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The Language of the Shearer-man (1897)(For the Worker.) I don't know much of city slang and gibb'rish of the push,
But rather think I understand our fellows in the bush.
And if you like to learn a bit about the "Mulga Clan" --
Just listen to the patter of the Western shearer-man
Who knocks about the whole year long around his drought-struck isle,
Across a wiry "cuddy" whom he calls his "crocodile."
And while in search of shearing work he rides from hut to hut
He says he's merely "battling" round and looking for a "cut." Now, when by chance he gets a "pen" he buys a pair of "tongs" --
That's what he calls his shears at work ; he calls them "blades" in songs.
Then, with a "driver," "rigs" them up,and puts the "knocker" on;
And, should his hand swell at the start, he says his "hand is gone."
And when his "hand is down" again and ordinarily thin
He says he's going to "chuck 'em out" because his "hand is in."
His boss he gives some funny names, when he can't hear the joke.
He calls him "joint" and "finger," and he sometimes calls him "bloke." He "shaves" his sheep, or "pinks 'em," when he shears them nice and clean,
But mostly "roughs" and "tomahawks," with "second-cuts" between.
And when he gets a reprimand, or gentle kind of "tip,"
He tells you in a whisper that "he got a blooming 'chip.'"
And if he still keeps "going-up" instead of "keeping-down"
The "bloke" gives him a "wire" that "the tree" is coming down.
And that night in the hut you'll hear the "Rep." say: "This is hot;
Poor Billy Mayne has got 'the spear,' and Dick, his mate, is 'shot'!" Sometimes he's got a second shed on some New England route,
And if he can't get off in time he "butchers himself out."
While often he has got to "die" without a fun'ral mass
Because one of the boss's "pets" is "waiting for a 'death.'"
And if he goes right through a shed without a growl or tiff
And gets a first-class reference he labels it a "stiff."
But when it's only second class (it often makes me laugh)
He calls the blessed document a blanky "shandy-gaff." A pound a hundred, "in or out," with rules and tucker fair,
He designates as "working white" and shearing "on the square."
But "going in" in time of strike on any terms, to grab,
He doesn't know as blacklegging but simply calls it "scab."
"Percentage" is the thing he says the shearer-man has got
Who shears his sheep just as he likes and yet doesn't get the "shot."
While he who "crawls" and "runs the cut," and lacks a bushman's pluck,
Is known by men as "smoodger," while the tar-boys call him "suck." "The ringer" is the "cove" who takes the biggest cheque away,
And "drummer" marks the man who gets in silver coin his pay.
To shear a thou. or more a week, which is but seldom done,
Will gain a shearer high respect and title of "gun."
But stop awhile -- have you remarked how many "guns" we meet
Away from sheds in private bars and mashing in the street?
Now, for the sake of simple maids, let's write it here in tar:
"Poor 'snaggers' (50 sheep a day) -- that's what they mostly are!" The "rouseabout," his willing slave, who's ever on the spot
To take the falling fleece away and fill his "water pot,"
He sneeringly terms "loppy" and a "leather-neck," and if
He doesn't "chuck" himself about he swears to knock him stiff
A decent cook he calls his "doc," and makes of him a god,
A bad one is a "poisoner," a "slushie" and a "sod."
By "lizards" he means musterers, sometimes he calls them "snails."
"Tickjammer" is the chap who puts the wool into the bales. The sheep are "jumbucks," "woollies" have the fleece still on their back,
And "stragglers" are the last to come along the woolshed track.
"Rosellas" he likes best of all for half their fleece is off.
Though at a "clean-point," "bare-belly" he'd hardly ever scoff.
But one poor beast, I must declare, he positively hates,
And tries his best through ev'ry "run" to leave him for his mates!
I mean the wrinkly "cobbler" who by everyone is passed,
And left inside the catching-pen until the very last. Now when the shed at last "cuts out" he gets his "little bit,"
And straps his "peter" on his "croc" and quickly does a get.
And -- I will lay an oil-rag to a pound of "Darling Pea" --
He gallops straight away towards a "rubbie" for "a spree,"
And knocks his "beans" down right and left and makes the "rubbie" hum,
And "shouts" for all the people there and "shouts" for all who come.
But when he puts the "stopper" on, because he finds he's broke,
He swears that he was "raddled" by that shanty-keeper "bloke." 6 x 8.
NotesFrom the Brisbane newspaper the Worker Saturday 4 September 1897 p. 8.
australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory