instead of sublimating it, is a grave danger. It is impossible to cultivate it without neglecting orthodox expression. I do not know that we should grieve at the introduction of American slang, for slang survives only when it is useful and expressive, when it enriches the vocabulary and is worthy of a place, not only in speech but in good writing.
What can we do about the Australian accent? Complaint about it is no new thing and many of us remember friends and relatives returning from a visit to England somewhat shocked to find that they were accused of having an Australian accent, and taking precautions to see that coming generations did not perpetuate their faults.
England itself provides an example of the impossibility of getting a people, even in a comparatively small area, generally, to adopt a standard accent. To anyone who has travelled through Great Britain the variety of accents is confusing, at times to the point almost of incomprehensibility.
In ancient, cultured Greece the same problem presented itself, and wherever a fixed community has English for its language it is possible for a visitor to detect a difference. The same applies to the French. New arrivals in New Caledonia find the accent there startlingly different from that to which they had been accustomed.
There is, however, a certain standard of English accent in which vowel quantities and sounds are given their proper place. A well-produced voice adds to the beauty of these, just as it makes the Australian accent seem more offensive. On the other hand, there is what may be called the super-accent, which is almost as unpleasant as the Australian 'a' and 'i'.
There is no doubt that our education authorities are lax in the matter of speech. Indeed, many teachers are themselves as bad offenders as can be found. If a start was made by compelling all teachers to go through a course of speech training the degeneration of the Australian accent might be stopped. On the other hand, environment has a great deal to do with accent and it is very hard to say what scheme can be devised to prevent a people from getting into slipshod, and perhaps peculiar, habits.
If our forefathers were allowed to change the original 'a' sound (pronounced as in 'father') in the word spade, why should our children not be allowed to change it into an 'ai', thus calling that useful article of industry not a spade but a 'spaide'? If, however, sheer carelessness or mental slovenliness is the real cause of the faulty pronunciation the remedy is simple.
Let more stress be laid on clear enunciation of the various vowel sounds, and let all who are engaged in training the young be constantly on the watch that their own pronunciation may be the essence of correctness, and that they may detect and correct the linguistic eccentricities or aberrations of their pupils. But there is, unfortunately, a 'mighty' difference between pointing out a remedy and application of the same.
"A Plea for Vocal Training" is in the Advertiser,
21 January 1864, page 3b,
1 February 1864, page 3b.
"The Prince and the Queen's English" is in the Advertiser, 23 January 1868, page 3b: Also see Royal Visits
I have heard an otherwise creditable recitation completely spoilt by this "colonial twang"... such an abominable corruption of our noble tongue... should be opposed by the utmost exertions of parents and teachers.
"Australian Accent" is in the Observer,
14 December 1872, page 7e,
"The Australian Twang" in the Advertiser,
13 January 1894, page 4e:
The violence done to the vowels by the rising generation in the colonies results undeniably from mere carelessness rather than deliberate intention... A slovenly mode of speech, that sacrifices both dignity and music, is simply inexcusable.
(Also see Express,
25 February 1903, page 1h.
31 July1913, page 5h,
9 August 1913, page 14e.)
"Australian Dress and Diet" is in the Observer,
23 August 1890, page 34b.
"Development of Australians - Climate and Environment" is in the Observer,
21 June 1890, page 42a.
"Slang" is in the Observer,
27 September 1890, page 25d,
"Mystery of Slang Words" is in The News,
18 May 1925, page 6c.
"As Others See Us" is in the Observer,
23 May 1891, page 26c.
"Australian English" is in the Register,
14 October 1893, page 4g,
"English as She Is Spelt" on
21 March 1896, page 4g.
"The Judges Required to Study Slang" is in the Register,
4 June 1897, page 5a.
"Australian Climate and Character" is in the Advertiser,
23 September 1898, page 4f,
"The Evolution of the Australian" in the Register,
21 August 1899, page 4e.
"Do Australians Talk Wrongly? - A Protest" is in the Register,
26 August 1898, page 3h,
3 September 1898, page 30d.
"The Evolution of the Australian" is in the Register,
21 August 1899, page 4e.
The difference between "Australians" and "Colonials" is traversed in the Register,
25 June 1900, page 4f.
30 June 1900, page 29e.
A lecture by Dr Marten entitled "The Australian Type - A Tall, Wiry, Energetic Race" is reproduced in the Advertiser,
29 June 1900, page 6d; also see
3 July 1900, page 4d for editorial comment.
"The Growth of Language" is in the Advertiser,
28 May 1901, page 4c,
"The English Tongue" on
18 November 1901, page 4d,
"The Art of Conversation" on
2 August 1902, page 6d,
"Bad Language" on
27 December 1902, page 6e.
An attempt at defining "The Typical Australian" is made in the Register, 6 July 1904, page 4c:
It would be unsafe at this juncture to draw sweeping conclusions from the oft-reiterated accusation that Australians care more for sport and for pleasure than they do for high ideals or the accomplishment of great purposes... Perhaps the most serious charges which have been made against the Australian are that he displays a want of reverence for sacred things and that he worships nowhere. "Worship implies inferiority", remarked a cynical critic, "and no one is more superior than the average Australian man".
"Optimism - A National Asset" is in the Register, 23 March 1905, page 4d:
There is, however, such a thing as blind optimism which is nothing more than an inflated egotism and which, meeting grave national dangers with the specious plea that "everything will right itself in time", leads a nation to ruin.
"Are Australians Irreverent" is in the Express,
3 January 1906, page 4g,
"Australians and Their Habits" in the Observer,
1 December 1906, page 42a,
"Australia Through English Spectacles" on
1 February 1908, page 33e.
"Australians" is in the Register, 19 April 1906, page 4b.
"The Use of Slang" is in the Advertiser,
7 July 1906, page 8f,
"Slang" in the Register,
28 March 1910, page 6c:
A young Australian once remarked that the language spoken in this country is the finest in the world, being the only one in which a man can call a black horse "a fair cow" and still be understood.
An editorial headed "A Fair Cow" is in the Advertiser,
4 September 1926, page 13a.
Also see Register,
4 May 1910, page 10c,
10 January 1911, page 3e,
"Twang and Slang" on
9 August 1913, page 14e,
"Slang" in the Advertiser,
9 and 12 January 1935, pages 14e and 14i.
"Australians and Their Habits - As Viewed Through German Spectacles" is in the Register,
26 November 1906, page 6e.
"The Pronunciation of English" is discussed in the Advertiser,
28 March 1908, page 8e,
"National Character" on
5 October 1908, page 6c.
"City Slang Terms" is in the Register,
8 April 1908, page 4f.
"The Australian Accent" is in the Register,
7 July 1908, page 7h.
"Australian Characteristics - Not All Back Blocks" is in the Register
on 4 January 1909, page 3i.
"Slang" is in the Register,
28 March 1910, page 6c.
"The Australian - Foster Fraser on Physique" is in the Advertiser,
13 August 1910, page 21d; also see
30 August 1910, page 6c.
"The Third Generation - Do Australians Deteriorate?" is in the Observer,
13 August 1910, page 39a.
"The Real Australian" is in the Register,
17 December 1910, page 14e.
"The Australian Outlook" is in the Observer,
14 January 1911, page 31d.
A proposed Esperanto congress in Adelaide is commented upon in the Advertiser,
24 and 27 October 1911, pages 9b and 7b.
26, 27 and 28 October 1911, pages 6d, 9h and 15a,
28 October 1911, page 25d,
4 November 1911, page 49.
A photograph is in the Observer,
22 January 1911, page 30.
1 November 1911, page 4,
8 April 1937, page 49a.
"National Character" is in the Register,
6 April 1912, page 12d.
"Australian Optimism" is in the Advertiser,
16 July 1912, page 8d.
"Australia and Australians" is in the Observer,
22 October 1921, page 31a.
"Some Australian Characteristics" is in the Register,
3 December 1921, page 7e.
"Is English Deteriorating? - The American Influence" is in the Advertiser,
17 June 1922, page 15g.
"The Australian Accent" is discussed in the Register,
15 November 1923, page 12f,
13 August 1925, page 8d.
"Australian Type" in the Advertiser,
1 November 1924, page 12f,
"The Australian Vernacular" on
13 December 1924, page 12g.
"Mystery of Slang Words" is in The News,
18 May 1925, page 6c.
"The Australian Accent" is in the Register,
13 August 1925, page 8d.
"The English Language in Australia" is in the Advertiser,
23 December 1926, page 12i,
"National Modesty" on
10 January 1927, page 8d,
"Our Mother Tongue" on
13 August 1927, page 12f.
"Australian English" is in the Observer,
14 July 1928, page 71b.
"Damn and Dash - Is Swearing Permissible?" is in The News,
27 September 1928, page 5e,
4 October 1928, page 7b (cartoon),
"Assaults on the English Tongue" on
11 July 1929, page 6c.
"Australian English" is in the Observer,
14 July 1928, page 71b,
"Australian Speech" in the Register,
28 July 1928, page 8f,
"Pure English - The American Menace" is in the Advertiser,
12 August 1929, page 16c,
"The Antipodean Vowel" on
27 October 1936, page 18g.
"Slang Terms - What Some Mean" is in The Mail,
30 May 1931, page 9e.
"English As She Is Spoke" is in The News,
24 February 1932, page 6e.
"What is an Australian?" is in The News,
6 and 7 April 1932, pages 6d and 8d,
"Our Twang" on
15 August 1932, page 4e,
"The Average Australian Runs to Type" on
6 December 1932, page 4f,
"All Slang is Not to be Despised" on
14 February 1935, page 8g.
"Use of Slang Condoned" is in the Chronicle,
10 January 1935, page 16c.
"What Can We Do About the Australian Accent" is in The News,
26 October 1936, page 6c.