Floating Life 4/06 ~ 11/07

an archive

Friday Australian poem # 14: "The Australaise" by C J Dennis

Expanded since draft posting… And as for the wrong number: oops! 😉

After watching The Sounds of Aus on ABC last night my choice this week was clear. 🙂

Hosted by John Clarke, this entertaining story about the way we sound is told through an array of illuminating interviews with linguists, historians, social and political commentators, comedians, actors, and plenty of opinionated people with genuinely hilarious anecdotes. Those featured include Rachel Griffiths, Bruce Beresford, Bert Newton, Max Gillies, Denise Scott, Mary-Anne Fahey, Santo Cilauro, Simon Palomares and Akmal Saleh.

Is our accent really the legendary broad “Strine” of Paul Hogan and Steve Irwin? Why is it so hard for others to do? Are there regional variations? Is it a bastardised version of the Queen’s English? Is it under threat from global forces? And if it is, is it worth saving?

By examining the Australian accent and discovering its story, The Sounds of Aus reveals much about the Australian psyche and our national identity. Indeed, over the last two centuries, many of the conflicts about our identity have been played out through the accent, with our vision of, and our relationship with, the world reflected in the way we speak.

For much of the 20th century, many Australians looked to Britain as the bastion of authority and culture, and aspired to emulate the British “cultivated” sound. Meanwhile, others proudly embraced sounding local, which facilitated the rise of the “broad” accent. These variations led to very real conflict. Entertainer Barry Crocker tells how Banjo Paterson, Australia’s greatest poet, was recruited at his peak to host a radio program in the early days of the BBC-modelled ABC. After a short time however, Paterson was fired – because of his accent!

By the 60s and 70s, a new social, political and cultural era created a kind of “deregulation of the accent” and other variations began to be heard in the mainstream, including indigenous voices, and the “wogspeak” of new migrants and their descendants.

I found that show very good, even if presented by a Kiwi!

And now C J Dennis’s poem “The Australaise” — in its World War I livery.

The Australaise: A Marching Song

Air – Onward Christian Soldiers

Fellers of Australier,
   Blokes an' coves an' coots,
Shift yer --- carcases,
   Move yer --- boots.
Gird yer --- loins up,
   Get yer --- gun,
Set the --- enermy
   An' watch the blighters run.
   Get a --- move on,
      Have some --- sense.
   Learn the --- art of
      Self de- --- -fence.
Have some --- brains be-
   Neath yer --- lids.
An' swing a --- sabre
   Fer the missus an' the kids.
Chuck supportin' --- posts,
   An' strikin' --- lights,
Support a ---- fam'ly an'
   Strike fer yer --- rights.
   Get a --- move on, etc.
Joy is --- fleetin',
   Life is --- short.
Wot's the use uv wastin' it
   All on --- sport?
Hitch yer --- tip-dray
   To a --- star.
Let yer --- watchword be
   "Australi- --- -ar!"
   Get a --- move on, etc.
'0w's the --- nation
   Goin' to ixpand
'Lest us --- blokes an' coves
   Lend a --- 'and?
'Eave yer --- apathy
   Down a --- chasm;
'Ump yer --- burden with
   Enthusi- --- -asm.
   Get a --- move on, etc.
W'en old mother Britain
   Calls yer native land
Take a --- rifle
   In yer --- 'and
Keep yer --- upper lip
   Stiff as stiff kin be,
An' speed a --- bullet for
   Poster- --- -ity.
   Get a --- move on, etc.
W'en the --- bugle
   Sounds "Ad- --- -vance"
Don't be like a flock er sheep
   In a --- trance
Biff the --- Kaiser
   Where it don't agree
Spifler- --- -cate him
   To Eternity.
   Get a --- move on, etc.
Fellers of Australier,
   Cobbers, chaps an' mates,
Hear the --- German
   Kickin' at the gates!
Blow the --- bugle,
   Beat the --- drum,
Upper-cut an' out the cow
   To kingdom- --- -come!
   Get a --- move on,
      Have some --- sense.
   Learn the --- art of
      Self de- --- -fence.

(With some acknowledgements to W.T. Goodge.)

Footnote to 1915 reissue – Where a dash (—) replaces a missing word, the adjective “blessed” may be interpolated. In cases demanding great emphasis, the use of the word “blooming” is permissible. However, any other word may be used that suggests itself as suitable.

Now you may wonder about the relevance of the following, but when you watch it I think you may know why. They don’t do too badly — for Poms…”Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in a sketch from the pilot of their show A Bit of Fry & Laurie. A parody of Australian soaps.”

And for comparison, speaking of accents and brilliant comedians:

Thanks to Perry Middlemiss for the text of “The Australaise”. He adds this note:

Note by R.H. Croll – “Dennis amended his Australaise, as published in Sydney Bulletin, to make it topical for the First World War and J.G. Roberts and I paid for its publication in this form for distribution to the troops in camp.” (undated) From McLaren Collection (Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne) item 622/30

W T Goodge’s original poem was called “The Great Australian Adjective” (1898).

The sunburnt ---- stockman stood
And, in a dismal ---- mood,
   Apostrophized his ---- cuddy;
"The ---- nag's no ---- good,
He couldn't earn his ---- food -
   A regular ---- brumby,

He jumped across the ---- horse And cantered off, of ---- course! The roads were bad and ---- muddy; Said he, "Well, spare me ---- days The ---- Government's ---- ways Are screamin' ---- funny, ----!"
He rode up hill, down ---- dale, The wind it blew a ---- gale, The creek was high and ---- floody. Said he, "The ---- horse must swim, The same for ---- me and him, Is something ---- sickenin', ----!"
He plunged into the ---- creek, The ---- horse was ---- weak, The stockman's face a ---- study! And though the ---- horse was drowned The ---- rider reached the ground Ejaculating, "----!" "----!"

Finally, another exhibit of modern Australian speech — f-words included so be warned! — is mentioned in the summary of The Sounds of Aus:

A funny and very observant man. I liked a comment on John Clarke’s documentary, a Melbourne person saying they didn’t talk about multiculturalism in Melbourne because they are living in it!


Late Night Live on ABC Radio National had a follow-up to The Sounds of Oz. You can download an MP3 podcast.

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Written by Neil

November 9, 2007 at 12:02 am

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