Wednesday, 26 October 2005

Wogs down under

It seems that we and the Australians, as much as we and the Americans, are two nations divided by a common language.
Wog is, to us, an impermissibly offensive term of abuse for blacks and Asians. Not so, apparently, in Australia, where it can be used harmlessly as simply a term for anyone from a foreign land. It can also refer to a minor ailment, so that employees calling in sick can legitimately offer the excuse that they are “in bed with a wog”.
Discovering this impelled me to some research. My subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary Online has expired so I cannot check whether it has properly recorded these usages; it probably has. My Shorter Oxford Dictionary (1983 edition) has it in the addenda as “a contemptuous name for a foreigner, esp. one from a Middle Eastern country”, while my Concise OD (1981) has this and also, as a separate entry “(Austral. sl.) Infectious illness”.
The great Partridge, thorough as always, gives all the possible derivations and several additional meanings (including "Australian nursery term for a very young child, from English dialect pollywog, a tadpole"), and confirms that “ten million Australians regard the wog loosely as a heavy cold with aches and pains…”
The reference to nursery term for very young child drove me on to look up sprog, of which this is one of the meanings. Oddly enough, this also involves the Ranidae as "it may be a reversal of frogspawn". Then, on the same page, my eye caught spug, and I learnt with interest that this is a……
That’s quite enough idle browsing…stop it NOW.


Minerva said...


*stamping foot*

What is a SPUG??!!


Tony said...

It's a dialect word for "sparrow". Bet you thought it was something unspeakably lewd.
If you don't drop these silly interjections in asterisks I shan't reply to your comments any more. *frowns and shakes head reprovingly*
I don't want to have to speak to you again about this.

Natalie Bennett said...

Wog was a term of abuse in Australia 25 or 30 years ago, when I was a child, but it gradually evolved, in part at least because some of the "wogs" adopted it themselves, used it jokingly, and so defused it.

But it wasn't used for black people or Asians - it refered to the non-English Europeans - Italians, Greek etc, who were the foreign "Others" arriving at that time.

This was when spaghetti bolognaise was in the Women's Weekly Cookbook as a "foreign dish".

Tony said...

This dish demonstrates the English genius for compromise. The Italians say bolognese, the French say bolonaise and we sometimes combine the two. Spagbol seems better.

Davo said...

aha, have always called the sparrow a "spoggie". (dreadful pestiferous english imports ..they should all be locked up in Baxter *grins*

Tony said...

Dear Mr Wol (or may I call you Wombat?
It is heartwarming for we happy few, we band of brothers, who are fortunate enough to have residence at the very fount of the English language, to hear that a word that we have allowed to fall into desuetude was carried many years ago by transported malefactors to the other side of the world and is there preserved by a splendid community of settlers who use it constantly whenever taking a break from fighting off wild billabongs. Well done, you brave Antipodean fellows! Keep up the good work! Are throdkins also widely known down there?
I suppose Baxter is some kind of penal institution?