My parents grew up in a generation that learnt Latin and French, which in turn had tremendous benefits for my older brothers and for me. Why? Because we imbibed an understanding of the subtle nuances of the English language and how strongly influenced it is by European borrowings.
I think I inherited my love of language from my mother, who used to read to me long before I learnt how to form words in my own mind. I soaked up language and the way it was used and as I grew, I came to understand and appreciate the history behind common idioms.
But I was a callow youth in my early twenties when I travelled to Australia for the first time, covering a cricket tour in a land that I would one day choose to live in as a young newly-married migrant.
On that first visit to the country I would one day call home, I was already conversant with many of typically Australian phrases, simply because I had read o much Australian literature as a child, in particular the wonderful novels by the English-born Nevil Shute, who came to live in Melbourne and who wrote of this country in such simple yet evocative terms.
I knew that "dunny" was a toilet. I knew that a "ute" was a utility vehicle. I knew that "bastard" was almost regarded as a term of endearment among blokes.
But I learnt one great Australianism in Sydney, during the first week of that trip.
On the way to visit someone, I was told by a local resident who was driving me there that the person lived in "Woop Woop". I digested that information solemnly.
Much later (after I had returned from the visit) my aunt, who lived in Sydney, asked me how my day had panned out. I told her it had been a busy one and as I sat down to a great home-cooked meal, I began to enumerate all the tasks I had carried out, including a two-hour round trip to visit the person earlier that day.
"Where does he live?" inquired my aunt.
"Some suburb called Woop Woop," I answered.
I thought my aunt was going to suffer an asthma attack, because she was laughing so hard. When she had recovered her composure, she explained the reality to me.
Woop Woop isn’t a suburb. It’s just a fictional reference to any place that is far away or hard to reach.
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