Caption: “Is that a wacka alert whistle we can hear in the distance?”
In the Language of the Old Guv Printing Office nothing was more important to hear the announcement of a new “Wacka”. Why?
A “wacka” was a juicy rumour so important that an instant crowd of workers would gather on hearing the wacka alert whistle.
Normally they were bullshit and no real good ever came out of spreading a “wacka.”
“Like blowflies gathering around a lump of shit.” That was Kevin “Dago” Stack-Neale’s masterly description of a “wacka crowd” gathering and hovering around eager to hear the latest gossip.
And the English Version goes like this: Whack !– When compositors are gathered together and a tall story is told, or it be doubted that the truth has been told by a speaker, a whack with the composing stick on the frame is given as an indication of unphilosophic doubt.
If you’d lost your mobes in Melbourne at a barbie on a Sunday arvo you couldn’t be anything but Australian.
In fact, Australians use abbreviations and diminutives more than other English-speakers – and a new study is trying to find out why.
“There are many theories,” says Nenagh Kemp, a psychologist specialising in language at the University of Tasmania, who’s leading the work.”
“Australians who use these diminutives might be trying to sound less pretentious, more casual and more friendly than they would by using the full words.”
Nenagh and her colleague Evan Kidd at La Trobe University in Melbourne have asked more than 100 Australians aged 18-90 to write down as many abbreviations and diminutives (which can be shorter or longer than the original word) as they could think of in 10 minutes.
Abbreviations and diminutives
The most common words they’ve identified so far were barbie (barbecue), arvo (afternoon), footy (football), sunnies (sunglasses), rego (registration), servo (service station), brekkie (breakfast), cuppa (cup of tea) and sanga (sandwich).
But people also came up with a lot of abbreviations for brand names, like Maccas, Woollies, Subie (Subaru) and Suzy (Suzuki).
While there’s a good deal of overlap between the abbreviations used by older and younger Australians, there are also seems to be some differences.
Nenagh and Evan’s preliminary analysis of their results suggests that older people use ‘cosier’, family-oriented words like cardi (cardigan), lippy (lipstick), rellies (relatives) and oldies more often than younger people.
These are known as potato scallops or scallops in north-eastern Australia, potato cakes in south-eastern Australia, and potato fritters in South Australia.
Potato scallops, potato cakes, potato fritters
The terms for the fried potato snack show a divide between the southern states, with potato cake favoured in Victoria and southern New South Wales, changing to scallop or potato scallop in New South Wales through to Queensland. South Australians maintain some individuality with the term potato fritter.
Bathers, swimmers, cozzies, togs
Bathers is used frequently in the southern regions and Western Australia, with togs used less frequently. Swimmers and cozzies are used in New South Wales, and togs is prominent in Queensland.
Slippery dip, slippery slide, slide
The common piece of play equipment was mostly known as a slippery dip in NSW and South Australia, and slide in Victoria and WA. Around the border of NSW and Victoria the term slippery slide was used, which is also the term used in Queensland.
Garbage bin, rubbish bin, dust bin
In all regions, the word bin is used on its own, but there are clear regional distinctions between garbage bin and rubbish bin.
Devon, fritz, strasburg, German sausage
This processed lunch meat was one of the most diversely named when the survey was carried out. This is apparently due in some part to the older, German-sounding names falling out of use from the first and second world war onwards and being replaced with more English-sounding names.
The number of names for this meat has probably decreased more recently as production has become less localised
The Australia-wide term is suitcase or case, but the term port is still used in Queensland and parts of NSW.
Bubbler, drinking fountain, tap
Bubbler is the most common term in NSW for this water-dispensing apparatus. Other areas prefer drinking fountain or tap.