View Full Version : THE MEANING OF OZ - All you need to know!

Definitions of a nation entwine myth and reality. But what if there is more than one meaning to the words or phrases we use to define ourselves? Warwick McFadyen offers some alternative meanings for the experience of being Australian.

ABORIGINES: the first home owners. Their life expectancy is 20 years less than that of other Australians. Few non-Aborigines would see this at first-hand, however, because few have anything to do with them. Their life and culture is a mystery to most, which is why at first they were killed with bullets and strong beliefs and now are the subject of praise in art galleries and of pusillanimity in relating to them as equals.

ABC: the national broadcaster, continually boxed around the ears by the hand that feeds it.

ADELAIDE: as befits the city of churches, it is still aspiring.

ALLIES: a group, most commonly of countries and businessmen, in which the common denominator of all is the vested interest of each.

ANZAC: one leg of the tripod - the others being "mateship" and "fair go" - on which the national camera sits and takes snapshots of the country's soul. Is dragged out more and more frequently to be used for advertising shots.

APOLOGY: Once simple in meaning (to wit, "I'm sorry such and such occurred"), it now has taken on more shades of meaning than a rainbow caught in a shredding machine.

ARTS: a minor sport played by both elite and amateur athletes, most of whom are unknown to the public.

ASSIMILATION: a three-stage process: 1. absorption; 2. conversion; 3. resemblance. Most often referred to in an ethnic sense and generally thought to be a good thing except when race riots occur. Then it's a bad thing and, looking back, should never have been attempted.

AUSTRALIAN NATIVES: plants, animals and humans indigenous to this continent, the survival of many of them being threatened.

AUSTRALIAN RULES: a game played among various tribes, the aim being for one tribe to kick a ball through tall sticks more times than the other tribe.

BACK OF BEYOND: a mythical region out of reach of city dwellers. From this great nothingness long shadows are cast to the coastline.

BASTARD: a term of endearment, a term of rage, a term of disgust. To a lesser extent, a term of illegitimacy.

BATTLER: the perfect specimen of Australiana. Displays attributes admired but not envied, such as poverty, working-class background and the tendency to go up against circumstances beyond his or her control.

BEACH: the yellow ribbon that wraps the nation in an ill-founded sense of equality

BILL OF RIGHTS: unnecessary for the citizenry who, because they enjoy unrivalled sunshine, surf and sport, are deemed already to have the good life.

BONDI: Australia seen from space.

BRADMAN: Sir Donald. A Test batsman who fell 0.06 short of perfection.

BRISBANE: the country town that grew up to become Brisbane.

BRONZED AUSSIE: the ideal man or woman, until skin cancer kicks in.

CANBERRA: the national capital, home to politicians and media. Once was a sheep paddock. Still is.

CELEBRITY: the hollow vessel on the sea of mediocrity. Andy Warhol was wrong about how long each vessel would stay float: 15 minutes now seems like an eternity.

COMMONWEALTH: a $100 concept for a $10 reality, which owes its existence to the common link of fealty to a distant monarch. A rare example of a non-sequitur contained within one word.

CONSTITUTION: a document unknown to most Australians.

CONVICT: the first settler who, transported for stealing a sheep, helped to build a nation that lived off its back. The convict strain, once denied, is now celebrated.

CRICKET: a game between two tribes, in which one tries to hit three sticks with a ball while the other tribe tries to hit the ball away from said sticks with another stick.

CRINGE: the crumpled cardigan at the bottom of the cupboard.

CULTURE: the cupboard, the inside of which is perceived differently by whoever opens its doors. Australia has many cultures: there's the footy cupboard, the beach cupboard, the low cupboard and the high cupboard.

DARWIN: too far away to matter (see also Perth). A feeling reciprocated by its residents towards the rest of the country.

DESERT: three-quarters of the continent. Sometimes invoked as a metaphor for the state of public debate.

DIGGER: once a man, now a myth.

DINGO: a dog, nothing more nor less.

DROVER'S DOG: the real leader of a mob of sheep.

DOWN UNDER: a more accurate definition of the perception of Australia from abroad than most imagine.

ELECTIONS: the process by which the great unwashed are promised a bar of soap every three years if they will vote for the giver of said soap. Characterised in Australia by battles between the party of purity and the party of cleanliness.

ELITE: this being an egalitarian society there are, of course, none known by this term, except for the sports elite, the cultural elite and the class elite. The members of these groups can be identified by their ability to cross-pollinate with each other.

EUREKA: the place where the Southern Cross fell to earth.

FAIR GO: a pillar of granite in the coruscating air of Australian speech. A fair go is the ultimate Australian ideal. At least that's the belief. In reality the fair go works on a sliding scale - the more you have, the fairer the go you will get.

FIRST FLEET: eleven ships, 780 thieves, a couple of hundred sailors and marines. Its arrival at Sydney Cove is sometimes described as the founding of a nation, but see also "Gallipoli".

FLAG: as symbols go, it's unsurpassable. Australians have fought for their flag, marched under it, competed for it, performed for it, even sacrificed themselves for it. And that's just the one with the gloved kangaroo on it.

FOREIGN AID: a reflex action when the hammer of a natural disaster in the Third World hits the reposing knee of the First World.