Our favourite classic Aussie sayings

IN HIS 1997 book of prose entitled A Working Forest, Australia's greatest living poet, Les Murray, compiled a lengthy list of things once-common items or occurrences in this country.

The list includes some classics we may (or may not) be better off without; things such as the use of pumpkin seed kernels to treat intestinal worms, kerosene on a teaspoon of sugar to ward off diphtheria, cyanide gas for rabbit burrows, and a patent medicine called "Pain Killer" that was full of opium. It was probably rather effective.

Others, such as dripping and aspidistras, have come full circle and have reappeared in our lives since Les wrote his piece.

I was reminded of the essay a few weeks ago and was inspired to find it on my bookshelves when an elderly bloke I've met recently while walking on the beach used a phrase I haven't heard for years (not since my father died in 1995, in fact).

As we headed off in different directions, I said "See ya" - yes, sloppy of me, I know - to which Alan replied "Hoo roo".

A simple couple of words that momentarily had me blinking back tears because it immediately conjured up the memory of my dad, but it also got me to thinking about other Aussie slang and our unique phrases that have all but disappeared thanks to the incursions made by the culture of the US.

My working class family was a rich source of colourful language, and by that I don't mean swearing.

Far from it; Dad was a fairly puritanical figure - at least in front of his kids - but all our relatives of their generation (and there's only one left now, sadly) peppered their conversation with slang that has now disappeared.

Crook as Rookwood; more front than Mark Foys; all hat no cattle; cobber; bonzer; grouse; and not knowing if you're Arthur or Martha - possibly that term will make a comeback now there are gender-fluid folks coming out of the woodwork.

My mum was fond of asking "what do you think this is, Bush Week?"

She was also prone to calling any female acquaintances who might put on airs and graces "Mrs Kafoops". It's snowing down south meant your petticoat was showing beneath the hem of your frock, while if you couldn't find a grand piano in a one-roomed house, you were pretty useless.

Now you'd be hard pushed to find anyone under the age of 40 who can construct a simple sentence without using the word "like" at least five times.

Along with "I'm, like", "I go" is also a popular (and irritating) substitute for "I said".

And when was the last time you heard someone came from the "arse-end of Woop Woop"? It's all a bit sad, really.

Hoo roo for now.

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