Review of South Australian Words
|Date: Sun, 1 Aug 2004 18:04:59 +0200
From: Clemens Fritz
Subject: Bardi Grubs and Frog Cakes
AUTHOR: Jauncey, Dorothy
TITLE: Bardi Grubs and Frog Cakes
SUBTITLE: South Australian Words
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
Clemens Fritz, Freie Universität Berlin
'Bardi Grubs and Frog Cakes' is a short encyclopedia of more or less
regionally restricted Australian words. Not all the words covered are
exclusive to South Australia (SA), but all bear a special relation to
it. The five hundred entries are divided into seven chapters which
cover (1) words from Aboriginal languages, (2) nineteenth century
vocabulary, (3) special mining terms, (4) German loans, (5) vocabulary
from primary industries, (6) Outback vocabulary, and (7) modern and
BACKGROUND OF THE BOOK
The book follows a trend discernible in current research into
Australian English (AusE). Whereas earlier studies have emphasized
AusE's remarkable phonological homogeneity, today's studies look deeper
into regional variation, be it phonological, lexical or grammatical.
Recently, a number of book-length publications of vocabularies of
different Australian states have been published, e.g. Brooks and
Ritchie (1994; Western Australia), Brooks and Ritchie (1995; Tasmania)
and Robertson (2001; Queensland). All of the latter, as well as
Jauncey's book on South Australia, originated in the Australian
National Dictionary Centre (ANDC) and are published by Oxford
University Press (OUP). This is no coincidence, since the ANDC was
founded for the dual purpose of research into AusE and providing the
OUP fleet of dictionaries with lexicographical knowledge. The project's
initial publication was Ramson (1988), the first and foremost
dictionary of Australian National Dictionary (AND) on historical
principles. Whereas Brooks and Ritchie used mainly selective readings
of newspapers between 1950 and 1991, Jauncey's sources are mostly the
ANDC database and Ramson (1988). Newspapers, interviews and various
museums were also used. However, no specifics are given, neither the
size of the corpora nor the method of investigation. >From the point of
view of a scholarly user, this is disappointing.
STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK
The dictionary is divided into seven chapters. Each is preceded by an
informative introduction followed by the entries in alphabetical order.
The chapters are very heterogeneous. Two deal with contributions by
specific languages (Aboriginal languages and German), others
concentrate on historical or occupational domains. The last chapter has
current South Australian (SA) terminology from mixed fields. The
policies for counting a term as 'South Australian' differ from chapter
to chapter. But compared to 'Words from the West', they are spelled out
more clearly. Not all words seem to have been cross-checked with the
AND and other sources. For instance, 'wurley' is said to be first
recorded in Kaurna, an Aboriginal language, in 1840. But the AND and
Knight (1988) both have English quotes from 1839. Important linguistic
research, e.g. by Bryant (1989, 1997), has also left few traces in the
book and the list of works cited in the reference section is not very
long. An example where an entry could have been improved is 'stobie
poles'. These are poles carrying electricty and telephone lines.
Jauncey mentions that the poles are always made of concrete with sides
of steel and that this is due to SA's lack of suitable timber. Bryant
(1989:311), however, documents that only older Adelaide speakers stated
that wooden poles are not true Stobie poles. A third of the Adelaide
residents questioned used the term indiscriminately.
The first chapter is entitled ''The People Before'' and contains words
from Aboriginal Languages. The policy for this chapter was to include
words current or historical in AusE that come from Aboriginal languages
found or extinct in South Australia. In this sense the words can be
called 'South Australian', despite the fact that not all etymological
histories of the entries are waterproof. For example, some words, like
'mulga' (several kinds of acacia), 'malka' (a shield) and 'euro' (a
kangaroo, not a currency), are documented in several Aboriginal
languages which are totally unrelated, linguistically and
geographically. Short Histories of the twenty-five Aboriginal languages
looked at and some notes on non-English sounds precede the chapter. The
histories are very informed, but make a rather wieldy introduction. The
representation of sounds aims at amateurs using spellings like 'Ker-
NOO-ek Low-END-a' for 'Kernewek Lowender' rather than IPA. Each entry
in the book has the head word(s) in bold face followed by one or
several illustrative quotes. Some go back as far as to the
establishment of the colony, 1836, others come from the third
millenium. After the quotes there is, in most cases, a discussion of
the term which also gives historical details. For example, we learn
that the royal family were served 'witchetty grubs', a wood-eating
larva of a certain moth, during a visit to Australia in 1987. What they
thought about that particular hors d'oeuvres is, however, not recorded.
