Q: Hi Kel, I’m afraid the ‘haitch’ battle is a lost cause. I hear it more often than not. Even, on tonight’s ABC News, a reporter said ‘B..haitch..P’. Clearly, it’s not important in teaching and in newsrooms. Speaking of ‘often’, is it fine to say ‘OFF..TEN’? I say ‘OFF..EN’ but many don’t.
A: There is no such word as 'haitch' -- the 8th letter of the alphabet is pronounced (as you know) 'aitch.' What you are hearing is ignorance, sheer ignorance. Blame the education system that has let these people down. As for 'often' -- the Oxford English Dictionary allows both pronunciations (both with and without the 'T' being sounded). I don't. I think the 'T' must be silent!
Q: Can you give me a rundown on the origins of "eavesdropping"? I know that eaves are the overhang of a roofline, but no clue on the drop component. Thanks, Mark
A: It began in Anglo-Saxon England. The word came from Old Norse and originally referred to the area around a building that was liable to be wetted by water flowing off the projecting eaves of the roof above (gutters hadn’t been invented yet). There was an ancient custom that stopped a landowner from building within two feet of his boundary, for fear that the water cascading off the eaves might cause problems for his neighbour. By the end of the medieval period, the word eavesdropper had been invented for somebody who stood within this strip of ground, under the projecting eaves and close to the walls of a building, in order to listen surreptitiously to the conversations within. The verb to eavesdrop in the same sense came along about a century later.
Q: Sorry Kel, but it was OK Corral for the gunfight, not Okay Coral! Maybe not enough Westerns as a kid? Cheers Mick
A: I stand corrected. Many thanks.
Q: Origin of "All my eye and Betty Martin." Doug, NSW
A: The expression means 'nonsense' and is a reply you can give when someone says something you don't believe to be true. It's recorded from 1781. Nigel Rees speculates that there probably was a Betty Martin who was well known in the 18th century--and her name was co-opted for popular usage.
Q: Hi Kel. My husband and I are traveling in our caravan around Tasmania and caught the Spirit of Tasmania over here a few days ago. When we passed another Spirit of Tasmania ship half way across it was referred to as the sister ship to the one we were on. My husband has had a lot to do with boating in the past so I questioned why it wasn’t called the brother ship. His explanation was ships are always referred to as female because boats and women both need a lot of maintenance. I was hoping you could provide a more accurate reason. Thank you, Donna
A: What your husband has told you is an old joke -- but it's not the reason. It confuses us because English is not a gendered language. In French, for example, the word for 'pen' is masculine while the word for bureau is feminine. There are two possible reasons why 'ship' (unlike other English words) has remained gendered. One is that the Latin for ship navis is feminine. The possible source is the ancient habit of having a figurehead on a ship of a woman (perhaps as a mother or goddess figure guiding the ship and protecting the crew). Interestingly, Captain Ernst Lindemann of the German battleship Bismarck referred to his ship as ‘he’, in view of its awesome power. In popular parlance, the tradition of naming ships ‘she’ has now become less common. It's worth noting that the shipping industry newspaper, Lloyd's Register of Shipping, now calls ships ‘it’.
Q: Yep, I’m one of those surfers, Kel. ‘Grommet’, for me, goes back to the sixties. Tony
A: So, much earlier than 2006!
Q: I was reading about William Dampier the British Explorer, and it is said that he contributed over 1000 words to the language, including avocado, chopsticks plus many others. I had never heard this before; do you know if this is true? Regards Roger NSW
A: He is credited by the Oxford as the source for 'avocado' but not chopsticks. So, he certainly discovered some words not previously in known English, but perhaps not quite as many as a thousand!
Q: Hi Kel, Is there a word for people (mostly gen z and teenagers) who walk and chat on their phones? Their faces are looking down at the screen, they have no spatial awareness and according to them, WE are supposed to give way! Thanks, Jay, Wembley WA
A: Can any reader suggestion a word for such behaviour?
