Monday, June 30, 2008


Blogger ‘
Gigglewick’ has discovered that it’s no longer In/Hip/Trendy/Cool to refer to other human beings as ‘dudes’ any more.

I’m relieved, actually. A few months back, Sapphire was playing with a few of her friends after school in the playground. They love to linger in the grounds then because the bigger kids have escaped and they are free to enjoy the equipment, run around screaming and giggling and just have heaps of fun without looking nervously over their shoulders for an older child mocking them for being ‘babyish’.

As the bored and rather cold parent perched on a sticky, windswept bench seat on the edge, it was time for me to go home. “Come on dudes, let’s go home.”

They froze in their tracks, with expressions ranging from disbelief, shock and disappointment on their faces.

“What.... did..... you..... say....?” Sapphire whispered fiercely.
“Er ‘dudes’. As in the group of you. It’s time to go home.” My voice sounded weak and shrill even to my ears.

“Mum,” Sapphire approached, rolling her eyes and preparing herself for one of her usual ‘Why can’t you be sensible like the other Mums around here’ kind of lectures.

“Mum we are girls, we are not dudes. Dudes are boys, or blokes. Or even guys, fellas, men or lads. We however...” she glanced at her nodding friends, who had also edged in closer, “..are NOT...” her lip curled in distaste, ".....dudes....”

Instead, what Sapphire appreciates are the words I use that are really old fashioned. Most of these are from my grandparents and are so quaint and unusual for kids that they actually stop, listen and admire.

When I was blissfully growing up in Murray Bridge in the 1970s and mid 1980s, I never once heard my mother swear. Lord knows she had many reasons to, mostly due to us three kids. Our hobbies tended to be whining, teasing and fighting each other.

If it wasn't for my brothers, I would not have known how to defend myself from school-yard bullies with well-placed and timely henpecks, dead legs and chinese burns. At home, we regularly flung ourselves furiously at each other: so often that Mum would continue chopping at the vegetables, saying vaguely into the ether, "You should stop that, or somebody might get hurt...."

Her strict methodist upbringing continued to work its magic on her and she avoided the easy temptation to let us know just what dreadful little sh**s we really were.

It is only now, being a mother of just one child myself, that I can truly admire her self control. On one fine Saturday after the end of the movie matinee on the telly, David decided that hammering the brick and cement water tank-stand wasn't fulfilling enough and proceeded to smash through the glass in our front door. He may have been small for his age and prone to regular asthma attacks that rendered him allergic to housework and chores, but boy did he run fast when Mum flew out of the house armed with a wooden spoon. Round and round the silver birch tree they went, Dave's eyes nearly popping out of their little sockets with terror and Mum getting angrier and angrier and struggling to keep yelling and hold her breath.

What expletives was she uttering during this burst of free exercise?

"Come here you....B-L-E-S-S-E-D LITTLE CHILD" over and over.

For many years, I thought 'blessed' was akin to Bloody F***ing Satan Spawn until I finally paid attention in Sunday School and realised it was something that Jesus - and our Minister - used in a nice way.

Like farting in the car on long trips and blaming them on whichever one of us kids was sleeping at the time, my mother had ways of saying very naughty things without ever uttering anything that was officially a curse word. "Ooooh Bunnies" was another frequently used word, normally when she had to unpick some sewing or her little cakes didn't turn out.

Following her example, I adopted the word, "Bucko", from Richie Cunningham in 'Happy Days', saying stuff to Robert like, "If you don't stop bragging, Bucko, I'm going to hit you over the head with the Monopoly bank." For some reason, Mum took exception to this, and rushed over to scold me. The act of thwacking Rob over the scone with a hard plastic container that left him crying and paper money fluttering all around the room didn't seem to bother her.

Even our toilet training and subsequent referrals to the subject of ablutions were kept pristine, language wise, if also rather peculiar. My folks swear (boom boom) that these were the words invented by Robert when he was not quite two, and were then used by the family from then on to avoid the very disgusting Wee and Poo words. Are you ready for them - Wettings for wees and Dirties for poos. There are times when I regress and have accidentally said them out loud to my own daughter.

