Australia Day Musings

Welcome back dear readers to a new year and a new school term. With Australia Day looming this weekend, I thought that you might enjoy a light read over the long weekend.

You occasionally hear science being referred to as a verb.  Science is certainly a “doing word” and the term “science” applies way beyond the notion of the laboratory or traditional disciplines of physics, chemistry and biology.

Science is now referenced in gastronomy, where chemical reactions known as “cooking” can transform raw materials into taste sensations or works of art.

Science has also been applied to commerce, whereby trends and patterns in the market may be determined by the colours of product packaging or advertising jingles and slogans rather than that products performance.

To celebrate Australia Day, I would like to tip my slouch hat to Etymology – the science of our evolving language. Etymology investigates where our words come from. Here are a few “Australianisms” and their possible origins:

The word Cobber has apparently been used since the earliest colonial settlement of Australia. The Australian National Dictionary suggests the British dialectal word cob, ‘to take a liking to’ as a probable origin of cobber, referring to a friend. Others suggestions include the Yiddish khaber meaning ‘comrade’ or an Irish word, cabaire (pronounced cobbereh) is a mildly derogatory term for a ‘chatterbox’.

Australia's finest invention?

Australia’s finest invention?

Love it or hate it, Vegemite was invented by demand, as a response to post-WW1 disruptions to the importation of British product, Marmite. Food technologist Cyril Callister developed a spread from used yeast, (otherwise dumped by breweries), combined with celery and onion extracts. It’s been marketed as health-giving (one of the richest sources of vitamin B) and has been patriotic ever since.


In an era of WTF, OMG and the rediscovery of “crikey”, the exclamation “streuth” from “god’s truth” is recommended as the word to bring to the global community.  It even has its own Facebook page.

An iconic Lamington

An iconic Lamington

Since we are apparently fighting over the provenance of Pavlova with the Kiwis, let’s sing the praises of the Lamington.  According to reports, the chef of the late 1800s Governor of Qld concocted the treat from leftover sponge cake. Coconut was relatively unknown to the European cuisine of the colony, but the French chef’s wife was from Tahiti (a French colony) where this ingredient was familiar. Lady Lamington’s guests were impressed and asked for the recipe of this hastily invented treat. Ironically, it is believed that the Governor, Lord Lamington hated the dessert that had been named in his honour, referring to them as “those bloody, poofy, woolly biscuits”.

To play with language further, I might now pay a tribute to an Australian icon – and ponder some “Entomology Etymology”.

The Blowie or Blowfly gets its common name from the expression “fly blown” – when something is contaminated by fly eggs.

This immediately suggests the irritation and health implications of sharing our lives with these insects.  So where in our lives could the blowie possibly be of use?

One answer is in the courts. Evidence of the habits and lifecycles of the Blow Flies are considered to be a valuable forensic indicator.

So in conclusion I think the “Aussie salute” should be raised to all that makes this great nation as united by its diversity.

About Maryanne Venables

Maryanne is an experienced Learning Officer at Queensland Museum. She has worked in various roles from exhibition design and construction to education.
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1 Response to Australia Day Musings

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