We Knew It All Along, But…


The Australian But is a marvellous organ. It can be a considerable surprise to other users of English-like language when they encounter it. They are merrily conversing with the natives and think that they have made a complete statement…only to find an Australian But following them. And it is a tenacious But – it will pop up at the end of nearly any sentence.

Of course we knew you it all along, But.

When I first encountered it I was not completely attuned to the local dialect. I thought the accent sounded English. Forgive me for writing that – the folly of it glares at me from the screen. My ear was not experienced, but. I though that the But was going to be the start of a new sentence or thought, and usually went quiet waiting for it to be completed.

People may have thought I was a good listener at first  – the sappy expression on my face as I waited for the next line soon gave it away, but. Occasionally they repeated the exact thing they had said, including the But, to make sure that I took it all in. And then I was still waiting…

Well, gradually it got better. I started to recognise the rhythm of the language and the substitution of the ” i ” sound for the ” a ” sound in many words. I could understand a place name that was mumbled together. I finally realised that after the But there was no more. You could effectively wipe up after your But.

Unfortunately I have never been able to condition the listeners outside my own family to the proper reaction to the Canadian Eh at the end of a sentence. Many people think that it invites a response, when it doesn’t but, eh?*

  • None of this has anything to do with the Midlands English concoction of fried potatoes in bread called a chip butty and neither will I But, Eh?

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