Roadmap Undoubtedly the Covid word of the moment is “roadmap” – with state and federal governments offering us a “roadmap” out of the pandemic crisis. The word “roadmap” has two meanings: the obvious literal meaning (common English since 1741) and the figurative meaning, which first appears in 1897 – with the meaning of “a plan that gets us from where we are to where we want to be.” In other words, this second meaning on the steps for bringing something about – a plan or strategy for achieving a goal. For a “roadmap” (in this figurative sense) to be persuasive it needs two elements: (1) an agreed goal, and (2) a coherent, logical plan to reach that goal. In Australia both steps seem to run into trouble. For the federal government and the largest states (New South Wales and Victoria) the goal is “living with Covid”. That is, having enough people vaccinated to be able to treat Covid as a non-disruptive infectious nuisance. But Mark McGowan in West Australia has explicitly rejected that goal, and some of the other smaller states seem to have their doubts. It’s hard to see how there can be a national “roadmap” without agreement on what the goal is—where we’re heading. As for the second element – the steps to get there – it is unclear if all the leaders are agreed that 70% vaccination gets us down the road to our destination, or if it has to be 80%, or (in the case of Mark McGowan again) if even 80% is not enough. So that appears to be our national “roadmap”—(a) we’re not agreed on exactly where we are headed, and (b) we can’t agree on how to get there. Good luck with that!
Working class Accounting giant KPMG has become one of the first large businesses to set a target for the number of employees from working class backgrounds.
KPMG has defined working class as having parents with “routine and manual” jobs, such as drivers, cleaners and farm workers. The expression “working class” is recorded from 1735—so it’s been with us for quite some time. It was coined in Britain because of the British sensitivity to “class” in general. “Class” comes from a Latin source word and refers to the rank or group or category you belong to. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that the opposite to “working class” would be “ruling class”—but in the context of the KPMG policy a better contrast is the “professional class.” When that expression was coined DNA had not been discovered, but it was assumed that parents passed on their characteristics to their children—if they were unskilled or semi-skilled suitable only for manual work, then their children would be the same and would follow in their footsteps. Obviously KPMG is not talking about hiring people who actually ARE working class—but (to use their expression) who have a “working class background.” In other words, they are still looking for skilled, ambitious, clever people—who just happen to have unskilled parents. In other words, some people will be offered a job at KPMG based on their family tree—giving a smart applicant from a working class background an advantage over a smart applicant from a professional class background. This is a very British way of thinking about the world—you will be given (or denied) advantages on the basis of your family tree. It is how the House of Lords operates. And the policy proposed by KPMG is (more or less) the rules for filling the House of Lords… in reverse. Instead of coming from a titled family, you gain an advantage by coming from a bus driver’s family. As I said, a very British way of functioning—very class conscious. And to put this into perspective I need to bring in another word: “tribalism.” Our society is descending into primitive “tribalism” (I’m sure you’ve noticed it too) – which is very divisive and very sad.
Bogong moths Every spring there is a mass migration of Bogong moths from their lowland breeding grounds to the high country of the Snowy Mountains. They hide in crevices during the day and fly by night – in such large numbers, and such tightly packed formations, as to be a nuisance. In 1865 Bogong moths invaded a church in Sydney in such numbers the service had to be abandoned. In 1988 vast numbers of moths caused havoc at the newly completed Parliament House on Capitol Hill and engineers had to reduce the lighting and redesign the air intakes. Winds have been known to carry bogongs out to sea, on rare occasions as far as New Zealand. In earlier times Aboriginal tribes in southern NSW treated the migrating moths as fast food – roasting them over a slow fire and snacking on them. The Bogong moth has even been celebrated in an Aussie kids’ nursery rhyme:
The Bogong moth was passing through,
And as he passed he said, ‘Hey you!
I’d like to linger longer,
In the city of Wodonga,
But the lady moth for whom I long,
Is far away on Mount Bogong.’
And with these words he flapped his wings,
And sang the song the Bogong sings,
Then flew to the one who’d waited long,
Upon the peak of Mount Bogong.
