Lost for Words!

Winner - 2017 Dunedoo Written Poetry Award - Humorous Section

The Australian vernacular has always been rich with colourful metaphors and similes. Baby Boomers like me grew up hearing these expressions from our parents' mouths on a daily basis. Sadly in this 21st century, it seems some of the diversity of our language is being lost. This poem celebrates our spoken heritage.

Lost for Words!
© Shelley Hansen 2017

The good old Aussie lingo that we knew when we were kids
is being overtaken. Yep! I'm sure it's on the skids!
We're following a trend – but have we stopped to count the cost
when we awake to find our spoken heritage is lost?

These sayings, rich with colour, would escape my mother's mouth –
like "Don't look now, my girlie, but it's snowing way down south!"
This phrase was uttered when a slip had dropped below a skirt –
its cryptic code designed to place the wearer on alert.

"Well, look at what the cat's dragged in!" she'd say if we were late.
"You'd better throw your hat in first, before you shut the gate."
"Don't sit there like a shag upon a rock – there's work to do!"
(In those days "shags" were cormorants – not slang for something "blue"!)

"You'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar," she'd say,
"We'll see you when the weather breaks!" (when neighbours went away).
"Loose lips sink ships" would silence childish chatter with a frown.
"He shot through like a Bondi tram" (when Uncle Ted left town).

You'd have "dirt on the liver" if you grizzled, griped or whinged.
If Mum suspected gossip, she'd complain her "ears were singed".
She'd claim a bitter taste was "like the floor of cocky's cage",
and if a kid put on a turn – "He should be on the stage!"

"He's flasher than a gold tooth on a rat," she'd say in jest
if someone got the notion he was better than the rest.
In holiday apartments she'd wash everything by hand.
"Your own dirt's clean," she'd tell me when I tried to understand.

The cat would mew around her as she filleted the fish.
"No party without Punch!" she'd say – and drop some in his dish.
"You kids are like a fiddler's elbow – go outside, or sit!"
Untidy hair was said to be "a birch broom in a fit".

"He's got the life of Riley!" she'd exclaim about the dog,
recumbent in the morning sun, as lazy as a log.
She'd say that you could "ride to London" on a kitchen blade
that needed to be sharpened. "Like a bought one" meant homemade.

She'd say that "Bob's your uncle" if endeavours met success.
"The fat was in the fire" for sure if things turned out a mess!
"Like mutton dressed as lamb" was someone clad in raunchy stuff.
Full "up to dolly's wax" meant you had eaten quite enough.

My mother's speech was epic, from a time when she would wear
her Apple Blossom perfume, setting lotion in her hair.
When common sense was served with meat and veg and home-baked sweets,
and garden birds (not people) were the ones who uttered "tweets".

But now we've been besieged by "OMG" and "LOL"
and everything that's mildly good is "awesome", "sick" as well.
The "F" word soils the lips of kids as young as three or four –
in our day swearing left us tasting soap forever more!

Of course we must have progress – our vernacular must change –
but what we have replaced it with is nothing short of strange!
Vocabulary is reduced. Its meaning? For the birds!
I think of what we had, and stone the crows! I'm lost for words!

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