I got a CD of Australian folk songs from my library’s secondhand store.
I popped it into my car’s CD player as I drove to meet some friends.
Within the first song, I was confused.
What’s a billabong?
Who’s Waltzing Matilda?
What in the world is a ryebuck?
I’ve listened to some interesting music, but never felt like I needed to read a dictionary while listening to it.
Of course, I couldn’t have used the dictionary anyway, I was driving.
When I stopped at a traffic signal, I looked at the CD case and discovered something very helpful. Someone had included a glossary of Australian slang in the insert.
"Wonderful. Now I can understand the words," I thought.
But, after looking at the glossary, I was perplexed at what some of the slang terms meant.
Words like shanty (“a rough bush shelter”) and squatter (“a landowner”) were pretty straightforward.
But then there was prad (“a horse”), billabong (“an oxbow pond”) and Rang-tang Block (“a method of castrating rams”).
The one that gave me the most pause was Blue (“a fight or a person with red hair”).
Then of course there was Dinky-Di, translated as “true blue, fair bunkum, O.K., genuine.”
In other words, someone had translated one idiom with other idioms. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?
"Crickey, mate," I thought as I removed the CD. “I like the music, but I think I’ll wait until later when I can process it better.”
My radio kicked in as I removed the CD, and I heard “… and another bites the dust.”
More slang, although more recognizable this time.
I guess that was a step forward.
Article copyright 2018 by Gabriel Connor Salter.
(If anyone 's interested, here's where you can find the CD: http://www.about-australia-shop.com/product_info.php/products_id/856 )