Above: A very fine example of a hardworking Aussie BBQ, somewhere in the donga I would suspect.
The word “barbecue” comes from the Caribbean word “barbacoa.” Originally, a barbacoa wasn’t a way of cooking food, but the name of a wooden structure used by Taino Indians to smoke their food. It’s likely that the first barbecue consisted of some sort of fish, creatures from the sea obviously being plentiful in the Caribbean.
Besides used for cooking, the structure of sticks could also be used as an area for sleeping, storage, and shelter.
Spanish explorers took the word barbacoa back to Spain, where it appeared in print for the first time in 1526. For a while, barbacoa still referred to the structure that food was cooked in, but after a while people started using it to refer to the process of cooking food.
The first known instance of barbecue appearing in English print was in A New Voyage Round the World by Englishman, Captain William Dampier, (who landed in what is now known as Western Australia) in the 17th Century.
By 1733, “barbecue” had started to mean a social gathering during which meat was grilled, as evidenced in B. Lynde’s diary that year: “Fair and hot; Browne, barbacue; hack overset.”
About two decades later, in 1755, the word “barbecue” was entered into Samuel Johnson’s The Dictionary of the English Language.
The entry reads:
“to ba’rbecue. A term used in the West-Indies for dressing a hog whole; which, being split to the backbone, is laid flat upon a large gridiron, raised about two foot above a charcoal fire, with which it is surrounded”.
Today, there are just as many spellings for barbecue as there are meanings for the term. Many people use barbeque, BBQ, Bar-B-Que, and other variations thereof. That said, the “official” spelling is generally considered to be “barbecue” with a “c”, similar to the original.
While people may debate over what should be the correct spelling or what exactly constitutes barbecue, there is one thing we can all agree on: a barbecue is definitely no longer a shelter or a sleeping structure!
I remember the days when either a letterpress printer or binder would stride up to me and ask the naive apprentice comp. “Could you set a few lines for us mate.”
I do because I was that naive apprentice who was “A Nice Lad who is as thick as two short planks.”
But my pommy tradesman in charge was quicker than most and I guess after some years down the track “a little bit bent.”
And, he never told me he got paid for it!
He would get me to design and set the type on the Ludlow typecaster by pissing in my pocket by saying “you are a master of design Rod”.
And I would do it, time and time again. I just didn’t think that my tradesman would lie to me.
There was one printer in particular who would wander into the comp. room speak to my boss and then I’d be setting wedding invites for the next hour or so.
He started up a small backyard print shop specialising in wedding stationery using hot metal supplied by me (unlawfully but innocently) and that operation turned into a fairly large printing office out on the Main North Eastern Road.
The Cobbers Dictionary defines a “shitboy” as a boy of below average intelligence who worked at the Government Printing Office, South Australia from 1860 until the 1970s.
Unfortunately, the young man in the picture above (with the Top Hat) thought he was above the other Shitboys. Naturally, he got the worst of the shit jobs.
That’s what you would generally hear just before you were due to take the 2 oclock post out to the other Government departments.
“Can you pay this Bill?” “Can you get me a Meat Pie?” “I need an aspirin”.
Some would give you two shillings to run the errand. Sid Ball always gave FIVE shillings (a big amount in 1965).
Some of course gave nothing, but that didn’t matter.
At the end of the year they would go around with a Collection Tin. They usually collected 25 pounds at least.
Considering a “shitboy” only got around 5 pounds a week, it was a fortune.
Your first job in the morning was to sweep up the front path and steps.
You did this as quickly as possible just in case someone you knew who was walking past recognised you.
Then you filled up the Overseer, Superintendent and Government Printer’s wash bowls and their glass drinking water bottles.
Lunch Orders were next. At any time you may have to run some Mail to another Government Department.
There was a Bike for you to use, but most “shitboys” didn’t because it took longer to walk.
You also had to haul loads of metal across the bridge at any time.
Then it was Laundry to be taken down to the back of the Railways (near the Torrens River) and the two o’clock mail had to be taken all over the City. Parliament House, Government House, Industrial Court, Police Department, Education Dept. and so on….
In between doing “shitboy” work you would watch and listen to the Comps and pick up knowledge for your upcoming Apprenticeship in the following year.
Specifically, birds like Sydney Swans, Hawthorn Hawks, West Coast Eagles, Collingwood Magpies, Adelaide Crows and war machinery like Essendon Bombers.
They also like felines like Brisbane Lions, Richmond Tigers and Geelong Cats.
Oddly for an Australian game, the AFL only has one uniquely Australian animal as a moniker, the North Melbourne Kangaroos.
It has four slightly abstract names in Port Power, Gold Coast Suns, Greater Western Sydney Giants and Fremantle Dockers.
Religion is not forgotten either, with Melbourne Demons and St Kilda Saints appealing to two different kinds of flocks. Ironically, the Saints represent an area of Melbourne traditionally thought of as being inhabited by sinners (prostitutes and drug dealers) while the Demons represent the MCC members, who would consider themselves saints (at least publicly.)