Quantcast

«

»

Sep 06 2012

A throwaway piece of old fashioned Australian slang

An unpleasant man, who is the Executive Director of The Sydney Institute, a conservative think tank, talks some drearily familiar unpleasant crap about Jane Caro and sexist epithets and destroying the joint.

Who would have thought that a throwaway piece of old fashioned Australian slang  could, within a few days, become a matter of international interest?  But that’s  the modern world of instant communications , home to the ”IIA” syndrome.   Meaning ”insult, indignation, apology” in that order.

And?

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If the “throwaway piece of old fashioned slang” (of whatever nationality) is a sexist or racist or homophobic epithet, it’s not automatically a bad thing if someone kicks up a fuss about it and attention is paid and there is discussion of the idea that epithets of that kind are bad and harmful. Lots of things used to be a “throwaway piece of old fashioned slang” and are now labels that non-brutal people don’t use.

When walking my dog Nancy early Sunday evening, I turned on to BBC Radio’s  World Today Weekend program. Feminist Jane Caro was banging on from Sydney about  just how sexist Aussie blokes really are.

Caro soon downloaded how 2GB  presenter Alan Jones had recently declared:  ”Women are destroying the joint.” The reference was to the former Victorian  police commissioner Christine Nixon and the Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore.   Then Caro commented how one-time Liberal Party operative Grahame Morris had  called 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales a ”cow”, after her interview with  Tony Abbott.

Shocking, when you think about it.  But not if you think for long.  For  starters, leftists such as Caro are invariably telling us that Jones is a mere  shock-jock. Shock-jocks attempt to shock.  That’s what they do.  As to Morris,  well he was born in country NSW. Calling a person a cow in such abodes is so  common that the word gets an entry in G.A. Wilkes’s A Dictionary of  Australian  Colloquialisms.

And? “Bitch” is extremely common in the US, too, but that doesn’t make it benign. It’s not benign.

A sense of perspective might help. In the meantime, Morris should be counselled  against using 19th century colloquialisms in these oh-so-sensitive-times.  And  Sales should desist from getting offended about not very much at all.  At least it would free up the BBC for some real news from the antipodes.

Unpleasant.

22 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Stephanie Zvan

    Interesting that this unpleasant man, whose name I didn’t retain long enough to include it in this comment, goes on to include information on where “cow” is used as slang but not how. It seems to me it would be important to know what the word is used to mean if you want to say it’s harmless. I wonder whether anyone here has a copy of the book at hand and can check.

  2. 2
    davidmc

    Cow, is pretty common in the UK, usually preceeded by fat, stupid, lazy, dozy, daft. It’s not a term of endearment, and its never complimentary, and its always applied to women. It’s not a word I ever used much, even before Ophelia taught me the error of my ways, with the other “c” word.

  3. 3
    Catwhisperer

    I’m guessing it’s not slang for “remarkably intelligent woman”.

    And as someone from the old South Wales, my preferred throwaway piece of old fashioned slang for someone like this guy would be “arsehole”.

  4. 4
    davidmc

    “arsehole”
    Also popular in the UK, and has become my favourite non gender specific replacement expletive to accompany David Camerons appearance on the telly.

  5. 5
    SAWells

    @4: to be fair, arseholes do in fact serve a vital function. Cameron, not so much.

  6. 6
    Ian MacDougall

    @ #1: “Interesting that this unpleasant man, whose name I didn’t retain long enough to include it in this comment…”

    Gerard Henderson, of variable pleasance, hails from the Catholic right of Australian politics, as does his current hero Tony Abbott, leader of the federal opposition. Henderson was formerly personal secretary to BA Santamaria, the Svengali of Australian politics; a grey eminence who made it his business to organise a Catholic-based oppsition within the labour movement, whose aim was to prevent the formation of an ALP (Australian Labour Party) government. For the period 1949-72, this strategy was successful: ie for much of the period of the Cold War.

    Santamaria in turn came to political prominence in the 1930s, when he was chief cheerleader for Franco and his fascists in the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish fascists and their supporters around the world were a nasty lot indeed.