Most entries in the first chapter, naturally, describe fauna and flora,
people, and implements. Cultural practices are surprisingly few, the
phrase 'Secret women's business' not being found here, but in the last
The second chapter 'No Convict Taint' deals with nineteenth century
vocabulary particularly relevant for. The early settlement history is
extensively documented in the introduction. Some entries have become
extinct, e.g. 'secondary town', i.e. a town of lesser importance,
others have become part of general AusE, like 'Croweater', a derogatory
term for a citizen of SA. Few have kept a genuine SA touch, like
'hundred', an area of one hundred square miles of surveyed land. It is
debatable whether all the terms included are worth being recorded in
such a book. 'Adelaidean' obviously refers to residents
of Adelaide and there is nothing of linguistic or historical interest
in this word. Other questionable entries are 'Destitute Asylum' and
'Destitute Board'. Of course they refer to particular institutions in
early SA, but these can be found in many places in the world under the
same name. Moreover, there is nothing special noted about the
'Destitute Asylum' and the 'Destitute Board'. They are just there and
one wonders why they have been selected when many others, like
'Parliament', 'Supreme Court', etc. are missing. Another strange entry
is 'no convict labour'. This was certainly not a common phrase in
nineteenth century SA and is rightly not portrayed as being one. What
the entry refers to is the fact that SA was a colony that received no
convicts and was proud of this. The information as such is worthwhile
giving and in a cultural dictionary it should be included (though under
a different headword). In a 'Dictionary of South Australian Words' it
seems out of place.
'The Copper Kingdom' is the title of the third chapter. It is concerned
with Cornish and mining terms. These two go together quite well since
immigrants from Cornwall made a large contribution to nineteenth
century copper and general mining in Australia. Much of the language
listed is only of historical (old-fashioned mining
practices/implements) or folkloristic (Cornish customs defunct or
revived) interest. The collection is not as systematic and thorough as,
for instance, Moore's (2000) 'Gold! Gold! Gold!' which is an excellent
dictionary of the specialized terminology of the nineteenth century
Australian gold rushes. Again, some South Australian proper names and
toponyms are included. Curiously the important article by Fielding and
Ramson (1971) of the English of Australia's 'Little Cornwell' is
neither listed in the bibliography nor reflected in the entries.
Another linguistic minority are covered in chapter four, German
Lutheran settlers. These had emigrated to Australia in the middle of
the nineteenth century in order to escape religious persecution. Like
the Cornish, who lived in 'Australia's little Cornwall', they lived in
'little Germany', a close-knit society. The chapter's introduction
provides an excellent history of these German settlers, with a minor
historical detail going wrong. Jauncey speaks of the unsuccessful 1848
revolution in Prussia which resulted in emigration. But there were
rebellions also in all other German states and the Austrian Empire.
Thus these 'forty-eighters' do not only come from Prussia and they did
not only go to South Australia. The Germans suffered from a wave of
xenophobia during the first World War, when the Australian government
tried to eradicate some German and toponyms in the 1917 'Nomenclature
Act', a decision reversed in 1935. It was also tried to change the term
'fritz', a German sausage, into 'Austral', much like 'Freedom Fries'
recently in the US. Fortunately, language use often proves stronger
than decrees. Apart from words like 'Liedernacht', a night of songs,
and 'streusel cake', names of well-known wines, like the 'Barossa
Pearl', are included.