Bodgie Bodgie is an Australian word that is most commonly used to describe anything that’s worthless – either because it’s a fake, or because it’s broken. So ‘bodgie number plates’ are fakes, and a job that’s ‘a bit bodgie’ is one that’s not done well. Bodgie appears to come from an older word bodger meaning something unreliable or dodgy, and this, in turn, comes from a very old English word bodge meaning ‘a botched piece of work’ (in fact bodge and botch seems to have originally been the same word). However, in the1950s bodgie briefly had another meaning. Then a bodgie was a young Australian male who conformed to certain fashions in dress and loutish or rowdy behaviour. His female counterpart was a widgie. The bodgie’s trademarks were greasy hair and tight jeans. This use of the word seems to go back to the notion of bodgie as ‘fake’ – in this case they were seen as being fake Americans, or ‘half-baked yanks’, or bodgies. Also: 2. The largest marble in a game of marbles, or 3. Nickname for pyjamas
Book burning Book burning refers to the ritual destruction by fire of books or other written materials. Usually carried out in a public context, the burning of books represents violent censorship and usually proceeds from an ideological opposition to the books in question. The burning of books under the Nazi regime on May 10, 1933, is perhaps the most famous book burning in history. In a symbolic act of ominous significance, on that day the Nazis burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of “un-German” books, bringing in an era of state censorship and control of culture. BUT… if you thought the horror of book burning was over, think again. In Canada they have held a ceremonial book burning of Tintin and Asterix books in the name of indigenous reconciliation. The Providence Catholic School Board removed around 4,700 books from school shelves and held a symbolic burning of about 30 copies of these books—including Tintin in America and Asterix and the Indians because (they said) they contained “cultural appropriation” and “outmoded history.” The book burning happened back in 2019 but has only just come to light following a Radio Canada investigation. Apparently no-one involved in this book burning stopped to think that the books they were complaining about are comic books—not serious treatises on political theory or propaganda urging violence… just comic books. The people who did this would make the Nazis proud!
New words Another list of new words (being considered for inclusion in the dictionary) has just come out from the nice folk at the Collins Dictionary. For the most part they are new tech words. Here are a few…
BEV – this means, apparently, “battery electric vehicle.” We had certainly heard electric cars being called EVs for some time, so why this change is needed I just don’t understand. Don’t all electric cars run on batteries?
EREV – this means “extended range electric vehicle.” This is understandable because the two biggest issues with EVs is (1) their limited range, and (2) their long charging time. If I am planning to drive to a country area I need to know that I can get there on one charge, and I won’t have to stop and wait for hours while the EV is re-charged. This leads to the next new expression…
range anxiety – a concern, experienced by the driver of an electric vehicle, that the battery may be fully discharged before a suitable charging point is reached. Exactly! Until that problem is dealt with it is hard to see EVs taking off in large numbers. There need to be (1) enough charging stations built across the nation, and (2) a confidence that your EV will reach a station before it grinds to a halt.
Finally, there is zero click – used as an adjective (of a computer program) able to be executed without any action on the part of the user. We used to have to “double click” – that seems to have come down now to just “click” and, it seems, in the future we won’t even need to do that.
Well, there they are—four new expressions that just might find their way into the next edition of the Collins Dictionary. For the full list go here: 9 new words in Collins Dictionary - Collins Dictionary Language Blog
Covid clichés A reader has written and asked me to look at “Covid cliches” – starting with “social distancing” Before I do, it’s worth saying something about this word “cliché”. It comes from French (recorded from 1817) and means “an overly familiar phrase used over and over again.” It is an onomatopoeic word that seeks to copy the clicking sound made when metal type is clicked into place – because metal type can reproduce the same phrase over and over again. Okay, now that’s cleared up, let’s consider seven of these Covid cliches:
1. “social distancing” – this was coined about ten years before the Covid outbreak, back in 2009 (during an outbreak of swine flu), and (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) is an expression that was born in Twitter.
2. “hot spot” – is the name given to those places where Covid is prevalent. This was coined in 1837 to mean “A dangerous place, esp. one in which armed conflict is taking place” An example of the tabloid-style over-dramatization of anything to do with Covid. Perhaps a coffee shop where someone else caught Covid should not be compared to a place of heavy artillery bombardment on a battlefield?
3. “cases” – since 1325 this has meant any physical or mental state. But once again it is a more dramatic word than the more mundane “infection” (since the community knows that around 95% of Covid infections produce either no symptoms or mild symptoms). Given that, perhaps reporting numbers of “cases” (i.e. infections) should cease, and only hospitalisations should be reported?
