Saturday, August 20, 2005

The nicest four letter word I've been called

Oh to be in Australia now that Spring is here. Or rather, now that its parliament is in session because, lawks a-mercy, the papers are having a field day over the attempted banning of the word 'mate'. Not a blanket ban, but one issued in a memo to security staff, instructing them not to greet MPs and their visitors with this or any other colloquialism because of the risk of causing offence. Result? Immediate offence caused to the entire nation. Never mind all that European bloody high mindedness, like the French with their "liberty, equality, fraternity", the Aussies have founded their state on the principle of "mateship". And if the current Prime Minister had had his way, that would actually have been written into the constitution.

Check out the print and broadcast features linked below for the full story. Some interesting things to note:
  • the connections made between this small word and patriotism
  • the claims made for this word as a gender-neutral form of address
  • the political connotations of egalitarianism and the importance of this to Australians
  • the very strong sense of the importance of vernacular langauge forms
  • the debate about what constitutes politeness in language
  • the issue about the level of intimacy conveyed by the word
  • and if you were thinking of becoming a "bone-head bloke politician" there's at least one top tip in there for you!

The ban got overturned a day later but I'm still intrigued... Is this just an Aussie thing or are we all using 'mate' more now?... How do you use it?... Check it out. The third link is a transcript from a radio show - either read or listen.

The spirit of mateship takes a blow at parliament

Australian ban on mate wins few friends

'Mate' banned from parliamentary parlance

Australian slang

Australian word map


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