    The Catholic right’s reactionary wine has mellowed with age, but most people still find it undrinkable.

  7. 7
    Benjamin Cunningham.

    I suppose the barn is a good place to find gendered insults under the dung. Cow, pig, etc.

    I wonder if there are any more, perhaps used colloquially in other countries. I wonder if calling a woman a cow in India would be a term of endearment.

  8. 8
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    a conservative think tank

    An oxymoron. Unless the “thinking” refers to finding new ways to package old lies.

  9. 9
    bvganfematheist

    Yes, cow is used very similarly in context to bitch. Also, this guy called Leigh Sales a cow for the simple fact that she did her job well and showed our opposition leader to be the ignorant douchebag that he is.

  10. 10
    Brian

    An oxymoron. Unless the “thinking” refers to finding new ways to package old lies.
    Not according to the book ‘The reactionary mind’.

  11. 11
    Suido

    Just wait till you hear what a Australian christian lobbyist compared homosexuality to…

    http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/political-news/gay-slur-sparks-gillard-boycott-of-christian-event-20120906-25h6j.html

    For those playing at home, the answer is smoking, because being gay reduces your life expectancy. Duh.

    I’m really impressed Gillard chose to boycott their conference, I didn’t expect that.

  12. 12
    Brian

    RE: Suido:
    Well, being told by the majority that you’re a degenerate, worthless, unnatural abomination might prey on ones mind from time-to-time. Might even lead one to indulge in substances to escape a little while from the pressure and imposed guilt, might even lead one to engage in clandestine sexual encounters with associated risk increases.
    If this xtian body really cared about extending gays’ lifetime (assuming their ‘argument’ holds water), they’d maybe change their attitude to them. I guess likewise if they cared about stopping abortions, they’d have proper sex education.

    An investigation of ACL claims:
    http://www.crikey.com.au/2012/09/06/get-fact-do-gays-have-more-health-problems-than-smokers/

  13. 13
    Ysanne

    Thanks Brian for mentioning this latest piece of BS. We seems to have National Bigoted Moron Week or something…

    Anyway, why not just look at the Macquarie Dictionary, the authoritative source on what passes for English in Oz?

    Quoted from the entry for “cow”:

    4. Colloquial an ugly or bad-tempered woman.
    5. Colloquial (derogatory) any person or thing.
    6. Colloquial a person specified as objectionable (rotten cow), wretched (poor cow), foolish (silly cow), etc.
    –phrase 7. a cow of a …, Colloquial an extremely difficult, unpleasant, disagreeable …: a cow of a job.
    8. a fair cow, Colloquial anything regarded as disagreeable or difficult.

    I.e. this insult can used in a gendered way but not only and not in all contexts; it’s expressing strong negative sentiment, the negative properties it implies center around being bad-tempered and unpleasant.
    The use of the whole phrase “a bit of a cow” I hear quite frequently is as a description of a stubborn, somewhat stupid person of whatever gender who picks pointless fights and ignores others’ views/wishes, while complaining about others being all mean and selfish. I hear it mostly in rueful self-descriptions after realising that one’s treatment or accusations of someone turned out to be unfairly negative.
    “Cow” carries no judgment based on the person’s sexual habits, which makes it very different from “bitch”.

    My two cents: It’s definitively insulting and not a standard thing to call people in polite conversation or in an interview. I’m not sure whether Morris had realised how his comment could be taken as a gendered insult before he uttered it; I’m sure though that his target audience sees this angle as a bonus.

  14. 14
    Ian MacDougall

    My experience working in various dairies from time to time leads me to add the quality of unpredictability to the behaviour of any given cow. It is unwise to trust them, as they are capable of delivering quite vicious sideways kicks when in the bail, apart from splashing you with liberal quantities of manure and urine. They have also been known to turn and charge when yarded; even normally quiet ones.

    Mules became the metaphor for stubborn behaviour in the US, but not in Australia, where they found less favour as draught animals than horses and bullocks.

