In Australia this month there is a big debate about forcing immigrants to take an English test before they can get citizenship. That’s the kind of test I should be able to pass. But they are also talking about adding in components for “Australian values.” Those in the opposition point out that the values, such as “mateship,” are not soley Australian but universal. Those who support the test point out that values extend back to the language and argue the test should evaluate the taker’s knowledge of Aussie terms and mastery of the proper accent. Some of these are familiar to Americans like “G’day” or “Good on ya,” but others are much harder to interpret and could prevent many Americans from passing the test.
My favorite of these odd terms is “How’s your bum for grubs?” In keeping with the scatological prepossession of my children, this could be interpreted in a number of ways. The proper interpretation is along the lines of “How’s it going?” or “What should we do now?” I am not sure of the origin of the term, and given our still limited Internet access, I will probably not find out for a while. Another of my favorites is “crazy as a bum full of smarties.” I have yet to obtain an interpretation for this phrase. I hate to venture a guess, as I could be completely wrong, but the consistent use of the word “bum” only encourages my kids in their embrace of bathroom language…as if they needed encouragement.
They are rapidly adopting some of the Australian lingo. Kieran has started calling everyone “mate.” All four are becoming aware of a different definition of swearing. They point out that even in church kids use words they would be chastened for using at home. Unfortunately for our kids, even though they are in Australia and could use those words with impunity here, their parents are along to shut them down. We remind them they are Americans and could give offense with those terms at home or to other Americans abroad and are forbidden from using them. When they want to sound Australian, they will have to stick with “mate,” “Sheila,” “Crikey,” and the occasional, “How’s your bum for grubs?”