motorcycles, travel, friendship, respect… I may drift off into WTF-land at times so hang in there.

The Bush Poet.


I forget sometimes that many of you aren’t from ’round these ‘ere parts, and the Australian vernacular can be totally lost on you.

We do speak English in Australia, really we do.

Language Charge For New Borns

Sometimes though, you’d be left wondering if you’re not familiar with the local lingo.

I usually try to put bullet points at the end of each post to clarify these idiosyncrasies, especially if I think there’s some word or phrase that might not be known or understood in your part of the world.

Take for example the name of this fine land: Australia.

You’d pronounce it Oz-Trail-Ya. Right?

The only time you’ll hear it pronounced that way is on the news, in some legalese speak, or if you are older than say, fifty. Anyone younger than that would pronounce it ‘Straya.

As in:

Q: Where are you from?

A: ‘Straya, mate.

… I digress.

Last week I wrote about an old Blacksmith Shop in a nearby hysterical village I visit periodically. In that post I mentioned buskers and bush poets. It didn’t dawn on me at the time that some of you may not be familiar with these terms until TheRider asked about them in a comment he left.

The first one, buskers, is easy to define:

A busker is a street performer, usually paid by way of donation by passers-by. They’re often found in local markets, touristy spots or on city street corners plying their trade. Some can be very, very good. Others… well, lets just say they could use a little practice.

The most common type of busker plays a musical instrument, sometimes they accompany this with a song. Others are jugglers, magicians or the like.

There are so many variations of street performance, I couldn’t list them all here. I’m sure that most countries have similar entertainers, perhaps know by other names.

The second, the bush poet, is as far as I know, uniquely Australian.

Bush poetry is more like a rhyming story than poetry.

It was a popular way of spinning a yarm… er I mean telling a story during the Australian colonial era, but came into its own in 1800’s when The Bulletin, a political and business magazine, published literary content which promoted Australian culture and the bush as a source of national ideals.

Left: Andrew Barton

Left: Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson (1864–1941) | Right: Henry Archibald Hertzberg Lawson (1867-1922) Courtesy Wikipedia

Two of the best known bush poets of that era were A.B. “Banjo” Paterson and Henry Lawson.

Both of these men have been honoured in many ways. Banjo Paterson for example was awarded The Order of the British Empire – Commander (Civil) and has appeared on an Australian postage stamp (1981) and the Australian $10 note (1993).

Henry Lawson had similar honours, appearing on a postage stamp (1949) and the first Australian $10 note (1966) after we went from pounds shillings and pence to decimal currency.

Henry Lawson was also the first person to be granted a New South Wales state funeral on the grounds of having been a ‘distinguished citizen’. State funerals were traditionally reserved for Governors, Chief Justices, etc.

Like all bush poets of the day, they used colourful language to describe the development of Australia and it’s identity; most Australians would know at least one of their poems or stories.

My personal favourite is “The Man From Snowy River” by Banjo Paterson. It’s the quintessential Aussie bush tale, the YouTube clip below is a reading of that tale by Frankie J Holden and is set to the sound track and visuals of the Australian movie of the same name.

The clip runs for around 10 minutes but is well worth your time.

Modern day bush poets continue the legacy set by Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson, with stories ranging from the thought-provoking, to tales of courage and even tales of Aussie larrikin-ism.

Like the next 4 minute 50 effort by Bill Kearns entitled “Entrapment”.

I’ll leave you with Murray Hartin and his poem “Colours”. I reckon it sums up Australia pretty well.


Motorcycle content: Only 126 days before Bluey takes The Pillion and I on our 7 week motorcycling holiday south… but who’s counting?

The Cup: The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s major thoroughbred horse race. Marketed as “the race that stops a nation”, it is a 3,200 metre race for three-year-olds and over. It is the richest “two-mile” handicap in the world, and one of the richest turf races.

Larrikin: A mischievous young person, an uncultivated, rowdy but good-hearted person”, or “a person who acts with apparent disregard for social or political conventions.

Thongs: Flip-flops (also called, jandals, pluggers, go-aheads, slaps, slides, step-ins) are a type of open-toed sandal typically worn in casual situations.

Esky: A portable insulated container for keeping food or drink cool

Rainbow Land: A reference to the Australian Outback.


8 responses

  1. Luckily I know some of these terms from growing up in British Columbia. When we moved to Oregon in 2001people would look at us odd with some things we’d say or terms we’d use.

    Of course they still look at us odd sometimes………

    The Man from Snowy River just takes me back to school and learning of it in English class.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 14, 2015 at 2:17 AM

    • A friend told me of a resaurant he visited in Anahiem about 30 years ago.

      The waitress called a few of her colleagues over to his table just to listen to him say ‘water’.

      We say worter (as in sort) the Americans tend to say Whatter (as in what).

      Thanks for stopping by


      October 18, 2015 at 9:24 AM

  2. She’s a cracker post this week China. I’m interested in language & accents. I reckon Strayan is a corker. P.S chock a block cracked me up. Haven’t heard that phrase in ages.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 14, 2015 at 10:11 AM

    • The young ‘un are missing out on so much eh?

      I put on a movie the other day “Smiley” starring Chips Raffery. My kids asked what country he was from becauae they couldn’t understand the broad Aussie accent from the ’50’s

      Liked by 1 person

      October 18, 2015 at 9:19 AM

  3. A mighty entertaining post, Ghost: I enjoyed every bit of it, including the videos, start to finish.

    The Man from Snowy River film made it to the states, and though I was a bit young at the time to really appreciate the story, the movie became a favorite of my brother and my dad, especially that riding down the mountainside scene. I’ve no idea how many times we rented that cassette from the video store (“video cassette”—there’s something that might require explaining to younger readers).

    Here in the western and southwestern US, we have cowboy poets. They show up at county fairs and mountain man rendezvous’ and heritage parks and the like. Their tales can be historical or nostalgic or humorous or all of the above: so similar to those of the bush poets in the videos—in subject matter and delivery—that the only really distinguishing characteristic is accent (well, accent and vernacular). It makes me wonder if bush poets inspired cowboy poets or vice versa, or if it’s just the greater storytelling phenomenon—that it’s simply human nature to share tales (hence, blogging?).

    Hey, Trobairitz, do y’all have cowboy poets in Oregon?

    Liked by 1 person

    October 14, 2015 at 3:01 PM

    • I think its a story telling thing. The Aborigines often tell tales of thier dream time through stories and dance, I’ve always had an interest jn their culture. Close to the land and nature and such.
      It proves to me that, as the human race, we are not so different. We’re all pink in the middle.

      Liked by 1 person

      October 18, 2015 at 9:16 AM

  4. Now here’s a coincidence…I’d never heard of Australian Bush Poetry before this past Tuesday evening. I went to a “Storytelling Circle” and there happened to be a young lady there who was originally from here but had lived in Australia for the past seven years or so. She gave a great rendition of a poem about “Clancy of the Overflow”. It’s an interesting culture you folks have!

    As for local lingo…I try very hard to make my blog posts readable for the average English speaker. But most people from outside Newfoundland would have a very hard time trying to understand me if we met face to face. Hundreds of years of isolation will create bizarre dialects 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    October 18, 2015 at 6:52 AM

    • Ah yes Clancy by Banjo Paterson that’s another one of my favorites. Tell you one more that will give you a giggle. The Loaded Dog by Henry Lawson

      Australia has lost a lot of its lingo with the passing of time, I think this is because the world is a smaller place and every nation takes something from their neighbour. Thanks for commenting


      October 18, 2015 at 9:08 AM

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