TT: Strine and Newzild

If you’re looking for the Wednesday Wanderings, just page back and join a discussion about dragons.  Then come back here and join Alan and me on our final safari into Terry Pratchett’s Last Continent.

JANE: All right, Alan, thus far you’ve proven that everything from drop bears

Kookaburra Sits

to cork hats to the galah has some basis in Australia as we know it.  However, I’m sure I’ve found an area where Pratchett went too far… the language.

Based on The Last Continent, it seems I’d be safe adding a diminutive to just about anything an Australian character might say.   Beer tins become “tinnies,” small bottles of beer are “stubbies,” even the Luggage becomes “Trunkie.”  In fact, it seems the more outlandishly descriptive the language, the better.

ALAN: Diminutives are definitely the order of the day in both strine (Australian English) and newzild (New Zealand English). The shorter the word, the less chance there is of a fly getting in your mouth while you are saying it. Relatives are “rellies,” vegetables are “veggies,” a barbecue is a “barbie,” a present is a “pressie” and a pavlova is a “pav.” Even the name of the country itself is abbreviated. Most people refer to it as “Oz.”

JANE: Oz…  That’s good to know.  I’d wondered if that was a local nickname or one attached by tourists.  Here, tourists who think they’re being cool and hip refer to Santa Fe as “the Fe.”  Locals smile politely and then run off to find a corner in which to let loose hysterical laughter.

ALAN: What does Santa Fe actually mean? I assume that “Santa” is “Saint,” but “Fe” has me puzzled.

JANE: Actually “Santa” can mean “holy” as well.  A saint is a holy person and “Santo” is usually shortened to “San” as in “San Francisco” or “San Felipe.”  Interestingly, the feminine “Santa” is not usually shortened, so, for example, we have “Santa Clara” pueblo.

With me so far?

ALAN: So, “Santa Fe” is a female saint?

JANE: Not quite.  The full name of the city is La Villa Real de Santa Fe de San Francisco.  (I’ve left out the accent marks.)

This translates as The Royal Town of the Holy Faith (that’s Santa Fe) of Saint Francis.  The priests who came with the founding expedition were Franciscans, so they named the city for their patron.  I don’t know why the name was shortened to “Santa Fe” rather than “San Francisco,” since Santa Fe is older than the famous California city of that name.

Oh…  And something I would have liked to know when I was a kid reading Westerns.  “Fe” is pronounced “Fey” not “Fee.”

ALAN: I’d never have thought of pronouncing it “Fee”. It’s always been “Fey” to me. How interesting that we both made different assumptions about the pronouncing it.

JANE: Returning to strine… Colorful personal names seem a very important part of Pratchett’s portrayal of “The Last Continent.”  There’s Tinhead Ned.  Rincewind finds himself transformed into “Rinso.”  So…  Do you and Robin get colorful nicknames from your Australian family or are such honors restricted to public figures?

ALAN: To an extent, yes. Again, it’s part of the use of diminutives. You might logically expect that I’d be “Ally” and Robin would be “Robby”. However, for unknown reasons, I remain just plain Alan. Robin is known as Auntie Bob to her hordes of nieces and nephews, though her father calls her Susie. Robin has many more nieces than she has nephews. To their mild embarrassment, she sometimes refers to her nephews as her boy nieces…

Amusingly, Terry (as in Pratchett), which is already a diminutive, often morphs into “Tezza,” and Kerry (who is Robin’s sister in law) is “Kezza.”

And red cattle dogs are all called Bluey, of course – both as a name and as a breed. You can’t get any more colourful than that!

JANE: Australian blue heelers are somewhat popular here, but the ones I’ve seen are blue/grey, not red.  And how did Robin become “Susie”?  Confusion yet again…

ALAN: That’s a mystery – there are no women called Susie in the family at all. Perhaps her father should have had four daughters instead of three. Then he might have actually been able to have the real Susie that he so obviously wanted…

JANE: All right, now for the grand finale.

There’s a phrase Pratchett makes the unofficial slogan of his “Last Continent” – “No Worries.”

To me, that seems an amazing philosophy for a people who have to deal with not only Australia’s barren landscape but less than happy historical beginnings.  However, somehow it seems to reflect this inside out , upside down way of seeing everything.  Is that the case?

ALAN: I have a tee shirt with “No Worries” in a speech bubble on it. The tee shirt was manufactured by The Really Serious Tee Shirt Company Of Australia. The phrase is extremely common and, along with “She’ll be right” reflects an eternally optimistic view of the future. You could probably refer to both phrases as the Antipodean motto and you wouldn’t be far wrong. It’s quite amazing how those few words sum up a national character so well. But they do.