4. “lockdown” – I’ve written about this before: as a word that has come out of the American prison system for those times when prisoners are locked-down in their cells all day. But I’ve been doing some more thinking about this. Surely, in our current situation, what “lockdown” really means is something like “quarantining the healthy.” But if the bureaucrats and the politicians admitted they were quarantining the healthy (at great economic, human and social cost) the public might demand a more sensible policy?
5. “red zone” – meaning the place where “cases” (infections) are highest. This is a First World War expression that originally meant a region that had been devastated by war: particularly those zones close to the trenches in France – muddy fields filled with unexploded munitions. Yet another example of Covid language plunging into tabloid sensationalism.
6. “hermit kingdom” – in recent days I’ve come across this expression being used to label Western Australia or Queensland or New Zealand or (in fact) the whole of Australia. The phrase “hermit kingdom” refers refer to any country, organization or society which willfully walls itself off, either metaphorically or physically, from the rest of the world. The tiny kingdom of Bhutan – a small landlocked country bordered by India, China, Nepal and Bangladesh – was once called a “hermit kingdom” as the royal family resisted the influx of the modern world. North Korea is most commonly called a “hermit kingdom” these days.
7. “double jabbed” – some people are irritated by the use of “jab” for vaccination, but it is a short, sharp word that conveys some sense of urgency. And perhaps being “double jabbed” is the only way we will ever escape our “hermit kingdom”?
Climatarian We know what Presbyterians are, but who are “Climatarians”? The word was coined in 2005 by a group of researchers of the Oxford University and later used in an article of The Timeswritten by Tony Turnbull on 25 September 2008 to define people who only eat food produced in a sustainable way. In other words, “Climatarian” is an adaption of the older word “vegetarian” (meaning someone who abstains from eating meat, and first recorded from 1842). But with this difference – the word “Climatarian” is meant to convey someone with a passion amounting to a religious fervour. There was always a hint of nobility in the “vegetarian” – someone living life on some sort of higher plane. This is taken further in the “Climatarian” movement which sees itself as not just preventing animal suffering but saving the entire planet. So, what does the “Climatarian” faith tell us to eat? They say that 14.5% of the world’s CO2 emissions come from large animal farming and dairies. So that means no red meat (although chicken and fish are okay) and no dairy products. They also try to eat local to reduce transport emissions. The “Climatarian” faith also allows its adherents to look down on the rest of us as they pursue their path to what they imagine will be global salvation. Do I seem as if I’m not taking these people seriously? Sorry. But it is difficult not to be a bit jokey about people who take themselves so desperately seriously. “Climatarians” are also campaigners whose main message to the rest of us: “You’re all wrong! So stop eating roast lamb and stop throwing beef sausages on the barbie!” (They seem not to have noticed that if China and India maintain their emissions rate forgoing that delicious medium rare T-bone steak will achieve precisely nothing.)
Cult We seem to have moved into the world of the secular cult. For many years “cult” was a religious word, but now it’s being applied to the followers of the Qanon conspiracy theories. And the father of the one of the Extension Rebellion protestors talked to Andrew Bolt here on Sky about his son being drawn into a “cult" and giving his whole life in the service of Extinction Rebellion’s charismatic leader, Roger Hallam. So, what has happened to the word “cult”? The word “cult” comes from the Latin “cultus” simply meaning ”worship” – but since 1875 it has mainly meant (in the words of the Oxford English Dictionary): “A relatively small group of people having beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister, or as exercising excessive control over members.” And that phrase “excessive control over members” seems to be the key. In the past this control was exercised by a weird form of religious belief – it with Jim Jones persuading his followers to drink the Kool Aid. But now it seems to have turned entirely secular – with Roger Hallam being able to persuade his followers to give up their lives to full time protesting -- up to (and including) getting a criminal record. And a secular cult doesn’t even need a charismatic leader. It seems that if a belief system is offered to people that seems to explain what’s wrong with the world in a simple, single theory they will become unthinking, cultish followers. A great deal of the anti-vax movement seems to work this way. As do the more extreme edges of Climate Alarmism. Then there’s Englishman David Icke who has written 20 books and spoken in 25 countries claiming the world is being run by intergalactic shape-changing lizards. He has thousands of followers. We may laugh, but his ideas are no more absurd or unscientific than the Extinction Rebellion claim that the entire human race may be extinct within a few decades. We live in the age of the secular cult, and to retain our sanity (and our common sense) we need to know what we face.
