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Lost Lingo

17 February, 2012

Last month I saw Ray Lawler’s Doll, a rollicking play that still retains its punch and charm, with a swag of Aussie touches. Though the ‘wordsmirth’ in me couldn’t resist. I’m sure I irked my china in the adjoining seat as I jotted down phrases that our language has lost since the play’s first staging, stuff like strewth and skite, nippers and my eye.

My eye in fact is looking to survey these extinct and endangered species in a future column, and I’m sure you lot of galahs, you true-blue cobbers, you dinkum sports, can add to the Doll’s roll call. What phrases have you seen die in your lifetime – not just high-school slang, but generational dialect?

Another way of asking this question: what once-common words vocab may well have appeared in an LB crossword, yet now would seem quaint or foreign? Just as celebs fade into footnotes, so too do words need context.

My dear old Nan complained about matters getting on her quince, a phrase revived (momentarily) by Lawler’s script. As a kid, whenever I fell, my Dad would say I went for a Burton. Who’s Burton? And what other Australian phrases have drowned in the six o'clock swill?

What say we whack together an A-to-Z of Lost Lingo, the best word or phrases we find claiming rights to each letter? Should take two shakes. Let’s give it a burl, Shirl.

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