They’re A Weird Mob: A Novel by Nino Culotta
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Source: My local library -get your own copy from The Book Depository OR direct from Text Classics
Most Australians speak English like I speak Hindustani, which I don’t. In general, they use English words, but in a way that makes no sense to anyone else. And they don’t use our European vowel sounds, so that even if they do construct a normal sentence, it doesn’t sound like one. This made it necessary for me, until I become accustomed to it, to translate everything that was said to me twice, first into English and then into Italian. So my replies were always slow, and those long pauses prompted many belligerent remarks, such as ‘Well don’t stand there like a dill; d’yer wanta beer or dontcha?’ Now that I have had five years of practice, I find that I am able to think in English, and often in the Australian kind of English, so that when some character picks me for a dill, he is likely to be told quick smart to suck his scone in!
Dunno what exactly I expected from this book… Mis-adventures of an immigrant with some humour involved at most. But, what I got was absolute hilarity –I was laughing so much and I just couldn’t put the book down. Most of the hilarity, of course, was due to misunderstanding the ‘Australian English’ and Australian ways.
If you’re Australian, you may enjoy this look at yerself form another’s point of view. Even though it’s stereotypical of the Aussie working class in mid 20th century, I found it wildly entertaining and made time flew by very quickly. It’s a pretty short read too. However, I have to confess that whilst I can see traces of these type of Australian-ess around me, my Aussie friends (born & bred) don’t speak like this (I’m not referring to the accents but rather to the specific lingo).
If you are not Australian, you may find this book a bit of a struggle as the writing takes into consideration the way the people speak (accents etc), for example ‘Owyagoin’ (How you going), Orrightmate (all right, mate), etc. In addition, of course, the Aussie slang gets more than a little confusing.
In my own experience as a migrant, I didn’t find it as much of a problem –I don’t recall of having to struggle with English (nor ‘Australian English’) too much. I probably didn’t get many of the jokes and I still have a bit of a problem with some sayings now and then but other than that, if you actually hear my speak, I sound mostly Australian (excepting some little nuisance of words). At the end of the book, the author was encouraging migrants to mix into the Australian cultures and not to cling tenaciously stubbornly to one’s original cultures. Indeed, Australia provides that opportunity for a better life but to build a country which supports better life, we would all need to work together wherever you’re from.
That episode of Friday night and yesterday illustrates the informality of the Australian way of life, and the Australian’s unquenchable energy and thirst. He works hard, with much cursing and swearing, and is most unhappy when he has no work to do. He loves beer and tobacco, and impassioned arguments. He is kind and generous and abusive. He will swear at you, and call you insulting names, and love you like a brother. He is without malice. He will fight you with skill and ferocity, and buy you a beer immediately afterwards. He is a man of many contradictions, but his confidence and self-sufficing are inspiring. If he is beaten in a fight or an argument, he laughs about it the next day, and tells his mates, ‘ The bastard was too good fer me.’ He doesn’t resent a defeat of ‘that bastard who done me over’. It takes a European a long time to begin to understand him.