Bare bellied joe This expression turns up in the old Australian folk song “Click Go the Shears” where it has, undoubtedly, puzzled many: “The ringer looks around and is beaten by a blow / And curses the old snagger with the bare-bellied joe.” A “bare-belly” was a sheep with a defective wool growth caused by a break in the fibre structure. This causes the wool to fall off the belly and legs. So a sheep that has lost its belly wool was called a “bare bellied yoe”. And that last bit (the “yoe”) is supposed to be from the Irish pronunciation of “ewe”. Because that was such an unfamiliar word, as the folk song was transmitted orally, the word “yoe” was changed into the more familiar “joe” and so the last line of the chorus referred to a “bare-bellied joe”. This type of sheep was also, sometimes, called a “blue-bellied joe”. In the song, the point is that the ringer (the fastest shearer in the shed) is annoyed that an old timer gets a bare-bellied (or blue-bellied) sheep that (obviously) has less wool and (hence) is quicker to shear, and (thus) the old bloke beats the ringer’s tally for the day (“tally” being the number of sheep shorn).
Skerrick A small amount; a small fragment; the slightest bit. Its use is almost always negative: we might easily say that we don’t have a skerrick of something, but it would unusual to say that we do have a skerrick: unusual, but not entirely unknown, as in “How much is left?” – “Just a skerrick”. Skerrick is one of those words that began life as a British dialect word, came to Australia with the early settlers, and survived here in Aussie English while fading out of existence in the land of its birth. It’s recorded in Australia as early as 1854 (in a book called Gallops and Gossips) in the statement: “I have plenty of tobacco, but not a skerrick of tea or sugar.” The 1823 edition of Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue records the word “scurrick” which is said to be thieves’ cant for a half-penny (it’s recorded in the same sense, in the same year, in a Dictionary of Turf by “Jon Bee”). And this word “scurrick” is sometimes recorded as “scuttick” and sometimes as “skiddick” so it is probably the origin of “skerrick” – especially as the meaning seems to match: a half-penny being “a small amount”.
Snotty gobble Can you imagine snotty gobble as “a well recognised delicacy”? Well, that’s how they’re described by the distinguished Australian writer Flora Eldershaw (1897-1956). The expression snotty gobble does sound pretty revolting, but it turns out to be the name for several native shrubs (or trees) of the genus Persoonia. As variations the snotty gobble fruit was also know (sometimes) as “snotty gollion” or “snotty goblin”. Not a great improvement, really. The name is first recorded from 1854. And, in case you’re wondering, snotty gobble is described in one quotation I came across as “red berries”. And, it seems, the tree that grew the berries had another application: its red-coloured inner bark could be used to produce a dye that colonial ladies used to dye straw hats a “vivid and lasting red”. Professor Roly Sussex describes the name “snotty gobble” as “poetry, Ogden Nash, Monty Python and Dr Seuss rolled into one.” Well, perhaps, Roly… perhaps.
Languishing The New York Times has chosen a word to describe what happens to people under Covid restrictions: “languishing.” Under lockdown conditions the Times says that instead of flourishing, as they should, people are “languishing.” (And bear in mind that New York has fewer Covid restrictions at the moment than either Sydney or Melbourne!) The word is an old one. It came into English from Anglo-Norman French and is recorded from 1325. At the heart of this word “languishing” is the idea of “drooping in spirits, feeling dejected.” Behind the Old French word is a Latin source word that means “to feel faint.” The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (written for people who are learning English as a second language) says that “languishing” describes “someone who is required to stay in a place where they are unhappy.” It gives the example of someone “languishing in jail.” If that sounds to you like the house arrest of lockdown – you are languishing. In his article in the New York Times Adam Grant says we should add the word “languishing” to our lexicon. He writes: “Psychologists find that one of the best strategies for managing emotions is to name them… We still have a lot to learn about what causes languishing and how to cure it but naming it might be a first step.” He says that “languishing” means feeling joyless and aimless. Adam Grant suggests that to transcend languishing we should try starting with what he calls “small wins” such as the tiny triumph of figuring out a whodunit or tackling a crossword puzzle. But there’s an even better cure – it involves our state politicians waking up and finding a better way to fight Covid than hurting millions of people.
