A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms

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Gerald Alfred Wilkes
Sydney University Press, 1990 - Anglais (Langue) - Australie - Argot - Dictionnaires - 362 pages
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About the only contact average Americans have had with Australian slang is the well-known television commercial that promises to "put another shrimp on the barbie" if they spend their next vacation "Down Under." Those that do eventually visit Australia will quickly find an indigenous patois incredibly rich and amusing, drawing on everything from American English to the languages of its native peoples. And readers of A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms will learn not only that "barbie" means barbecue, but that "Down Under" is rarely used by Australians themselves. The last printed use of the term that G.A. Wilkes cites in this immensely entertaining guide is a blurb in the Weekend Australian that describes American astronauts cruising high above a Canberra tracking station announcing "We have a little Slim Dusty and Waltzing Matilda for the Australians down under."
Now available for the first time in the U.S., the new edition of A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms adds almost 1,000 new entries, as well as over 1,000 revised ones. All of the entries are supported by numerous citations showing how the words are used, and special attention is payed to origins and derivations. Americans will be interested to learn that many of Australia's colloquialisms have their provenance in American slang (the California gold rush of the 1850s having had a particularly powerful effect), and that some of our most common expressions have Australian roots. "To knock," meaning "to disparage," for example, while widely used throughout the English-speaking world, was first recorded in Australia in 1892, and not in America until four years later. As one might expect, many Australianisms were originally English, some of them dating from the first arrivals of convicts in the eighteenth century. A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms shows how this argot of thieves often passed to general use, with words like "skinner," meaning a betting coup in racing, remaining current. The humorous expression "If it was raining pea soup, he'd be left with a fork" can be traced to a proverb of seventeenth-century England, and the Australian sense of "plant" as "conceal" can be found as far back as Shakespeare.
Certainly the traveler planning a journey to Australia will find this dictionary an immense help. But above all, this is a book meant to be read, not simply referred to. Anyone interested in language in general and the vibrancy and flux of English in particular will spend many pleasant hours pouring over this book.

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Section 10

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About the author (1990)

G. A. Wilkes was foundation professor of Australian literature at the University of Sydney and is the author and editor of innumerable books.

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