Lily on the Dustbin: Slang of Australian women and families
Penguin, 188 pp, $5.95 pb
Do you know the meaning of (or do you use?) ‘white leghorn day’, ‘five finger discount’, ‘beating the gun with an APC’? When a woman ‘chucks a bridge’ what is she doing? Have you come across ‘scarce as rocking-horse shit’, or ‘easy as pee-the-bed-awake’ or ‘tight as a fish’s bum and that’s watertight’ or ‘The streets are full of sailors and not a whore in the house has been washed’? These expressions and plenty more are discussed in Nancy Keesing’s Lily on the Dustbin. Slang of Australian women and families.
Following the work of Sidney Baker, G.A. Wilkes, and Bill Hornadge, Keesing has collected many examples of colloquial speech, especially from ‘a whole range of women’s speech and domestic language that I call “Sheilaspeak” and “Family speak”’. Keesing notes that this area of colloquial language ‘has had an inexplicably small place in standard compilations of Australian slang and colloquialisms’. Unlike Wilkes and Hornadge, Keesing has chosen not to use published sources but to restrict herself to what she has heard and to what people have sent her. This makes the research dauntingly difficult and creates other problems. But the collection produced is in many ways fascinating and is a very welcome contribution to the study of Australian colloquial language.