State nicknames Queenslanders are ‘banana benders’ (or ‘banana-landers’); West Australians are ‘sand gropers’; New South Welshpersons were (in colonial times) known as ‘cornstalks’; Victorians (in the same period) were ‘gumsuckers’; Folk from the Northern Territory are simply called “Territorians” – although they used to be called “Top Enders”; Tasmanians were, back in the colonial era, known as ‘van demonians’ – more recently they’ve either been straightforwardly “Tasmanians” or else “Taswegians” (modelled on such words as “Glaswegian” or “Norwegian”); this word “Taswegian” (apparently) having begun life in the 1930s as sailors’ slang; and as for South Australians: there are two options – they were either called ‘crow eaters’ or else ‘magpies’. Of those two I suspect that ‘crow eaters’ was more common in colonial times – especially north of the Goyder Line where farmers tried to grow wheat in an excessively arid climate, failed, and suffered from a scanty diet as a result. Hence, ‘crow eaters’. That is pretty much the complete and matching set. There appears to be no nickname for residents of the Australian Capital Territory (perhaps there’s nothing amusing about having to live in Canberra!)
Ugg boots Basically this is a sheepskin boot with the skin on the outside and the fleece on the inside. As far as I have been able to discover the boot was named (and probably invented) by a man named Frank Mortel back in 1958. Frank’s wife looked at the first boots he made and said they were ugly, so Frank called them “ugg” (for “ugly”) boots. The name is now the subject of international legal wrangle. An Australian manufacturer of ugg boots (called Ugg Holdings) was bought out by a giant American Corporation – Deckers Outdoor Corporation. Deckers now claims to own the expression ugg boots as a trade-mark belonging to them. They are now threatening to sue every little Australia manufacturer or retailer who uses the expression ugg boots. It’s a nasty thing to do, but they won’t get away with it, because ugg boots is a generic expression and generic expressions cannot be copyrighted. The ugg boot is as fair dinkum Aussie as the Hills Hoist, the Harbour Bridge and the Holden ute – so for an American company to try to claim the name is behaviour best covered by the expression “the ugly American”.
True blue The expression true blue means something like “steadfast loyalty” and we seem to have adopted it as an Aussie expression, perhaps because John Williamson’s memorable song has so deeply penetrated the Aussie consciousness. But, in fact, the expression true blue is of Scottish origin. It was the Scottish Covenanters of the 17th century who adopted blue as their trade mark colour. The Covenanters were Scottish Presbyterians who, in 1643, signed the “Solemn League and Covenant” in which the Scots (and their English allies) pledged to preserve Presbyterianism in Scotland. The name Covenanter is particularly applied to those who adhered to the Covenants after they had been declared unlawful in 1662. Their fierce loyalty marked such Covenanters out as being true blue – steadfastly loyal to the blue, as opposed to the royal red. The expression true blue has since travelled around the world, and presumably it came to Australia with the early Scottish settlers here. John Williamson’s adaption runs thus: “True Blue, is it me and you? / Is it Mum and Dad, is it a cockatoo? / Is it standing by your mate / When he's in a fight? / Or will she be right? True Blue, I'm asking you...”
Triantiwontygong A triantiwontygong is a type of Bunyip peculiar to the Central Highlands of Victoria. During the Second World War (in the early 1940s, in fact) city children were being evacuated from Melbourne to the bush to escape any possible bombing. And the bush kids used this triantiwontygong to scare, or embarrass or confuse the city kids. As in: “Did you see that?” he said in a hushed whisper while pointing to the scrubby bush they were passing through on their way to school. “No don’t look now. It’s a triantywontygong.” However, one correspondent reports her father using the word triantiwontygongas a generic term for large hairy spiders. Interestingly there was an older slang word triantelope used for hairy spiders (such as huntsmen). The earliest citation for triantelope is from 1845. Then in 1921 C J Dennis published A Book for Kids in which he combined both words (triantiwontygong and triantelope) to create his own mystical creature which he called “The Triantiwontigongolope: “It is something like a beetle, and a little like a bee, / But nothing like a woolly grub that climbs upon a tree. / Its name is quite a hard one, but you’ll learn it soon, I hope. / So try: Triantiwontigongolope.” So wrote C J Dennis – giving us three creatures with impossibly similar names.
Truth I recently received a feedback email from a reader of my column in The Spectator Australia magazine. Then I proceeded to lose the email! So I apologise to the sender (my grasp of this technology is not great).
Basically she was responding to my distinction between “misinformation” and “disinformation” – where “misinformation” is passing on something that is true because you’ve been deceived into believing it, and “disinformation” is deliberately making up something you know to be untrue. I used the example of an anti-vaxxer who reads something online, believes it and passes it on. They have been deceived – but someone, somewhere, invented that untruth, that deception in the first place.