Q: Hello Kel,
I am a regular listener to your 2GB session with John Stanley on Thursday nights and enjoy it very much. Last night, however, I was left confused, and not a little frustrated, by your insistence that Australians (one of which I have been for 81 years) should not pronounce words the way Americans do. Examples were "era" and "Lieutenant". If anyone pronounces a word in the American way, you said, they fall into the category of being WRONG.
My problem is that earlier in the programme you were insisting that we Australians should pronounce Las Vegas the SAME WAY as Americans do. What you are suggesting is illogical and ridiculous. I am not going to say LOSS Vegas just because Elvis does, or rather, did. You, Kel, in the past have said that the letter A, in Spanish, has an AH sound, which is quite true. Therefore "Las", as in Las Vegas, should be pronounced "larce" or similar (rhymes with "farce"). "Luss" is also very close to this pronunciation.
So, I am not going to say LOSS or LASS Vegas. The correct way is to say LUSS Vegas, with a short, clipped "luss" and the emphasis on the first syllable of Vegas.
Are we supposed to sound like Americans, or Australians.
If you, and Mr Stanley, continue to say LOSS Vegas, YOU ARE WRONG!!!! Kind Regards, Bruce
A: I suspect what I was getting at, in my stumbling way, is that we should pronounce American words like Americans, and British/Australian words in our way. The problem with the Spanish pronunciation is that it's not what Americans now say. So do we (1) say it the way it is spelled -- although spelling is a notoriously unreliable guide to pronunciation [try saying 'laugh' the way we spell it]; or (2) should we pronounce it in the Spanish fashion, or (3) in the American fashion? Those are the only options. No one seems to be using the precise Spanish pronunciation -- so perhaps that should be off the list. That gives us (1) following the spelling or (2) following the people who live there. That's the dilemma. What's your solution?
My thanks to the countless number of correspondents who have written to support the word 'Austrophile' for someone who likes Australia and all things Australia. Here are a couple of them...
Q: Re: 'Austrophile' -- Love it! And, if you're not an Austrophile, feel free to leave. Anne.
A: We have a simple message for them, don't we? However, I saw some young (ignorant) university students on television who said they hated Australia (they are 'Austrophobes') but they would never leave. I suppose they see their job and making everyone else fall into line with them. So, they want to stay here so they can nag at us and bully us.
Q: Austrophile …. love it Kel and I’ll be using it. That said, I am extremely dismayed that the P&C at our local primary school attended by our grandchildren, has cancelled the current house names; Cook, Phillip, Flinders and Bass … cancelled ! ….. replacing them with aboriginal words Bamal, Milndjigari, Badu and Gambi ??? Cook, Phillip, Flinders and Bass were a few of the outstanding men bringing civilisation (Science, Engineering, Navigation, Law, Administration, Education, Mapping & Charting) to an isolated stone aged civilisation. A stone age civilisation that did not have an alphabet, numbers or written history. The P&C has, in my view as a non-indigenous elder, made an uneducated decision, cancelling civilisation and education in favour of a romanticised guilt driven stone age culture. Education or indoctrination ? Hows that for Truth Telling Kel ? Steve
A: This is why Australia needs more Austrophiles like us!
Q: Hi Kel, where did we get the expression, the cat’s pyjamas, from? Cheers, Adam
A: Both 'the cat's pyjamas' and 'the cat's whiskers' come from America in the 1920s. For some reason the 'jazz age' produce quite a few of these off-beat expressions.
Q: Hello, after watching Albo deny changes to the stage 3 tax cuts I wondered where the expression bald faced liar come from? Peter NSW
A: In Britain and Australia, it's 'bald-face liar' in America it is usually 'bare-faced liar.' Both forms are based on colloquial uses from the seventeenth century. Someone bare faced originally had the face uncovered, and hence was figuratively acting in an unconcealed or open way (Shakespeare is the first known user of both literal and figurative senses). From the latter part of the seventeenth century onwards, it took on a sense of something or someone who was audacious, shameless or impudent, so that a barefaced lie was one in which the speaker made no attempt to disguise it as truth. So, a 'bald faced' or 'bare face' liar is someone who is open about their lying and doesn't conceal it.
