Why Australians Talk Funny: Drunk Forefathers?

Professor makes his case
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2015 11:16 AM CDT
Professor: We Aussies Talk Like Drunks
A movie poster for 'Crocodile Dundee.'   (PRNewsFoto/Jacob's Creek)

A communications professor in Australia has caused quite a stir Down Under with a public complaint that almost everyone there talks like drunks. In tracing the origins of the Australian accent in the Age, Dean Frenkel of Victoria University describes its Aboriginal, English, Irish, and German roots. So far, so good. But then Frenkel asserts that Australia's forefathers hit the bottle so often that they and "added an alcoholic slur to our national speech patterns," one that has been passed along from generation to generation in the 200 years since. "We are teaching our children to speak drunk—it’s so bizarre," Frenkel tells news.com.au. The site offers up this doozy of an example: "G’day, are ya gonna go for a sniddy ana bevo this arvo?" (For the uninitiated, Sniddy's is a popular restaurant chain, bevo is an alcoholic beverage, and arvo is afternoon.)

Frenkel complains about lazy articulation, missing consonants, and vowels that blur with other vowels (night into noight), and he calls for schools to begin emphasizing proper speaking skills. “We will not achieve near to the degree we are capable of if we don’t concentrate on our language." But a skeptical sociolinguist tells Australia's 9news.com that Frenkel's view is not "well-versed in history or linguistics." And even if it were true that alcohol is responsible for the nation's distinctive sound, so be it. "Linguists don't think any form of language is necessarily wrong or bad or incorrect," she says. As long as people make themselves understood, that's all that matters. Besides, as the Independent notes, a survey this year found that Australia's accent is the fourth most attractive, behind British, American, and Irish. (But will Australians begin spending with "dollarydoos" soon?)

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