Miriam Margolyes and slang

books- aussie slang- writing

Last week on the Australian ABC program Q&A, the character actress, and voice artist Miriam Margolyes said she thought that the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, was a “tit”.

You can watch the episode here

A “tit” in the British slang vernacular means an idiot or fool.

I don’t know how this word came about or how many Australians actually understood what she meant, as the word in that context is not used in Australia. But the audience laughed and laughed. I assume they were laughing at the word tit as we know it, which is usually used to refer to a female breast. Or possibly a bird. But most likely the former. Certain the colloquial expressions used for body parts get lots of laughs in Australia.

But certainly, the audience laughed because it was degrading him. That’s what most of us do most of the time: I’m no exception. Walk the streets of any city and listen to people’s conversations; usually, they are complaining about another human being, and frequently in a degrading manner. But from what I can see of the Prime Minister of Australia, he deserves everything he gets.

But, how does language cross nations and boundaries like slang? This type of language does that so well because it’s an effective, understood communication. If there was ever a universal language of the masses, no matter how the translations follow, slang is what many people really understand. As its common connections, communicate so well.

Aussie and British slang are obviously closely linked. But not in the case on Q&A a few nights back. That term is never used in Australia by Australians to mean what she meant it to mean. Especially by new Australians. I am sure many would have been confused if it was not for the laughter.

Most slang or popular slang is understood quicker and clearer than most other words or phrases. While language in Australia and in all countries is changing, Australia is quite unique in the world of slang. So much so Australia’s dictionary, the Macquarie, even have an Aussie Slang version. Find it here

Miriam Margolyes is a very interesting and unique character. When she says something, you know exactly what she means. Unlike the politicians who were with her that night on Q&A. One seemed to think that his smarmy, self-congratulatory epigrams were of interest to the whole world. Certainly, he found his own over-blown quips amusing. Fortunately, the moderator cut him off several times, so we didn’t have to endure his meaningless statements.

But what was obvious and interesting about the difference between the people on the panel that night, is everyone understood what Margolyes was saying. Because she speaks clearly and honestly.

Everyone needs to speak clearly and honestly, but I don’t suggest you use slang in your business reports, but if you are an author, blogger or writer, you’ll find many occasions where slang will produce a quicker and more accurate description of what you are trying to say. But don’t use so much slang you need a glossary in your book. Keep it in context and make it obvious.

So for all you tourists, you can catch up your Aussie Slang here, with our own dictionary app from Macquarie Dictionary.

I’m off to lunch now; I think I’ll have a meat pie with tomato sauce. Or as some Aussies would say, a dog’s eye and dead horse. 

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