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Catch Me a Ranga and Other Great Aussie Slang

I love the way language and slang is a constantly evolving art form. When we first came to Sydney in 1991, the two bits of language that took my fancy, though they both now seem to have fallen out of common usage, were “Buckley’s” meaning “no chance,” short for “You’ve two chances, Buckley’s or none,” and a “Furphy” which is a nonsense story or rumor.

When we moved to New York, I was puzzled by what a “click” could be, in the sense of “those girls, they’re a real click” until I realized we were talking the same language but with a completely different spin on the pronunciation front, and from then on my “clique” = your “click.” “Schlep” was another New York word that I added to my vocabulary with glee, somehow “It’s a schlep across town” sounds more glamorous than “It’s a trek,” though in an example of how words rotate through age groups, “trek” is now a completely overused word in Drama Queen No.1’s fifteen-year-old vocabulary with any journey involving her feet and a distance of more than one hundred meters being labeled “a complete trek” and immediate vehicular assistance demanded.

My current favorite bit of Aussie slang is “Ranga.” I think it combines all the attributes of great slang: it rolls off the tongue, it’s irreverent, and as soon as you hear it in context, “See that girl over there, the Ranga,” you immediately know what it means. Two of my brothers are Rangas, and I always hoped one of my children would be, but to no avail, they are all blonds with nary a red tinge amongst them. (Hopefully I’ve given any linguistically challenged readers a big clue as to what a Ranga is.) I’m not sure where the term started but it gained extra prominence when Chris Lilley, an Australian comedian, used it in Summer Heights High. (If you are ever looking for a very funny, very non-P.C. view of high school, this is one for you.)

I am having a complete, not to mention very expensive, week of medical appointments. Having started with the orthodontist, we have now graduated to the vet. On Sunday, the dog hurled himself off a stone wall onto the beach with such enthusiasm that he ripped a dew claw. As part of the trip to the vet to have it removed, we also discovered that he has a major ear infection. Step forward, negligent owner of the year. As with the Drama Queens, in this situation of obvious neglect, my stock defense is a bleated “well he/she looked okay to me.” I am wondering at this point whether there is a label for parents/dog owners like me. Perhaps the opposite of a hovering helicopter parent, more of a submarine disappearing into the depths, oblivious to my children spluttering in the shallows.

The dog has been placed on the canine equivalent of bed rest for the week, which means sedate walks on the lead. Bouncing off the walls as a description does not do credit to the resulting surges of energy and he has been amusing himself doing four-legged handsprings around the room. Just as well Husband is in Europe. Otherwise I’d say the black, furry ping-pong ball had Buckley’s chance of making it into next week. 

As for me, it’s Friday evening, and we’ve survived the week complete with orthodontist, vet, and a school project where I was co-opted as a mobile clamp. I’m off for a bath, partly to wash off the glue and wooden splinters from the tech-design house of the future. Mental note: if DQ No. 2 becomes an architect, I must check if overreliance on Blu-Tak as construction material of last resort has serious implications for building stability. The good news is that I’m shutting down the hatches and moving back into the accustomed maternal submarine mode.

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