Monday, May 1, 2017

Talking Australian: Talking Strine

Strine (Australian) was started as a spoof byAlastair Ardoch Morrison but soon grew to what we now know and love as talking Australian. Under the pen name Afferback Lauder (Alphabetical Order), and illustrated by Morrison’s alter ego, (Al Terego), Professor of Strine at the University of Sinny authored several books in the 60s including Lets Stalk Strine (1965), Nose Tone Unturned (1966), Fraffly Well Spoken (1968), and Fraffly Suite (1969).
The fundamental aspect of the joke was it was Australian words written phonetically and pronounced as they sounded. For example:

"Spewffle climber treely" - It's a beautiful climate, really

"Emma chisit" - How much is it?

"Egg nishner" - air-conditioner

"yerron yerrone" – you are on your own

"snow ewe smite" – its no use mate

‘Strine’ became a form of creole language (or hybrid language) with its own lexicon, syntax of course littered with idioms, similes, invented words and slang. Strine matches perfectly with the Australian humour and has kept international audiences laughing from Barry McKenzie to Kath and Kim.

One of the greatest exponents of Strine was the former PM Paul Keating. His vivid imagination, dry wit and colourful command of the language made him a deadly adversary as well as a joy to hear. His genius was exposing inconsistencies in others and seldom did he miss the opportunity to score points using Strine. This gained him the title the Lizard of Oz. Who could forget classics like. "I was nearly chloroformed by the performance of the Honourable Member,” and "The Opposition crowd could not raffle a chook in a pub." He described the efforts of others as……like being flogged with a warm lettuce leaf….” And the classic put down. "I suppose that the Honourable Gentleman's hair, like his intellect, will recede into the darkness." Almost Churchillesque in his oratory command but done distinctly with tongue in cheek and as dry as a Pomme’s towel (according to Cunard the English immigrants only had a bath once per month).

Australian humour is anti-authoritarian, self-mocking, ironic and full of extremes. We like to look for the lighter side but have the ability to find humour even in the darkest of circumstance. The same trait is found in Celtic humour and this it has been suggested was a coping mechanism for a brutal past.

In 1903 Joseph Furphy wrote Such is Life describing his works as ‘a tale told by a vulgarian, full of slang and blanky (swearwords), signifying nothing' The novel consisted of a series of comic and tragic variations based on Furphy's own life as a failed selector, a bullock driver ruined by drought and a foundry worker. The same comic larrikin tradition is evidenced today throughout the works of Kathy Lette, Clive James, Tim Winton and poems of Les Murray.

Australian humour is infectious and whether its films like Crocodile Dundee (1986), Strictly Ballroom (1993), Muriel’s Wedding (1994) and The Castle (1997) or television sitcoms like Mother and Son, Kath and Kim, the Paul Hogan Show, Roy and HG, and Dame Edna the world is entertained with its mirth and merriment laughing with Australians and not at them.

The popularity of Australian personalities in the film and entertainment industry over many years has also led, Barry Humphries (in all his persona), Paul Hogan and probably the best known Australian on the planet, the late Steve Irwin to becoming household names from Jindabyne to Jerusalem; and Kirribilli to Kilmarnock.

It was the television coverage of the Sydney Olympics in 2000 that introduced Australians and Australian humour to a global audience. Considered to be one if not the best Olympics ever many of the US commentators were stoked at the thought of talking Australian.

Of course, the best is left for home consumption. The late, John Clarke (New Zealander) and Bryan Dawe were by far the best satirists on Australian television

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