Q: Kel, when i went to school, for a time with you, i was taught that you could use certain words - such as “food” - in the plural form without adding an “s” on the end. Is this still correct as people always seem to add an “s” on the end in the plural form & to me it is a bit annoying as i never use an “s” on the end? Robert, NSW
A: There certainly are some words where the singular and plural are identical -- 'sheep' is the classic example. 'Food' is complicated because when talking about a mass of food you can sometimes use the singular and sometimes the plural. You could say 'I ate too much food last night,' or 'the tuck shop is running low on food, so we need to place an order.' In both of those you are clearly talking about multiple items of food. But if you wanted to stress different types of food there might be occasions when 'foods' is appropriate. Perhaps something like 'high protein foods'?
Q: Hi Kel, when did we start saying cheapskate and why that formulation? Cheers, Allan
A: It started in the 1890s with the word 'skate' meaning a worn-out broken-down horse. We don't know why poor horses were called 'skate' -- it puzzles the lexicographers. And someone not prepared to pay for a better horse was a 'cheapskate.'
Q: Please - What is the origin of the much used (overused) word BOOZE? Malcolm, NZ
A: From a Middle Dutch word meaning 'to drink to excess' (part of English since 1300).
Q: Hi Kel, where do we get the word Wazzu from? Cheers, Adam.
A: 'Wazoo' is American slang for the buttocks. Where did it come from? One suggestion is from the French word for 'bird' -- oiseau (pronounced 'wahzoh'). The idea is that it came into American English via Louisiana Creole. But why a foreign word for 'bird' would be chosen to mean 'bottom' I don't know.
Q: Congratulations for your truth telling and your courage Kel, very, very much appreciated. John.
A: Remember the classic quotation: "You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (Jesus). I suspect it's really freedom that these politicians object to.
Q: If a Francophile is a lover of all things French. What is a lover of all things Australian called please? Lorraine
A: It's a good question. There is also 'Anglophile" for someone who has a fondness and admiration for all things English. The problem with all these '--phile' words is that they combine a Latin prefix with a Greek suffix. But, they are accepted as standard words, so perhaps we can't complain. Few countries have similar words. For instance, I know of no similarly constructed word for someone who has a fondness or admiration for the Unites States of America. How about a 'Yankophile'? And when it comes to Australia, how do we construct such a word? Austophile is the best I can come up with. That is also constructed from Latin plus Greek (the Latin for 'southern' plus the Greek 'phile' for 'love.')
Q: Hi Kel, why do we say, ‘in a nutshell?’ How did this expression come into being? Cheers, Adam
A: Shakespeare used this in Hamlet. And he probably knew that it was a proverbial saying in Latin that goes back to (at least) Pliny the Elder in 77 AD. It was coined because nuts are small -- so any explanation that will fit 'in a nutshell' is a nice short explanation. Mind you, we are often warned that the only thing that will fit in a nutshell is a nut—so be wary of those short, over-simplified explanations.
Q: Hi Kel, I really find the American version of the English language quite bizarre. The example that really "annoys" me is the way they pronounce Filet. In Oz we say "fillette" for filet. The yanks ay "Filay". This is okay looking at it in isolation. But let's look at Valet. We in Oz pronounce it as "Valay" but the yanks pronounce it as "Vallette". Any idea why the difference in pronunciation? George.
A: The American pronunciation of 'filet' is semi-literate. It is half-witted semi-literates advertising the fact that they know that 'filet' came into English from French. But that was 150 years ago -- so the word has now taken out its naturalization papers and has an English pronunciation. As for 'valet' -- the British use both pronunciations: VAL-uht and VAL-ay.
