Eat some dirt, my mate Annie told her daughter on the phone on Saturday night, after she’d called up, complaining about the flu. “Get out in the cow yard and eat some shit,” she said without an inch of sarcasm. She’s talking about the importance of getting enough germs to keep your immune system kicking, but I see the instruction as the perfect illustration of way country folk adapt the English language.
It’s rare to find a sentence without some form of poetic lyricism injected. Metaphors and similes are bandied about with bull-charging enthusiasm. Long-ish words are shortened, every time. No one would dare call me Penelope here and I’m lucky to get Penny. Most people cut my name to Pen, which I find very affectionate. Conservative becomes conservo.
But a brief explanation will always be extended. You don’t simply fall off your motorbike out here. You go down in a shower of shit. Sometimes you’ll be spitting chips too, whatever that means.
The creativity and humour behind this communication style have me enthralled. Fair enough, sometimes conversations, and I’m particularly referring to pre-footie rouse ups here, lack any meaningful expressions except the most basic swear words. That’s still amusing in my book.
I’ve encountered a swag of different terms out here in the past six weeks. Yesterday the helicopter pilot who was taking me on a quick trip over town explained a few technical points to me in case things went “shit-shaped.” I struggled to grasp what was happening with the clutch but I understood the consequences of an un-flicked switch pretty clearly. “If this one isn’t turned on we’ll go down like a greasy crowbar,” he told me. I imagined a mechanic dropping the tool with a clang and then mimicked the helicopter doing the same. It was a powerful language tool, I reckon.
These are not isolated events.
At the council meeting the other day the CEO was talking about a letter he’d received that he was a bit unhappy about. “All they’re doing is teaching us how to suck eggs,” he said. I think he meant that the writer was pointing out the bleedin’ obvious.
If a bloke thinks he might get lucky with you that’s called jumping into your cot. And of course the g is left off the end of every word possible. There some exceptionally dirty expressions too, but I’ll leave those to your imagination.
The style is as infectious as the laidback lifestyle. Occasionally I catch myself stretching vowels like a fat man straining the joins on a trampoline. I lament the money my parents spent on voice coaching. For now I’m joinin’ in and looking for a creative way to add colour without always relying on cursing. That said, the swearing out here is impressive and my potty mouth is blossoming. But I’m yet to tell anyone that they should eat some shit. I’ll give that a few more weeks.