Sunday, October 23, 2005


(We are great abbreviators). The quiz I put up recently about knowledge of Australian slang seems to have been very popular so I thought I might re-post the observations below:

From its foundation in 1788, Australia has always been a traditionally unholy place with a very low rate of churchgoing. Americans trace their founding fathers to religious zealots but Australians trace their foundations to convicts. And other major population elements in the white settlement of Australia -- such as goldrush "diggers" and Irish rebels -- did little to alter the culture originating from our convict origins. Only about 3% of modern-day Australians have convict ancestors (I am one of the 3%) but the early days formed a culture that has been passed on to others as they arrived -- just as only a small minority of Americans now have primarily English ancestry but English is nonethless the language of America. And Australia's only national hero to this day is Ned Kelly -- an Irish highway robber who eventually was hanged for his undoubted crimes.

So how come Australia is a civil, prosperous and pleasant place to live? It is because Australians DO have a widely agreed-on moral code -- but it is not a Christian one. It originates from the values of the English working class of yesteryear and can perhaps be conveniently summed up (in its original Australian slang) as the following five "Commandments":

* Thou shalt not dob in thy mates
* Thou shalt not bung on an act.
* Thou shalt not be a tall poppy
* Thou shalt give everyone a fair go
* Thou shalt be fair dinkum

Translating these into standard English yields APPROXIMATELY the following:

* You must not incriminate your friends to the boss, the police or anyone else. Loyalty to your associates is all-important.
* You must not be ostentatious or pretend to be what you are not.
* You must treat others as your equals. If you are seen as being better than others in anything but sport you will be made to suffer for it.
* You must be fair and permissive in your treatment of others.
* You must not be insincere or dishonest.

From Hammurabi onwards, most moral codes have had much in common and the Australian and Christian moral codes do also have things in common but the Australian moral code is not preached in churches. It is simply traditional and widely heartfelt.


No comments: