Australian Vernacular: Background information when reading Breath

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A Novel

by Tim Winton

Breath by Tim Winton X
Breath by Tim Winton
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  • First Published:
    May 2008, 224 pages

    May 2009, 224 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kathy Pierson
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About this Book

Australian Vernacular

This article relates to Breath

Print Review

Being a novel from "Oz", the pages of Breath are casually sprinkled with words not found in most non-Australians' vocabularies. While "blokes" and "fags" are easily recognized as meaning "men" and "cigarettes," other descriptive terms remain cloaked in obscurity. To counteract this sense of puzzlement, here is a regional translation chart to clarify most of Winton's more colorful verbiage:

  • bitumen - asphalt paving
  • blued - fought or quarreled
  • bombora - large sea waves breaking over submerged rock shelves
  • carn - come on!
  • dag - nerd, goof, funny person
  • didjeridu - long, tubular, wooden wind instrument that produces continuous low-pitched sounds
  • fossicked - searched, rummaged
  • gaffer - elderly rustic fellow
  • gobbing - surprising or shocking
  • hessian - coarse strong jute or hemp fabric
  • humpy - makeshift or temporary building
  • kelpie - Australian herding dog
  • lamingtons - sponge cakes dipped in chocolate then coconut
  • melaleucas - native trees similar to bottlebrush, one of which produces tea tree oil
  • marri - eucalyptus hardwood trees, native to Western Australia
  • natter - chatter, gossip
  • oldies - parents
  • perspex - tough, light, transparent acrylic also known as plexiglass
  • prang - crash or damage
  • punters - gamblers or risktakers
  • resus - resuscitation equipment
  • saurian - lizard (from the classification Sauropsida)
  • sook - timid, tame, inoffensive person
  • spruiking - publicly promoting goods, a cause, or services
  • swag - possessions or sleeping bag
  • tanty - tantrum
  • tingle - tall eucalyptus tree with bulbous lower trunk
  • tip - a dump
  • twigged - perceived, noticed, understood
  • ute - utility vehicle, pickup truck
  • wattles - Australian acacia shrubs
  • wingeing - constant complaining

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

Article by Kathy Pierson

This "beyond the book article" relates to Breath. It originally ran in June 2008 and has been updated for the May 2009 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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