” Guide To Australian Social Interaction “

Or, ” How To Slag, Sledge, And Slur Like A Professional “.

If you are of a delicate constitution, stop reading now, go make a pot of camomile tea, and light an incense candle. If you’re a hardier sort, welcome to the column. Your Australian host will be with you shortly – they’re just whetting the knife at present.

Overseas visitors to Australia are very often treated with deference, kindness, and polite language. We’re cruel that way. It is our method of seeming to conform to standards of gentlemanly or ladylike behaviour while trampling you underfoot. The fact that you never know it makes it even better.

I have seen someone treated this way – indeed I was tempted to be join in and be polite myself, and it is only my better nature that drew forth a vile curse from my lips. The occasion was one that saw a number of Australians and New Zealanders meet and greet in their normal style. Bastards and buggers and shitheads were everywhere, and pleased to be so called. Sheep shagging was mentioned and a person from Queensland was advised on where the pineapple could be inserted and in what orientation.

And in the midst was a person who was not liked at all. It was not that he was not respectable, or rich, or glorious, or famous…he was indeed all these things…it was because he knew it and had mentioned it publicly on a previous occasion. So he was given respectful, formal, lawful greetings whenever anyone had occsion to speak to him. He was ” Mr. So and So “, and ” Sir “, and any number of similar insults. The thing started small but eventually everyone was engaging him in conversation in a similar formal vein – then turning to someone else and calling them an ” Old Bastard “. If he knew what was happening, he never said, but I suspect he did, as he left in a short period of time.

And was never seen in the same company again.

 

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Sex-Shaped Glasses – Sex-Tuned Ears

Wow. Just wow.

I have just read a rather funny post on Facebook by someone who’s been out Christmas shopping. For some this is fun – for some torture. I get going early and use the intervals that have few other shoppers to do my purchasing in – so my experience is positive.

The Facebook friend was commenting about the number of times she had been approached by the store staff while just standing there trying to gather her thoughts. ” Hi Guys, How Can I Help You ” being the general gist of the thing. I know her concern – I find hovering by service staff in shops and restaurants to be a disturbing thing after a while. If you went into multiple shops and had it happen everywhere…well…

” Go Away! If I want Hovering I’ll call Sikorski! ”

A little brusque, but you get the idea.

However, one of her readers took it as entirely a different posting  – she complained that all the sales interaction was male-oriented…the language, you see…

I wear eyeglasses. They are not new ones, and may need fresh lenses, but they still let me see the world in a reasonable perspective. Not every human interaction is about sex. Some of the good ones are, and I treasure the memories, but some are just conversations. I’m tempted…

” Go Away! If I want Sex Arguments I’ll call Mae West! “

The Next Best Thing To Sliced Bead

The next best thing to sliced bread is not, as the advertisers would have you believe, a new electronic gadget or app. It is not an item of clothing or a kitchen appliance. It is cheese and pickle.

Thus another popular saying ( here in Australia ) goes for a Burton. North American readers can also go for a Burton but they’ll have to hunt out an English pub or beer shop to do it. Elizabeth Taylor went for a Burton…

Do you think that popular sayings and buzz-phrases are getting to be clichéd? You’re not wrong, Narelle. And we are being bombarded with more of them every day, thanks to the very screen you are looking at. They can become a burden after a while and we long for good old-fashioned communication like you got before the War. When men were men and women were women and the ABC announcers dressed up in suits and ties to read scripts over a radio microphone.

I think it is time to take back this level of earnestness and style. To re-assert the right of everyone to be elegant. Therefore:

a. Henceforth this column will be written while fully  the author is fully dressed. No more old green bathrobe and slippers. No more typing while wearing nothing but a wet towel. Or less.

b. No more buzz phrases – or at least none that are currently in use on Facetwit or that other slightly profane site; Instadamn.

c. All words will be correctly spelled and supplied in correct grammatical form. And the correct spelling may not be what the biased Spell Checker at the top of the WordPress menu would have it. I have been watching this suspect program and seen several howlers pass its scrutiny. It may be time to finally decide whether British English or American English is to prevail…though the Canadian compromise might be adopted for the sake of convenience. Whichever one is chosen, there will be protests from the grammatically arrogant.

d. Colourful local words and phrases like ” Crikey ” and ” Stone the crows ” will be permitted but must be put in the mouths of colourful locals. Direct quotes only, preferably from a scaffold.

e. I have no objection to foreign words creeping in as long as they then creep out again.

f. No-one would expect to have a brain surgeon or waist gunner perform their special tasks while eating a Subway  tuna-fish sandwich. Likewise the readers do not want their literature bedaubed with taco sauce or biscuit crumbs. Henceforth the desk will be cleared of plates while the column is being typed. This will have the added benefit of not requiring a new keyboard after Spaghetti Night.

g. I shall occasionally introduce a new word or phrase to cover a particular point of communication and then repeat it enough times over different platfoms to set it in the public mind. Most of this will be done in a spirit of jollity and kindness, with the appropriate amount of savagery. This process of forcing language upon the unwilling shall be known as motting the rubes.

