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Thursday, May 04, 2006

May 4: Australian English Day

On this day in 1976, Australia adopted "Waltzing Matilda" as its national anthem, according to Anthony Frewin's The Book of Days (1).

According to the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (www.dfat.gov.au), the official national anthem became "Advance Australia Fair" in 1984 and at various times in Australian history they adopted the British anthem "God Save the Queen." However, whether or not it is the official anthem, few would argue that at the very least "Waltzing Matilda" is the unofficial anthem.

The lyrics were written by Banjo Paterson in1895. However, like many folk songs it’s virtually impossible to document the time or place of origin of the tune.

The song is a reflection of the unique variety of Australian English that springs from three main sources: borrowed words from the Aborigines, archaic British words, and finally words that have evolved out of the unique geography and history of the Aussies.

For someone unfamiliar with Australian English, the lyrics of "Waltzing Matilda" read like "Jabberwocky." With the glossary of key terms listed below, from the National Library of Australia, you can begin to make sense of the song’s story.

Waltzing Matilda


Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled
"Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me?"

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled,"
Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me?"

Along came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong,
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee,
And he sang as he stowed that jumbuck in his tucker bag,
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me".

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me
And he sang as he stowed that jumbuck in his tucker bag,
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me?".

Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred,
Down came the troopers, one, two, three,
"Whose is that jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag?"
"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me".


WALTZING MATILDA The act of carrying the ‘swag’ (an alternate colloquial term is ‘humping the bluey’).

BILLABONG A blind channel or meander leading out from a river.

COOLIBAH Sometimes spelled coolabah: a species of gum or eucalyptus tree.

SWAGMAN An Australian tramp, so called on account of the ‘swag’, usually a chaff bag, containing his ‘billy’, provisions and blankets.

BILLY An open topped tin can, with a wire carrying handle, used as a kettle for boiling water into which tea was thrown.

TUCKER BAG A bag for ‘tucker’ or food; part of the ‘swag’.

JUMBUCK A sheep. The term is a corruption of ‘jump up’ (Macquarie Dictionary, 3rd rev. ed. Sydney: Macquarie, 2001)

SQUATTER A grazier, or station (ranch) owner. Note that the meaning of the word changed later in the twentieth century to mean a person who occupied or resided at a property illegally.

Today’s Challenge: Down Under Definitions
The following words from Australian English are from the Travel-library.com web site. See if you can match the Australian English word with its definition.

1. Berko

2. Cut lunch

3. Dinkie die

4. Earbash

5. Furphy

6. Hooley

7. Kafuffle

8. Liquid laugh

9. Lolly

10. Oil

A. the whole truth B. non-stop talk C. angry D. information E. wild party F. money
G. argument H. vomit I. sandwiches J. a rumor or false story

Quote of the Day: If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six sharpening my axe. --Abraham Lincoln

1. C 2. I 3. A 4. B 5. J 6. E 7. G 8. H 9. F 10. D

1 - Frewin, Anthony. The Book of Days. London: Collins, 1979.

1 comment:

Shankey said...

I'm trying to figure out how to use this!