    Where a disagreeable and selfish man will commonly be referred to as a bastard, I have never hear this term used re a woman. A bitch can be taken IMHO as the female equivalent of a bastard, however defined. Conversely, one rarely hears a man referred to as a dog, (ie the male equivalent of ‘bitch’) which would be the case if ‘bastard’ was not available as a substitute.

  15. 15
    ibbica

    My experience working in various dairies from time to time leads me to add the quality of unpredictability to the behaviour of any given cow.

    And my similar experience would lead me to prefer ‘bull’ or ‘bullocks’ over ‘cow’ for the tough-to-handle, stubborn unpredictability that ‘cow’ is apparently supposed to imply. Interesting that ‘cow’ has become the preferred term.

    Where a disagreeable and selfish man will commonly be referred to as a bastard, I have never hear this term used re a woman. A bitch can be taken IMHO as the female equivalent of a bastard, however defined.

    You might notice that the more ‘male’ term is actually referring to the sexual habits of his mother.

  16. 16
    @blamer

    the ”IIA” syndrome. Meaning ”insult, indignation, apology” in that order

    Yeah but Ophelia in an echo-chamber apologies *are* automatically a bad thing. A newsworthy apology? Dissonance! Yuck!

    Look, #52 in their field guide for spotting the antichrist:
    http://conservapedia.com/Liberal_bias#Examples_of_Liberal_Style

    >>52. silly demands for apologies.

    Spotto! Gotcha. Bagged one. Closure. Phew. Simple really.

    Cheers,
    @b

  17. 17
    Chris

    I’m guessing that Henderson is trying to excuse ‘cow’ in this context because you can also say “I’ve had a cow of a day” or similar. The connotations of calling a woman a cow, however, are exactly the same as in the UK or other countries.

    (The two may be related – to call a thing a cow is to say that it is tough and difficult, qualities admired in men but not in women. Sales has an interviewing style no tougher than her co-host Chris Uhlmann. He is hard-hitting, she is a ‘cow’.)

    And it’s nothing to do with Morris coming from the country. There are plenty of country people who would never say that, and city people who would.

    Henderson thinks he’s clever calling double standards, but light-weight enough to think Caro is guilty of them if she doesn’t call out each and every instance of sexism. He loves a good ‘but the left do it too!’ argument.

    Unfortunately, Henderson has a lot to work with. There have been some appalling comments about Gina Rinehart which have not been called out because she is such an awful person, and Bob Ellis is a classic example of an old dinosaur from the left who thinks that feminism is a distraction from real issues (the recent debates among atheists have taken me back to the labour movement of a couple of decades ago).

    So some of the examples he gives are valid, just not as arguments against Caro, and of course he can’t tell the difference between an insult and a slur.

  18. 18
    Ian MacDougall

    @ #15 “You might notice that the more ‘male’ term is actually referring to the sexual habits of his mother.”

    You’ve lost me. Please explain?

    NB: As you would know, one can run a successful cattle operation these days (beef or dairy) without even owning a bull. They are more dangerous I grant you, but I doubt even Alan Jones, even when fully tanked up with whatever he inclines to drink, would call Leigh Sales a ‘bull’.

  19. 19
    Ian MacDougall

    2 #17: “Sales has an interviewing style no tougher than her co-host Chris Uhlmann. He is hard-hitting, she is a ‘cow’.”

    Actually, she is hard-hitting and he is a stooge for the Liberal Party .

  20. 20
    Magpie

    “Cow” can be a euphemism for “cunt”, as in “cow of a thing”. Like saying “flaming” or “flipping” for “fucking”.

  21. 21
    Outrage Zombie

    @18 — a bastard is a person born to a mother who was either unmarried, or not married to the father. So the insult is going after you by going after your mother.

  22. 22
    Buy Sell Signal

    I enjoy you because of your own hard work on this blog. My mom enjoys engaging in internet research and it is easy to see why. All of us hear all relating to the powerful mode you produce both interesting and useful things via this blog and as well as improve participation from visitors on the concept plus my child is in fact learning a great deal. Take pleasure in the remaining portion of the year. Your conducting a dazzling job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite="" class=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>