Q: Hi Kel, I use anchovies in my cooking and it has come to my attention that I might pronounce it differently to others. I say it with the emphasis on the ‘anch’ part of the word (almost like an-ch-vies) as opposed to placing emphasis on the ‘ovies’ part (an-chovies). What is the correct Australian pronunciation? And am I pluralising it correctly? Cheers, Adam
A: The British pronunciation is AN-chuh-vee -- the American pronunciation is an-CHOH-vee. You choose which one you're going with! And you can pluralise either pronunciation by added an "S".
Q: The misuse of the word “hone” is becoming prevalent as in “honing in” on a problem instead of “homing in”. To "hone" is to smooth or sharpen, i.e. a tool or a concept. To "home" is to proceed or return to something. Gerry
A: I have heard the same error. All these verbal slips are the result of a lazy mind or a lazy mouth -- this is definitely caused by a lazy mind.
Q: What is a government run by family connections called? Thanks John
A: "Nepotocracy" -- from the word "nepotism".
Q: Is 'faucet' an American term or has it been on use longer? Can tap and faucet be interchanged in their use in a sentence? James
A: 'Tap' and 'faucet' are exact synonyms. They are an example of English having two words with the same meaning because of William Conqueror and his Norman French speaking knights -- we have the older (Anglo Saxon) word and the later (French) word. There are lots of these (ox / bull and many others).
Q: Hi Kel: My wife's name is Sheila, and I'm wondering how her name became a slang term for woman, and why the Aussies didn't didn't adopt the American 'chick' or the British 'bird.' Cheers, Matt
A: During the convict years (and after) there were a great many Irish here, and because Sheila was a common (perhaps the most common) name for Irish girls the word was adopted by Aussies, first for Irish girls and then for any and all girls. And I think some Aussies did use either 'chick' or 'bird' -- I seem to remember them from my own teenage years (which, admittedly, were a long time ago).
Q: Conversation, something we are losing with the iPhone and iPad invasion.
Thank you, Kel for bringing a ray of sunshine into our lives! Jan
A: 'Conversation' means exchanging thoughts and opinions, and it is so central to human life that it comes from the word 'converse' which originally meant 'to move about, live, or dwell especially in a place' (Merriam-Webster) So 'conversation' is a central part of just being alive as a human being.
Q: Every time I hear the word "indictment", I think of the way it's spelt and wonder why it's pronounced the way it is, and its origin. Can you explain this please? Thankyou! Jan NSW
A: That's because the word preserves elements of its Latin source word. Now it means to bring a charge against someone, but the Latin source word meant 'to speak against' someone (you can see how one could grow out of the other). And the "-dict'' part of indictment preserves the Latin word for 'speak' (from which we get such English words as "dictation" and "dictionary.')
Q: Re: 'doctor"--I have a similar concern. In Canada, it is illegal to claim the title "Engineer" unless one holds a current membership in a Provincial "Association of Professional Engineers". A workshop cannot claim to be an "Engineering" enterprise unless at least one P.Eng. is on staff. Here in Australia everyone is an "Engineer". A welding shop might be "Joe's Engineering". The local computer tech might be a "Software Engineer" (Although is some instances that might be legit), etc. Now retired, (and previously allowed to use the title of "International Professional Engineer" I have ceased worrying about it. Rodney.
A: I have no words of comfort -- all I can tell you is that the same is true of 'counsellor.' Anyone can set up offering their services as a therapist, calling themselves a 'counsellor' -- and there are no legal restrictions.
Q: Can you please give an explanation to the new (?) meaning of the word 'sick'? I've been watching Australian Idol and one of the judges, in absolute admiration, has referred to a couple of performances, as totally sick. It certainly gets my attention because it's disgusting! Anne
A: The Urban Dictionary says that since at least 2011 (and possibly earlier) 'sick' has meant the same as 'cool.' It is what is called a slang reversal of meaning--not unknown, it has happened in the past (remember when Michael Jackson said anything cool was 'bad'?)
