Featured post

'The Mortal Maze', a modern thriller set in the Middle East

Comments & Reviews "Ian Richardson has written a page turning thriller that screams to be turned into a blockbuster...

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Do you die, or pass on?

One of my several obsessions is an objection to the growing use of euphemisms to describe the death of a person. A death is upsetting for close family and friends, but I can't understand what is at all offensive about the word "died". It is what we will all do at some time. We might wish to be immortal, but using euphemisms such as "pass" (as in when did they pass?), "passed", "passed on", "gone to be with our Lord", or even "gone to a better place" can't disguise the truth. Many of those who prefer the euphemisms are members of various religions, but the Christian King James Bible is certainly not averse to using "died". Indeed, a quick scan shows that it is used 189 times. It even states that Jesus Christ died.

There is nothing inconsistent in using "died" and believing that there is an afterlife. Death is a medical event that must come before a soul or spirit - if such a thing exists - goes on to Heaven or Hell or some other agreeable place, or rejoins previously-deceased family members.

My mother was an enthusiastic Christian who rarely missed church on a Sunday, and although she made careful plans for her funeral and thanksgiving service, she never once to my knowledge used a euphemism to describe what would happen at the end of her life.

An aunt who was an equally committed Christian was adamant that she would "die", and she would have been very upset had she known that the funeral director changed her newspaper death notices from "died" to "passed on".

But it is not just religious believers who prefer to skirt around our departure from this existence. The administrator of a Facebook group to which I belong insists on using "passed on" because it seems to him to be a kinder word than "died". I disagree. There are a great many non-believers who find this not just wrong but bordering on the offensive.

Anyway, I know that at some time - not too soon, I hope - I will die. As a happy atheist, my death will be beginning of what might be termed "eternal sleep". It would be an illogical conceit on my part to believe otherwise. If anything is passed on, it will, perhaps, be through my writing over the years and memories held by my close friends and my descendants. There is, of course, no guarantee that all of this will be flattering.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Travelling Down Under: How to translate Strine, Australia's national language.

The first 30 years of my life were spent in Australia and since moving to London, I have made at least one trip every year to the land of my birth. But despite the frequency of my visits, I am increasingly finding it difficult to understand the language.

 It now seems that most descriptive names in Australia are reduced to words ending in “o” or “ie”.

Over the years I have become  accustomed to “arvo” (afternoon), “tinnie” (can of beer or a small tin boat) , "cossie" (swimming costume) “rellie” or “rello” (a relative) and being referred to as a “journo” (journalist), but what was I to make of a headline in the Australian papers about a man’s leg being chewed off by a “saltie”? 

I found that answer only by reading well down into the story and learning that a “saltie” is a salt water crocodile. I also noted that the man with the chewed leg was in a critical condition in “hossie” (hospital).

On one recent trip, I was challenged by a large illuminated sign over a highway “Have you renewed your rego?” My immediate response was to shout: “Well, I might renew it if I knew what it was”. A friend later enlightened me. “Rego” was short for car registration, the Australian equivalent of the UK’s road tax. 

Some of this word reduction and slang is amusing, and I couldn’t help smiling when I learned some time ago that “carked it” meant that someone had died (i.e. become a carcass). On a recent trip to my homeland several people used "carked" in their conversion, such as "Did you know that old Fred had 'carked' it?" 

I also love the much-used “hoon”, the short form of hooligan, and “rort”, the term most frequently applied to phoney expenses and rip-offs by politicians (“pollies”).

What surprises me is how the slang has been adopted in recent years by Australia’s mainstream media. 

It is common, indeed usual, for Australian newspapers to refer to “firies” (firemen), ambos (ambulance drivers), "fishos" (fisherman) and “schoolies” (drunken end-of-school-year party).

Scanning the Australian papers on the internet the other day I also came across “tradie” (tradesman, such as plumber, electrician and carpenter), “boatie” (someone with a small boat), “yachtie” (a yachtsman) and “servo” (a motor vehicle service station).

And then there are the slang words that pop up in emails and social media postings from my friends (“mates” is preferred) and relatives (sorry, rellos) in "Godzone" (Australia): There is “bowlo” (member of a lawn bowls club), “sando” (sandwich) and “trannie” (no longer a transistor radio; now a transexual). Also, a friend reported that their child had a "tantie" (tantrum).

I received an email from a friend who apologised for failing to "corro" recently. Corro? Yes, of course. That turned out to be the short form for "correspond". He told me that he had been busy with the builders brought in to do some "renos" (renovations).

I recently tore my hamstring in a fall. I received several sympathetic emails from Australian friends in which they referred to my "hammy". 

Finally, I should tell you about a recent email in which a women friend heaped praise on her “gynie”. No doubt, by now, you will have decoded this to be a reference to her gynaecologist.

------------------------------------------------------
And how did the Aussie accent come about? Here are some suggestions:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/10/28/drunken_slurring_aussies_strine_forefathers/