Next Jauncey moves to primary industry words, mostly to do with wheat,
wool and wine. She admits that not all the terms are unique to SA, but
claims that they have special importance there. Again, some of the
entries are odd. 'Air snips are pneumatic pruning snips that can be
used with grape vines for hand pruning' (p. 137). This piece of
information in itself is unrevealing. Only if the term 'air snips' had
a regional distinction of some kind, it would warrant an inclusion. But
no explanation of the choice is given, no study mentioned that could
prove its importance. The entry also mentions manual snips and electric
snips, but they do not come up as headwords.
'The Outback' chapter contains names of animals ('Lake Eyre Dragon'),
proper names (the 'Ghan' train), toponyms ('AP Lands') and opal mining
('kopi') terms. Needless to say, Gunn's (1971) Opal Terminology is
neither cited nor does it appear to have been consulted. The
encyclopedic information given is interesting and sometimes
exhilarating. For example 'computers' were young women working at the
'Woomera' rocket range in the 1940s and 50s. Apparently these unmarried
computers created some disturbances as 'the haunt of lean and hungry
single males' (p. 174).
The final chapter is a heterogeneous mix. Jauncey uses 'The Lifestyle
State' as a cover term. Unlike the previous sections it contains
current terminology not restricted historically or by speech community.
Entries range from 'Adelaide Cup', a horse race, to 'homette', a single
storey small house, and 'Tantanoola tiger', a certain tiger who had
escaped from a circus in 1883 and had captured many people's
imagination. Surprisingly there is an entry for 'at' since 'South
Australians have a reputation for using the preposition 'at' when
referring to place names, rather than using 'in' as most other
Australian speakers would do' (p. 202). From the point of view of a
linguist, proof or even references for this claim is sadly missing,
from the point of view of an amateur reader, the one and only entry
referring to a grammatical phenomenon comes rather unexpectedly.
The book finishes with a bibliography and an index.
Jauncey's book is certainly not a dictionary but a short encyclopedia
of select words and things South Australian. Her choices are sometimes
surprising and do not make a coherent or strictly logical book. The
lack of references and scholarly evaluation is certainly owing to the
intended audience. The blurb says: ''Learn what links a sausage, a
boggler and a noodler and be both informed and entertained throughout
this journey through South Australia's peculiar lexicon.'' This shows
that the book is meant for people interested in the history, society
and language of South Australia. For amateurs the information provided
is exhaustive. For professionals it is a starting point.
Bryant, Pauline (1989) The south-east lexical usage region of
Australian English. Australian English: The Language of a New
Society, ed. by Peter Collins and David Blair, pp. 301-314. St. Lucia:
University of Queensland Press.
Bryant, Pauline (1997) A dialect survey of the lexicon of Australian
English. English World Wide 18(2) 211-241.
Brooks, Maureen and Joan Ritchie (1994) Words from the West: A Glossary
of Western Australian Terms. Melbourne: Oxford UP.
Brooks, Maureen and Joan Ritchie (1995) Tassie Terms: A Glossary of
Tasmanian Words. Melbourne: Oxford UP.
Fielding, Jeand and W. S. Ramson (1971) The English of Australia's
'Little Cornwall'. AUMLA 36, 165-173.
Gunn, John S. (1971) An Opal Terminology. University of Sydney,
Australian Language Research Centre, Occasional Paper 15.
Knight, Anne (1988) South Australian Aboriginal words surviving in
Australian English. Lexicographical and Linguistic Studies: Essays in
Honour of G. W. Turner, ed. by T. L. Burton and Jill Burton, 151-162.
Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer.
Moore, Bruce (2000) Gold! Gold! Gold!: The Language of the Nineteenth
Century Gold Rushes. Melbourne: Oxford UP.
Ramson, William S. (1988) The Australian National Dictionary: A
Dictionary of Australianisms on Historical Principles. Melbourne:
Oxford University Press.
Robertson, Julia (2001) Voices of Queensland: Words from the Sunshine
| ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
After studies in Regensburg, Germany, and Galway, Ireland, Clemens
Fritz graduated with a master's degree in English and History. For
almost ten years now he has worked and published on early Australian
English. Currently he is working on his doctoral thesis: "From English
in Australia to Australian English".