A word ‘unshackled’.

Oosterman family in our first 'temporary dwelling'. 1956

Oosterman family in our first ‘temporary dwelling’. 1956

Those that have bothered going though my memoire of my brother Frank would also know that one of the English words I really struggled with at my arrival from Holland, was also the hardest to get an explanation for. It was clouded in a kind of sniggering secrecy. It was 1956.

I’ll just copy selectively a bit about that word directly from ‘Frank’s Story. Hopefully it will ring a bell with some of you, old enough to remember the stigma attached to the use of that word at the time of Australia’s history in the late 1950’s. However the stigma was qualified. The use of that word was very good and prolifically used, but only by men and for men. Women were excluded almost to the point of a religious fervour. It was seen as risking women having a bit of a faint or a dizzy spell and a run to the ‘Ladies Reserve.’ (I kid you not, this was a euphemism for toilet)

Frank’s story; “The main problem was understanding the Australian accent or slang. I did notice one word that kept cropping up and seemed to be repeated after almost every third or fourth word. It was used prolifically within the confines of those factories where I worked. What is this fukking or fucgling or fouging, I asked? They finally told me that the word was terribly bad and that it was alright for men to talk like that but never ever in front of a woman, how curious. Not using certain words in front of a woman?” Even worse, ‘a terrible bad word?’ How could a word be terrible?

I was flabbergasted. In the Dutch language there are no words that are banned in front of women, no matter what sex they belong to. 😉 Of course the Dutch language is also rich with words that are coarse but their use is not split between the sexes, nor are they ‘bad’ words. Of course, since then the power of that word has been eroded in Australia as well.

Indeed, that word has been enthusiastically accepted and is now also included in the warm embrace by many a good woman using everyday language as they see fit. (Even with those women that are not so good). The vulgarity of the commonly used swear words is still there but vulgarity has become ‘the rigour’. Anyone watching TV would now know that the once forbidden words are now obligatory.

When I was given the explanation of the word back in the late fifties it was followed with a demonstration by a brave man using a finger going in and out of a hollow fist and a nod and wink; with ‘you know’, you know’ It is doing ‘geekey geekey’ with a woman. Yes, I do know and was reminded by that when watching Abbott on the radio interview and his lurid wink when confronted by the grandmother and her sex phone line attempt at supplementing her meagre pension.

In the fifties, the dictionary had a gap between fuchsia and fucoid. Lady’s Chatterley’s lover was still in the process of coming and it took learned judges many reads and geekey geekey in the fist to finally allow its publication in Australia.

Here is a YouTube video. If you listen carefully it does contain a few four letter words, so switch off if you are bothered by words.


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13 Responses to “A word ‘unshackled’.”

  1. Tolga Says:

    Gerard, when I started working at the mines in Pilbara, WA, my first job was Trades Assistant (TA) at the heavy-vehicle-workshop assisting Diesel Fitters repairing all kinds of mining machinery. One day this mechanic and I were pulling apart the engine of a D9 Caterpillar. He was at the top of the engine undoing nuts and bolts. Suddenly the spanner slipped out of his hand and dropped on the shop-floor. He called out to me and said, “Hey Max, pass me that bloody spanner!” I picked up the spanner, looked at it, then I looked at him and said, “This is not a bloody spanner!…This is a greasy spanner.” He paused for a few seconds and said, “GIVE ME THAT FUCKIN SPANNER !” 🙂

    Another expression that I found quiet fascinating was “bloody rain”

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Of course later on it must have occurred that spanners don’t fuck at all well. It is remarkable how that verb came to be used as an expressian of almost all things possible and even things that were impossible.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. M-R Says:

    Knew there’s be a point, even if it was restricted to a sentence there. Amazed and entranced by the Cook & Moore video, and wonder how it got made, all those years back.


  3. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Because Norman Mailer frequently used the “word” fug in his writing, I am reminded of the remark Dorothy Parker supposedly said upon meeting Norman Mailer: “So you’re the man who can’t spell fuck”.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. berlioz1935 Says:

    Coming to Australia in 1959 I had a similar experience and learning curve. In the steelwork I was mainly surrounded by immigrants and we were all very polite and still ignorant of the colourful language of Australians.

    I did not stay long there and got a job with Waterboard. Here I met “real” Aussie men. Did they made my ears glow. The three main swear words were easily learnt as they were interspersed freely in any sentence. Sometime even in a string to describe a especially nasty person.

    For a sensitive person those words are outrageous, but in the uncultured world of the blue singlet they as common as Mum and Dad. Sometimes we imitated a new word of which we had no inkling of its “real” meaning. As we worked often in the backyard of people’s home we were then warned by the foreman with his index finger on his lips, “Psst, ladies are around here.”

    I still do not use the “b… f… c…” triology; nor as single terms.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, my English lessons back at high school in Holland certainly also never touched upon those words. You would have thought the Australian embassy ought to have given more pertinent advice on the local linga. It would have saved a lot of time wondering about every forth word or so.


  5. ChristineR Says:

    My father would not tolerate any man swearing in front of his wife and kids, except for himself. I once remember him taking a bloke outside and thrashing him for the offence. You should have heard the language! I doubt they hurt each other, they were so drunk.


  6. Curt Mekemson Says:

    Absolutely love the Dorothy Parker comment. 🙂 –Curt


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