A few days ago in one of my Facebook discussion groups, Rod Marsden, author of Disco Evil: Dead Man’s Stand and Ghost Dance left a comment about The Canterbury Tales and the origin of language that stunned me with its depth and beauty. Facebook seems to pride itself on unwitty witticisms, too-cute aphorisms, and political opinionating all mixed together in a big pot of self-aggrandizement, and the remark struck me as being too important to be swallowed up by that voracious maw. I asked Rod if he’d like to expand on his comment and let me post it here. He sent me an awesome tribute to the English language that I’ve posted in three parts. I hope you will be as fascinated with Marsden’s tour of the English language as I am. Click here for: A Cook’s Tour of the English Language by Rod Marsden — Part I and A Cook’s Tour of the English Language by Rod Marsden — Part II
A Cook’s Tour of the English Language — Part III
by Rod Marsden
In Australia, there has been continual influence, both English and American, upon the Australian version of the English language. As with the USA, the separation in time and space from England also meant that Australians would and indeed did develop their own style of English. Back in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, London cockney could be heard in the streets of Sydney along with the rhyming slang familiar to Londoners. Example: Apple and pears, stairs, trouble and strife, wife. A man might say that he’s going up the apples and pears and those in the know would take it he was about to go up the stairs. A man might say I’m having lunch with my trouble and strife and those in the know would take it he was going to have lunch with his wife. By the 1920s, however, cockney and rhyming slang was considered old fashioned and was on the way out. Hence when you have an American playing the role of an Australian in a show like MASH, which is set in the 1950s, it is somewhat laughable when the fellow comes out with this very English but no longer very Australian cockney accent.
Terms common in Australia but perhaps not common elsewhere are Bloke (man), Sheila (woman), Mate (friend), Cobber (friend you work with) and Bludger (someone who relies on other people to do the work). Words that had to be added to describe animals not found elsewhere in the world include emu, koala and platypus. These words come from the Aborigines, the Native Australians. In Australia a ranch is a station and a cowboy is a jackaroo. A cowgirl, incidentally, is a jillaroo. Someone from England is still often referred to as a Pommy. Australia has its own dictionary, the Macquarie dictionary.
My grandfather was born in England and as a young man came to Queensland, Australia. He got a job on a cattle station as a jackaroo. He may in fact have been the Pommy Jackaroo of legend. In any event, when the First World War broke out, he had the choice of going back home to join up or going with his mates. He ended up joining the Australian light horse. It should be noted that the only successful cavalry charge I know of during the First World War was made by the Australian light horse at Bathsheba.
The term Pommy I believe is an old cricket term and in my mind has always been connected with the Ashes. The Ashes has quite a history. It was once theorized by an English critic that if ever an Australian team of cricketers beat a British team it would spell the death of cricket. When this did happen there was an obituary for Cricket in an English newspaper and the leader of the British team burnt part of the equipment used in the game and put the ashes in a little funeral urn. We’re been playing against the British ever since for these ashes.
The idea of fair play is very much entrenched in the game of cricket to the extent where one can say ‘it’s not cricket’ to mean that something is unfair.
There is the theory that, because of television and computers, English throughout the world will become more and more standardized. This may happen and indeed it could be happening but I can’t see such a thing being completed in the near future.
The term Cook’s tour came about in the 19th Century but works today in referring to travel that is somewhat short and limited. Obviously, I could go into a lot more detail about the English language and how it has developed and is developing in various countries. I could write several books and not tell the complete story because, truth to tell, such a project will never be complete until the language dies and I can’t see that happening in the near future. No doubt there will be future efforts to purify the language which will inevitably fail. The language gets its strength from growth; therefore, trying to purify the language is not a good idea in any event.
I hope you have enjoyed the read.
Rod Marsden has a BA in Liberal Studies, a Graduate Diploma in Education and a Master of Arts in Professional Writing. Rod’s short stories have been published in Australia (Small Suburban Crimes anthology), New Zealand (Australian Animals are Smarter than Jack 2 anthology), England (Voyage magazine), Russia (Fellow Traveler magazine) and the USA (Cats Do it Better than People anthology, Night to Dawn magazine, Detective Mystery Stories magazine). Then there is the more recent NTD book, Undead Reb Down Under Tales.
Marsden lives on the south coast of NSW, Australia.
Click here for: A Cook’s Tour of the English Language by Rod Marsden — Part I
Click here for: A Cook’s Tour of the English Language by Rod Marsden — Part II