Q: Hi Kel, Why do we call them teaspoons and tablespoons? And if a teaspoon measures tea, what does a tablespoon measure? Cheers, Adam
A: Before about 1700, it was customary for Europeans to bring their own spoons to the table. Spoons were carried as personal property in much the same way as people today carry wallets, key rings, etc. From about 1700 the place setting became popular, and with it the "table-spoon" (hyphenated), "table-fork" and "table-knife". Around the same time the tea-spoon and dessert-spoon first appeared, and the table-spoon was reserved for eating soup. The 18th century witnessed a proliferation of different sorts of spoons, including the mustard-spoon, salt-spoon, coffee-spoon, and soup-spoon. In the late 19th century UK, the dessert-spoon and soup-spoon began to displace the table-spoon as the primary implement for eating from a bowl, at which point the name "table-spoon" took on a secondary meaning as a much larger serving spoon. At the time the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was published in 1928, "tablespoon" (which by then was no longer hyphenated) still had two definitions in the UK: the original definition (eating spoon) and the new definition (serving spoon).
Q: Could you explain the difference between "sympathetic" and plain old "pathetic"?
A: 'Pathetic' refers to emotions -- from the post classical Latin patheticus "having an effect on the emotions" while 'sympathetic' means 'emotions in harmony" (it's related to words such as 'symphony' meaning 'acting together' or 'in harmony').
Q: Hi Kel, I watched you with Peta Credlin tonight, and as usual, it was very interesting.
You and Peta covered the old hoary chestnut (a potential subject?) of the correct pronunciation of ‘lieutenant’. I remember us exchanging emails on this subject a while back, but, unfortunately I cannot find those emails. Peta criticised the Defence Minister for pronouncing the RAN rank of ‘Sub-Lieutenant’ as ‘sub-l’tenant’. You and Peta discussed the origin of the rank of lieutenant, then concluded that the Americans pronounce the term as ‘lootenant’, and we pronounce it as ‘leftenant’. In fact, the British tradition, which the Australian services follow, has the navy pronouncing ‘lieutenant’ as either ‘l’tenant’, or as ‘leftenant’. The other services strictly use the ‘leftenant’ option. Granted that ‘leftenant’ is now more prevalent in the RAN, but ‘l’tenant’ is still acceptable. Kindest regards, David
A: Thanks David -- all very helpful. I'll talk about this again tonight (Thursday) with John Stanley on 2GB -- unpacking the origins of our pronunciation as coming from Old French (not modern French).
Q: Dear Kel, In response to your question about whether cursive is still taught in schools, I'd like to share some of my experiences as a recent student-teacher. Before that, however, the question we need to consider is this: Is the teacher sensible (read mature) and is the school culture normal (not woke)? The response was varied. Most of my mentor teachers were pleased to see my handwriting on the board, with all its idiosyncrasies, and the primary-aged students were thrilled to see something different from the capitalised efforts of their regular programming. Aware that mine could sometimes prove indecipherable, I was somewhat self-conscious, but the children never had trouble reading it. In many ways, it kept their attention and encouraged them.
Whereas some of the other schools I have been in, working with younger teachers has proven to be alienating - mostly for they were swift to tell me my cursive could - not would - be too difficult for the students, and that I should never write like that again. I refrained from telling these mentors I had been writing illegally for years, never attaining my pen licence, but somehow I thought the irony would have been lost.
The curriculum (Victoria) does expect students to learn cursive - normally from Grade 3 - but like a few things in schools, it is determined by the views of the teacher and whether there is time enough to teach it.
Apologies for the long email, Kel! With gratitude, Anders
A: This is great information -- thank you very much.
Q: Hi Kel, like you I was taught cursive/running writing in primary school in the 50’s.
Then when I began teaching in 1964, I had to learn “modified cursive” as that was being taught in schools. Later, the Ed. Dept, in their wisdom, changed that to “foundation writing”, which to me looks like half printing and half cursive. Now retired, I don’t know what is going on in primary schools, but handwriting has always been a problem for some people, but not me. Heather.
A: Thank you, Heather -- I had forgotten all about 'modified cursive' and 'foundation writing' -- clearly nonsense.
