Monday, February 21, 2005

The fine art of bastardry

if you've been following my blog and you're not an Australian you've probably noticed that I use the word 'bastard' a lot. Australians, of course, don't even notice the word anymore .

To an Australian the word 'bastard' has many many more coloUrs and shades than it does for others. For instance, I call my best friend Heino a 'real bastard' and he takes it as a high compliment (as I do when he calls me a 'real bastard'). On the other hand, if I didn't think very highly of someone I might refer to him as a 'bit of a bastard'.

Once you've established the context it's not necessary to say 'real'. 'Bastard' is enough .

You'd have realised that we don't use the word in the dictionary sense. Heino's parents were definitely married well before he was concieved. As for the 'bit of a bastard', I probably don't know him well enough to know his parents marital status at the time of his birth let alone his conception.

Nope, for Australians the status of 'real bastard' means among other things (this is by no means an exhaustive list) someone with a good sense of humour, someone who can hold their drink, someone who looks after him/herself, someone who can take a joke and dish it back, someone whom you can trust with your life. A 'bit of a bastard' is someone who can't quite be trusted; someone who you really don't want to associate with.

Just remember that if an Australian calls you a bastard don't take offence. You'll have really had to have pissed him off for it to be an insult. When in doubt just assume it's a warm compliment! Better than 99% of the time you'll have made the right assumption!

Thus, to my friend Heino, I'm a 'real bastard'. In 1975 he was 14, I was 20ish :-) I sent him a telegram (via his school). It read 'ignore previous telegram - please come immediately!'. He apparently spent half the afternoon badgering the local post office for a copy of the previous telegram! There was, of course, no previous telegram .

Heino pretends to be outraged by this. The truth is it gave him the perfect excuse to escape an afternoon of school but to this day (almost 30 years later) he's vowing revenge when I least expect it. I'm still waiting .

I suspect this is getting out of date in much the same way that 'bonzer' and 'sheila' are now out of date. Heino might object but he's over 40 and i'm 50 - and I think the subtlelty of the Australian bastard is as out of date as 'bonzer' is. Sigh...

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