If any of us children ever swore, we showed no loyalty to each other at all, instead rushing to dob to Mum. Until the age of six, the worst swear word in the world that my sheltered little mind could summon up was Stink Pot. I used to lie under my stripey bedsheets and utter it out loud to myself like a mantra, feeling thrillingly sinful.

In desperation, we often resorted to giggling over the potential sounds of innocent words as curses. Orange pith was the source of a great deal of cheap merriment for me. "Hey Dave, can you take the pith off," knowing that he had no real reason to get me into trouble. "Why don't you go jump off the poop deck," another favourite. The delicious word, 'buttocks' was a delight - it was very early abbreviated to "Shift your tocks, turkey."

Mum was still easy to run a few not-so-polite phrases over due to her own ignorance. It was only when she announced that "These broad peans taste poxy" in front of Dad that she realised it was not particularly wise to incorporate her children's words as her own.
You see Dad was a high school teacher and there was no buzzword or disrespectful saying that he wasn't already aware of. There were no Shut Ups, Hells, Damns or even a Rack Off. I guess he'd heard enough of that crap (see what I did there?) all day at school and didn't need the 'aural pollution' (his words) at home.

There was one phrase that, in hindsight, was pretty rude, but was allowed to used with gay abandon in our home. My grandmother, a very strict Methodist, non-drinking, church stalwart and always-refined lady, used to say, "Stop fiddle arseing around and get back to work..." Fiddle Arseing? How can that be better than Bugger Off, Bum or Stink Pot?

It remains a mystery to this day. I'm relieved to advise you that my folks have relaxed their language standards a great deal. Sometimes disturbingly so. It still takes quite some getting used to when I hear my mum say indignantly, "That driver is right up my bloody arse," when she's behind the wheel of her commodore, battling the huge 3 car traffic jam down the main street of Victor Harbor. The profanity just doesn't go with the coral red lippy, matching string of beads, silk shirt and rockport loafers.

Perhaps that's a good thing: that at the age of 67 she's capable of shocking her daughter instead of the other way 'round.


franzy said...

Jeez - I still remember getting in massive MASSIVE trouble when I was in reception (just turned five) for making crosswords on the school computer that consisted mostly of the words "shit" and "fuck" and many variations in between.
I guess I never learned my lesson when me and a mate got in about the same depth of shit for sitting on the kindy jungle gym and singing a song to everyone who walked by called "Bloody Fuckin' Idiot". I think you can guess the words ...

What a little shit.

And, I'm sorry Kath, Giggle, it was never trendy. Nor Hip, nor In, nor Cool.
Which is what makes it cool.
Confused? Observe this script from a Simpsons episode and feel the enlightenment:

Homer: So, I realized that being with my family is more important than being cool.
Bart: Dad, what you just said was powerfully uncool.
Homer: You know what the song says: "It's hip to be square".
Lisa: That song is so lame.
Homer: So lame that it's... cool?
Bart+Lisa: No.
Marge: Am I cool, kids?
Bart+Lisa: No.
Marge: Good. I'm glad. And that's what makes me cool, not caring, right?
Bart+Lisa: No.
Marge: Well, how the hell do you be cool? I feel like we've tried everything here.
Homer: Wait, Marge. Maybe if you're truly cool, you don't need to be told you're cool.
Bart: Well, sure you do.
Lisa: How else would you know?

gigglewick said...

It's okay Franzy, I know. What terrifies me though Kath is the notion that I may choose something else even more mortifying. "Cobber", for example.

But I have some strange form of tourettes where I add it to almost every story I tell about a conversation....


" I said "Dude, shut the hell up"

to which whoever I am talking to says:

"yes, but you didn't really say "Dude" to the CEO, did you?"

unless I can get out the phrase

"Well, I didn't actually say Dude"

before they have a chance.

It's become the source of much mirth for my friends.

That and the way I paraphrased a conversation had between my uncle and grandfather in 1968 in which my grandfather (according to my telling of the story) used the word "awesome". Which let's face it is a fiction of a highly dubious nature.