Q: Hi Kel, I don’t know about cursive, but when you see kids in class on tv, or you are in shops and offices, clearly, they have never been taught to hold a pen or pencil properly. How they can write anything holding it in their fist is beyond me. Kind Regards, Sue
A: A very good point! We were taught to use our fingers (which can make much finer motor movements) while these kids today seem to use their whole hand. It always looks awkward and unnatural to me.
Q: The word "elite" has morphed from being an adjective denoting excellence ("elite athlete") to now being used as a noun expressing derision, especially of the woke brigade. How did this happen? Tony NSW
A: My best guess is that until relatively recently people earned the title 'elite' which was given to them by others. Now, it seems that some people designate themselves the 'elite' -- the smartest people in the room. They see themselves as wiser (or better) that the rest of us and (therefore) entitled to tell us what to think and what to do. In short, this new self-appointed elite distrust democracy and the will of the people.
Q: Always watch Rita Panahi show and last night she had Nick Cater as a guest. He made a "profound" observation about "separating the wood from the chaff" -hmm I thought, what does he mean - he can't see the wood for the trees or can't separate the wheat from the chaff. Then again perhaps this is another cliche that I haven't heard about. Ruth
A: I think he muddled his idioms -- he meant 'separating the wood from the trees' which refers to the idea of stepping back and taking a look at the bigger picture.
Q: Hi Kel, where did the word "cheque" as in cheque book come from? (As one in the old saying is "the cheque is in the mail"). Neil
A: "Cheque" is the British spelling of "check" (the common American spelling) and started off referring to any financial note (or bill or draft) which had a counterfoil (what we used to call the "cheque stubs" in our cheque books). This meant that deductions from our bank account could be "checked" (compared and found correct). Why the British adopted the French spelling is unclear.
Q: Hi Kel. Not so much an Ozword per se, but the definition of "eternal". The general understanding is without end, but I've seen some definitions which also define eternal as without beginning. I ask because I've come across some comments on YouTube about science clips/debates where people say the Universe is eternal. Now modern standard Big Bang cosmology has been saying for a long time that the Universe is some 13.8 billion years old. Therefore, it HAD a beginning. So it seems the definition of eternal DOES matter. Henry NSW
A: Here is the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of eternal: 'Infinite in past and future duration; without beginning or end; that always has existed and always will exist: esp. of the Divine Being.' From this definition -- God is eternal, the universe is not. Interestingly what John 3:16 promises those who follow Jesus is not eternal life but everlasting life -- in other words, life that has a beginning, but no end.
Q: My dad listens to you with John on Thursday nights on 2GB, and I watch you on Sky news.
I am 11 years old and love listening to you. I am writing to you wondering when you would call a broom a broom and when it is just a broomstick. Can you please settle our family debate! Delilah NSW
A: 'Broom' is the older of the two words. It began its life in Old English -- right at the beginning of our language. Originally 'broom' was the name of a bush, the branches of which were collected and tied together to sweep the floor. 'Broomstick' came later (1600s) to put the emphasis on the stick to which the branches were tied. When should you use each one? It depends on what is being emphasized. If you are talking about cleaning the word 'broom' is best (that is at the heart of its meaning); but if you are talking about a witch riding through the sky you might say 'broomstick' because that switches the emphasis to the stick not the broom.
Q: Hi Kel, Love seeing you on Credlin. Love listening to words and interpreting peoples accents as mine is quite hybrid, grew up in Adelaide and my mother is from Melbourne. So, words plant, dance, France et al can be interchangeable. Anyway, just wondering how to pronounce "Forehead", is it fore-head or fo-red? And a few more pronunciations to you like "schedule", "router" or "data". Kind Regards, Ben, NSW
A: (1) The traditional pronunciation of 'forehead' is 'forrid' (which I still use). You can find this in the nursery rhyme: "There was a little girl / Who had a little curl / Right in the middle of forehead / When she was good she was very, very good / But when she was bad she was horrid." It only rhymes using the old pronunciation. This, however, is now dying out among younger Australians, and is only common among those of us over 40. (2) Most Australians under 40 say 'skedule' while most of us over 40 say 'shedule' -- clearly this is changing. (3) Geeks talk about 'rowters" but for all other Australians we travel on a 'root.' (4) Both 'darta' and 'dayta' are equally correct and acceptable pronunciations.