Her argument was that we cannot really know the truth (especially about complex matters). My response was going to be (if I had not lost her email!) that truth is truth. If we can’t track down the truth we can suspend our judgement – but we should never deny that truth exists. There is no such thing as my truth or your truth – there is only the truth.
“Truth” is a Germanic word that comes to us through Anglo Saxon (Old English). The major dictionaries trace the history of the word, but by 1330 “truth” meant what it still means today. At the beating, linguistic heart of “truth” is the notion of correspondence… that what is said correspondsto what is really the case.
The Oxford expresses this by saying that truth means “in accordance with fact or reality.” That’s the idea of correspondence. Websters says the same thing by saying truth is “the state of being the case” -- there it is again: corresponds to what is there, what is so.
This word “truth” is like an equals sign in a maths equation – it shows that what’s on one side of the equals sign “corresponds to” what is on the other side, equals it. As in 2 + 2 = 4. That’s the meaning of “truth” – corresponding to the other side of the equals sign, corresponding to reality.
The ABC is being accused of failing this test on “Four Corners” where (it’s now said) the two side of the equation did not add up -- the claims did not match the facts (did not correspond).
There is no such thing as “my truth” or “your truth”. It either corresponds to reality or it doesn’t.
To find out if what someone says is true we must look at both sides of the “equals sign” (the claim being made on one side and the facts on the other) to see if the two sides “correspond.” Only correspondence to reality is entitled to use the word “truth.”
Treacle trousers Treacle trousers used to be a jibe, a taunt, levelled at a person wearing trousers which are too short. So, in a book published in 1928, we read: “There was a space of three inches between the bottom of each leg and top of each boot… other boys ‘barracked’ him about it… calling him treacle trousers.’ And from 1944 comes this quote: “I was growing fast (says the writer) and as a gap between the top of my boots and the bottom of the legs of my trousers appeared slightly greater day by day I was greeted with the cry of treacle trousers.” I guess the trousers were thought to look like treacle – trickling down the legs and not getting all the way. This is a bit of distinctively Australian slang that has now largely disappeared.
That In his 1965 book Aussie English John O’Grady pointed out that Aussies have a most unusual way of using the word that – or, perhaps, a bunch of ways. Here are some of the examples he gives: “Now that’s a jockey for you; the old Georgie.”; “Aw, don’t give me that, he’s not that good.”; “That’s a big building they’re puttin’ up there.”; “You reckon? I don’t think it’s that big.” ; “You should’ve seen ‘er face when I told ‘er – she was that excited.”; “What’s for lunch?”; “Aw, just bread and meat and that.” In other words, what you find in Aussie English is one small pronoun used as an adverb and an adjective and as a vague verbal gesture that saves you having to think of what it is you’re really trying to say. And it if annoys you, well, get used to it – it’s not that bad.
Catfish Social media is giving people new ways to hurt others. 20-year-old Renae Marsden committed suicide after she was “catfished” by a former friend Camilla Zeidan. Now Renae’s parents Mark and Teresa Marsden are running a petition to have “catfishing” made illegal. So what is “catfishing”? The word originated from the 2010 American documentary Catfish. A “catfish” is a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes. The name supposedly comes from the way catfish were shipped in the same tanks as cod, to stop the cod from becoming pale and lethargic. The cod, supposedly mistake the catfish for other, more lively, cod. And that mistaken identity is behind the use of the word for people who use a false identity online to deceive and hurt others. In Renae Marsden’s case she was “catfished” by Camila Zeiden who pretended to a man in prison named Brayden Spiteri who would marry Renae when he was released. When Renae discovered how deeply she had been deceived, and for how long, she killed herself – having made a major emotional commitment to her relationship with the non-existent prisoner. In the US there have been claims that “catfishing” has been used by sexual predators to track down potential victims, and that it has led to murders and kidnapping. There is no law on the books that makes “catfishing” illegal. But NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman thinks his recently passed coercive control laws might cover it
Pepper balls Victorian police are reported to have used “pepper balls” to break up the anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne. So, what are “pepper balls”? The invention – and naming – of “pepper balls” goes back to paint balls used in combat games. Someone came up with the idea of taking out the harmless paint inside the balls, and replacing it with the oily resin from capsicum – called oleoresin capsicum (or OC). This is the stuff used in capsicum sprays. The “pepper balls” are then fired from paint ball guns. In America “pepper balls” have been used instead of tear gas on the grounds that “pepper balls” are more narrowly targeted and don’t impact a wide area. Does their use mean that the Victorian police ever seriously considered using tear gas to control the crowd of protestors on Saturday? And even if they didn’t – there seems to be something seriously wrong with an Australian police force firing “pepper balls” into an Australian crowd. “Pepper balls” and the guns to fire them are manufactured and sold by the PepperBall company in Lake Forrest, Illinois. Presumably they were invented and named by that company – and very recently: their website was only set up this year. So perhaps Victorian police are early adopters?
Lockdown lingo With the extended lockdown of millions of Australians has drawn our attention to the expressions lockdown has put into our language. Here are five of them…
· “curfew” a Medieval French practice from when houses were heated by open fires and were made from highly inflammable material (such as thatched roofs). In the evening (usually around eight or nine o’clock) a town crier would walk through the streets crying a French word that meant “curb the fire”—in English this French word became “curfew.” It was brought to England by William the Conqueror and his Norman nobles—and used by William as a form of political repression (keeping those pesky Anglo Saxons he had conquered under control). Today there is no medical reason for curfews, so it is once again an act of political repression. (Nothing changes, does it?)
· “co-morbidity” From the Latin morbidus– diseased or sick. Recorded in English from 1656 with the same meaning: sickness, disease. So a “co-morbidity” is a “co-sickness” that will compound the impact of Covid (possibly fatally). The things that make us vulnerable to Covid are: being very old, very sick, or very fat. We are allowed to mention the first two but not the third (it’s never mentioned in the media, is it?) Because that is called “fat shaming” and is banned by the Woke. But the truth is that fat people are at risk, should get themselves vaccinated, and take great care to avoid exposure to infection (being overweight is a co-morbidity).
· “dob in” In Australia (and only in Australia) this means “to inform on, to betray.”
Recorded from the 1950s. What Aussies are now being told by the police to do is to dob in their neighbours who walk out the front door without a mask on. Thus, officialdom encourages us to undermine the Australian character.
· “quarantine” This word comes from the Medieval Italian word for 40. The first place in the world to impose quarantine was Venice (although Florence and Milan also got into the act very early). Venice was a great trading city, and to avoid exotic diseases that came in with traders from the east, those traders were required to spend 40 days on an island in Venice lagoon before they entered the city. Why 40? That’s unclear, but it may be a Biblical reference because Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness. So those people doing 14 days quarantine should just be grateful it’s not 40!
· “we’re all in this together” The expression that has divided Australia into “us” and “them” – “them” being people who on taxpayer funded salaries (politicians, public servants, the police, the ABC etc.) who are the ones ordering (or advising, or encouraging) lockdowns while their own salaries and job security remain unaffected. “Us” means the people who are affected, whose incomes suffer, and who pay the price imposed by “them” – exposing “we’re all in this together” as the worst lie of the whole pandemic.
Barrack According to The Dictionary of Cricket ‘to barrack’ means ‘to shout sarcastic or abusive comments about the performance of a team or player’. But this word appears to be an ‘auto-antonym’ – that is, it can also have the opposite meaning of barracking for a team (by shouting support or encouragement). There are a couple of suggestions as to the source. One is that it comes from an Aboriginal word borak meaning ‘to poke fun at’. However, the Australian National Dictionary disputes this idea and suggests that barrack is more likely to come from an English dialect word that originally meant ‘to brag or boast’. Is it possible that both are true? Could it be that barracking for a team (shouting encouragement) comes from the old dialect word for bragging, while barracking in the sense of ‘shouting abuse and ridicule’ comes from borak? It is, I suppose, possible – and it would explain the two opposite meanings of barracking. Oh, and there’s an urban myth that needs to be disposed of here. I heard a cricket commentator on ABC radio repeat the old story that barrack comes from the proximity of Victoria barracks to playing fields, and the cheering and jeering soldiers were called “barrackers” from which the verb to barrack developed. This is almost certainly untrue. If this story was correct then the term “barrackers” would have to be recorded before the verb to barrack – and it’s not. “Barrackers” is first recorded in 1889 and the verb in 1878. And the tale about the nearness of the Victoria Barracks being the source does not appear until 1944 – so it’s almost certainly yet another urban myth; a bit of folk etymology.