River said...

Fiddle-arseing seems to have been a Murray Bridge only statement. I never heard it before I moved there to live with Mum,then I heard it constantly from her for the next three years. after I married and moved away I didn't hear it again until just recently when I heard myself saying it.

JahTeh said...

I taught my mother to say F**k and she had to admit it was a very satisfying word to shout when things went really wrong. My father will probably lock the pearly gates against me for doing it.

Rosanna said...

Wow - your mums profanity is brilliant. What a hoot.

As for the word dude - I don't think it was ever really that cool, unless it was so painfully uncool that it became cool.

The scale of coolness is so fickle.

Kath Lockett said...

Oh Franzy and to think that you're now a writer after such a poor start!

As to the rest of you, OK, I *never* said I was cool, but 'dude' did slip in. Should I have used 'bro' instead, as in "Don't taser me bro" ??

River - Fiddle-arsing (the word folks, not the deed itself) may have spread to Murray Bridge via my Mum and Grandma, who originated from the wilds of Croydon.

Jahteh and Rosanna - yeah, it's great fun encouraging your Mum to let rip with a few pearlers, isn't it!?

myninjacockle said...

'Dude' makes me think of the heavily stoned Peter Fonda trying to explain the term to a farmer in Easy Rider.
'Dude, like dude ranch?'
'No, like cool person.'

Or words to that effect.

Also the Scatterbrain song 'Don't Call me Dude' from 1990. It was awesome.

I call the Noodle 'cobber' all the time - how can that word not become cool again?


Homo J. Sapien said...

While there is a theory that "Dude" means "Camel's penis", I've been known to use it to address a gaggle of young men. But it is a male word I suppose.

But what are the colloquial female alternatives? The collective nouns for men are: blokes, fella's, guys, mates, cobbers, etc. How do you informally address a bunch of...... ladies? "Ladies?" (OK if your trying to charm your mother-in-law's friends, but generally sounds a bit sleazy. "Girls" (too pre-pubescent) "Women?" (depends who/how old they are) "Lasses?" (too condescending). "Sheilas" (do I really want to die right now?) While some might seem ok, it doesn't feel right to say to my beloved and her friends as I warm up the car, "C'mon women!"

It just seems to me that there is no collective noun for... females suitable for everyday use... that everyone is happy with. Any workable suggestions will be paid in cash!

But go the "Dude" and the "Cobber", etc. They were never meant to be cool/hip/trendy/whatever. They are just lingual oddities that make our language more interesting.

Anonymous said...

it doesn't feel right to say to my beloved and her friends as I warm up the car, "C'mon women!"

You could try "Forward the sisterhood!", as long as you can duck fast straight after.


Spicy Bug said...

My mother has never uttered a cuss word in her entire life, all of her daughters lets them rip like truckers!! I have never cared much if I was cool or not. Didn't care if my kids thought I was cool. I didn't want to be cool...only obeyed and at times feared. They have told me as grown men, that they felt they had the coolest mom. I guess being able to throw a shoe around a corner and still hit your target in the head is considered pretty cool!! HAHAHA

eleanor bloom said...

I feel that 'dude' is uncool and therefore cool. But I doubt anyone cares... (if they're cool at least).

I can see that your dad was as creative in such areas due to 'poly-cretinous, mono-synaptic half-wit'.
And creativity is way cool dude! Like totally!!!!

Kath Lockett said...

Did any of you Aussies see 'The Gruen Transfer' last night? There was an advertisment for that week's unsellable topic - Child Labor - and one of the ads featured a child phoning the other and saying 'Dude' over and over again....

Feel your pain, HomoJ. As as uterus owner myself, I've still never been sure what to call a gaggle of gals, so that's why I stuck with 'guys' or 'dudes' or even 'girlies' but only if I added enough 'fun' emphasis for them to realise that it was all in jest. A tough one. A future blog topic perhaps?

eleanor bloom said...

Yeah, I saw that on Gruen last night... and thought of you!

And me...

And concluded that 'uncool' adults had obviously scripted it...