JANE: So it applies to New Zealand as well?

ALAN: Most definitely.

JANE: Did they adopt it from Australia or is it something that comes naturally from living on the downside of the world?

ALAN: I think it’s just a natural part of living upside down all the time. The blood rushes to the head.  By the way, I have a question for you…

JANE: That’s only fair, given how I’ve been bombarding you, but let’s save it for next time.

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8 Responses to “TT: Strine and Newzild”

  1. heteromeles Says:

    You mean that ending in “ie” isn’t just to blow the flies away at the end of each word?

    As for Santa Fe, I checked Wikipedia, and found that it was originally the capital of Santa Fe de Nuevo México, which got shortened to Nuevo Mexico or New Mexico. There must be something about deserts and shortening names. Have to give the Spaniards and Mexicans credit, though, for naming a country Mexico, and one of its internal territories New Mexico. It would be sort of like naming North Dakota “New America,” then having it annexed by Canada.

    • janelindskold Says:

      Well, heteromeles, this is one of those times that I doubt whoever posted to Wikipedia.

      I consulted the book _Place Names of New Mexico_ (about which I foreshadow you will be hearing again) and among the many names the author lists for the area under the Spanish (it took them a while to make their minds up) the one Wikipedia supplies is NOT included.

      Its first name, given in 1539, was apparently “The Kingdom of Saint Francis.” Later, it was Nova Hispania. By 1563, a document referred to it as “un otro” or “Nuevo Mejico” (an other or New Mexico).

      No mention of Santa Fe until we get to the city — and, in any case, by pure translation, “the Holy Faith of New Mexico” doesn’t even make sense!

      Oh… And there were arguments that the territory’s name should be changed when it became a state, something that some of us who live here and continually need to explain that we DO live in the United States might have appreciated. (Not really, I like the history, but this lack of recognition that New Mexico is a state does happen a lot.)

  2. Peter Says:

    It’s amusing to note that our Antipodean cousins also refer to small beer bottles as “stubbies”, which I’d always considered a pure Canadianism.

    Sadly the days of the glorious stubby are long-gone, the manufacturers having moved to long-necked bottles. My father-in-law kept several cases of the old stubbies, and used them for his own homebrew for years.

  3. Julie Hagan Bloch Says:

    Am I being hopelessly archaic when I suggest that the correct wording of the last sentence in the first paragraph is “… join Alan and me…”? You wouldn’t say, “… come back here and join I on a final safari…” (well, unless you’re from certain parts of the world where that is the common structure). So why does the pronoun morph to a nominative when used with a friend?
    Please excuse this nit-picky ex-English major!
    Then again, this *is* an informal exchange, and I wouldn’t want to stifle expression of the ideas themselves by being insistent on the form they take. The gods know I’m not always careful in my writing, either! I guess you just happened on one of my few pet peeves about language usage. (Another is using “it’s” as anything other than a contraction; you wouldn’t write “hi’s” or “her’s”, so what’s so special about its?)

    On another note, I was so grateful for my having studied Spanish in school, not least because pronunciation of vowels in Spanish seems to be similar to pronunciation of vowels in so many other languages. When I am reading, for example, names, in a language other than English, I tend to go for Spanish pronunciation of the vowels, and that is usually correct. It is for Japanese and Sanskrit, but not for Chinese (Mandarin/Guoyu), just for example. And let’s be clear: it’s just for names! My reading knowledge of the aforementioned languages is next to nil!

    About “Bob” and “Robin”: it calls to mind that song, “When the red, red robin comes bob-bob-bobbin’ along…” 🙂

    Anyhow, thanks for all the cool dialogues! I very much enjoy reading them, even if I don’t always comment!

    • janelindskold Says:

      Hey, Julie…. You’re right…

      Now, what do I do? If I fix the typo, then your comment won’t make sense, and I don’t want to remove your comment. However, everyone doesn’t read the comments and then I’ll look like a nitwit!

      Shall I leave the typo there to show everyone that even the pros screw up? And then take correction meekly.

      My only excuse is that I was probably writing that before I got my coffee into me…

      Tell me what to do!

  4. Julie Hagan Bloch Says:

    Well, dang, Jane, just do whatever you jolly well feel like doing! I have a sneaky suspicion that nobody is going to lose sleep over it either way. 🙂
    And sheesh, I’ve *never* seen anything to indicate that you are a nitwit! A grammar rule more or less doesn’t change that.
    And oh, hooboy, do I ever sympathize about being B.C. (Before Coffee)!!

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