I do not expect them to be grateful, but I shall be satisfied when they start doing it to each other.

Ask Me A Question In My Own Language

I spoke with a friend recently, who mentioned a consultation he’d seen when a professional assessed a patient but failed to establish a rapport with any of the questions they asked. Fortunately my friend realised that none of the questions meant anything to the patient – that the person had an entirely different set of interests and experiences than those of the professional.

So my friend supplied some of the clues and the session started again, and the professional was able to carry on a meaningful conversation at last. It was as if they had been speaking two foreign languages with no translation possible.

How often have I done this myself? Asked questions with technical terms and met a blank stare? Or worse – met hostility as the person I was talking to became angry at the barrier they thought I was putting up. The result would have been dissatisfaction on both sides and my opinion of the other person would have been wrong.

So – the challenge for me is to communicate effectively by finding out what language the other person speaks. And I have to be prepared to learn it myself to make the thing work. It’ll be a complex task in some instances as I’ll have to imagine links I might not have thought of before – but then I’ll be learning as well.

The N Word

Students of modern society and manners know that one never uses the N word.

Likewise, one apparently never uses the K word in South Africa without risking a jail sentence. There may be other things that are also risky there, but you would need to depend upon other people’s first-hand knowledge to list them. Best ask a South African.

Are there other restrictions upon the alphabet? Well, a different K word would probably draw ire in New York and fire in Tel Aviv. The B word in Prague and the G word in Pyongyang as well. And there is probably a list of other letters banned from the lexicon all over the place. Languages that depend upon letters other than the standard Roman ones may have banned their own symbols as well.

Yet…you can seemingly get away with it when you are associated with the motion picture industry. I walked down the hallway of our local picture palace and noted a poster advertising a new movie coming  – the title consisting solely of a G word. This might sell it to a less sophisticated audience and, of course, here in Australia this G word does not trigger off the interest that it would in the USA. But it is a dangerous thing to do, if you want to promote something…there are other G words that can be brought into play in the American border states that work quite in reverse.

Probably too late for this movie, but future Hollywood executives might want to consider not using pejoratives as their main calling card.

Pense-ing About…

It makes a difference whether you do it in France or Soho. You’ll be elected a fellow of the Academie in one instance and arrested on suspicion in the other. Neither is considered much of an honour.

This illustrates the problem we have in modern society – so many of the languages that we use are derived from other ones that we do not. Cross-overs, appropriations, intrusions, and slang all combine to muddy the pure streams of communication. And despite the efforts of  academic societies and their government stooges, the mixture is just going to get worse. As people migrate they haul languages with them.

Pensez – ” to think ” in French – has given a name to a small government stipend called the pension. In its turn, this has become the name for dingy hotels that people receiving the money inhabit. They are dingy because they are cheap – that government money does not go far. The end result of it all is that the inhabitants are reduced to thinking how they would like to have more money so that they could move away and not have to think any more.

There is a deal of thinking going on at the government offices, too. Some of the workers think about how they can stop giving out the stipend, and some think about how long they will have to stay at the counter dealing with angry citizens – in short, how long until they can get a pension and go and think for themselves. It is complex and disturbing,

In contrast, the Soho ponce just hangs around street corners and bars soliciting vice and corruption. Their only worry is when the pubs will open and whether the cops are watching. It is a much more settled and comfortable existence and I should recommend it to all.

Note: I have been informed that if I spell pense with a ‘c’ and a capital ‘P’ I will be put under official scrutiny by the FBI. Okay. Anything to get readers…

 

Phrases We Never Really Want To Hear

” Instead of toilet paper…”

” Not until you use the old one up completely…”

” Had a lot of trouble with that model…”

” I didn’t use an undercoat…”

” It normally has sauce…”

” Special colour not available in your state…”

” Pre-zip design…”

” I’ve got this rash…”

” It’s a blue envelope with a government postmark…”

” Good Evening, Driver…”

” Hello, hello, hello. What have we here…? ”

” That’s odd…”

” It’s an old map…”

” You may want to sit down…”

” Hey, Mate, gotta…?”

” Did you not receive our letter? ”

” What is your full name? ”