Q: What does the word scheme mean? All our politicians use this word and it sounds sneaky. Peter, QLD
A: It has been part of English for at least 500 years -- from the Latin word schema. The core notion of 'scheme' is 'a plan of action.' But it also has a secondary meaning: ' a clever plan, especially to do something that is bad or illegal.' So, it need not be sneaky -- but when used by politicians, it might be good to view their planned 'schemes' with scepticism.
Q: Have you come across “Thrift -dulting”? I think it means adults being more circumspect about their old clothes. In other words, don’t throw them out without thought. Regards, Aileen, WA
A: The expression is not found in any dictionary (and I consulted most of them). However, I found a story claiming that a global forecasting agency WGSN is predicting that one of the key trends for 2024 will be something it calls "thift-dulting.' This, it says, is a mash-up of secondhand and new clothes "with a strong 1980s influence -- even including shoulder pads!" Well, that's what they say. Still, those words (apparently a coinage of this company) appear nowhere else.
Q: Where did the term show ponies originate and why? Maggie
A: 'Show pony' is an Australian invention -- and rather older than I would have guessed, coming from 1842. It means someone who puts on a good show, but who lacks substance.
Q: Can you tell me where the phrase “the real McCoy” came from. Regards, Peter
A: There are various stories. One is that it comes from the American boxer Norman Selby, known as Kid McCoy, who was welterweight champion from 1898-1900. It is said that McCoy had so many imitators who took his name in boxing booths in small towns throughout the country that eventually he had to bill himself as Kid “The Real” McCoy, and the phrase stuck. In another anecdote a sceptical drunk who met the boxer in a bar denied he was the genuine article with such vehemence that McCoy was forced to hit him. Alternatively, the expression might originally have been 'the real MacKay. The earliest example is from 1856, which is recorded in the Scottish National Dictionary: “A drappie [drop] o’ the real MacKay”. The same work says that in 1870 the slogan was adopted by Messrs G Mackay and Co, whisky distillers of Edinburgh. In the recently revised entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, all early examples mention strong drink and they’re all spelled McKay or Mackay. That includes the first figurative instance, which is a letter written by the author Robert Louis Stevenson in 1883: “He’s the real Mackay”.
Q: Hi Kel, Yes, the term ‘he was smoked’ to mean badly defeated is commonly used amongst my friends and family. I am 66, my children are in their early 30s and all of us use it in this way.
A: Thanks Wayne.
Q: Our family have been using the word "smoked" for some time. It's a word we use to describe being so tired I'm off to bed or I'm going to have a rest. Other descriptive words for the same thing are "trashed", "smashed" and "wasted". Cheers, Ralph
A: That gives us yet ANOTHER meaning for 'smoked'!
Q: Hi Kel, I heard Barnaby Joyce use the expression “just kicked it into the long grass.” This is one I haven’t heard before. Is this a recognised Australian colloquialism or a Barnaby invention? Jenny, QLD
A: It's been around since about 1990. It means kicking something out of sight, so that people will forget about it. It's not in any the Australian dictionaries or slang dictionaries I consulted (perhaps it's too new). It's even possible that it was coined in the UK. (Surely not? We're more linguistically inventive than they are!) It more probably comes from football --especially country games where the ball can disappear into the long grass beside the field.
Q: Kel, we watch Credlin each night and thoroughly enjoy your session on Wednesdays. We have a couple of words to add if that's okay. Get your "Dandar"Up - You Dopey "Pillick" - trouble is I use these often. Regards - Allan
A: Added to my Peta Credlin list!