Reprint: The Adventures of a Push

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"Benno; and Some of the Push," by Edward Dyson. (N.S.W. Bookstall Co., Sydney.) In his "Fact'ry "Ands," Mr. Dyson proved himself a master craftsman in the handling of Australian slum slang; and in continuing his comic history of a Melbourne paper-bag factory, he displays an even more copious vocabulary of language, that would tax the philological understanding of Professor Max Muller himself. Nevertheless, what might have been less intelligible to the linguistic pundit than Sanskrit in Assyrian cuneiform character, is probably quite easily understanded of the people constituting a Little Bourke-street push. Even when not absolutely lucid to a reader whose slum dialect education has been somewhat neglected, the language of Benno and his pals is always patently expressive and picturesquely forceful. Thus, for example, one may not know the precise meaning of the following exordium -- "G'out, yer monkey-mugged slum mungrool, yer'll cop yer doss" -- but no reader is liable to misconstrue it as a flattering eulogy or a polite invitation to afternoon tea. Mr. Dyson's factory hands are, of course, wildly, grossly exaggerated; but they are not intended to be more than expressive and suggestive caricatures. Their ruggedly rhetorical vituperation and cryptic verbiage lend force and point to situations and incidents which, despite a not inconsiderable flavouring of humour, would sound somewhat flat in decorous English. It is true that the vraisemblance of the dialogue is somewhat marred by the rigorous exclusion of the larrikin's pet adjective and substantive and of his most vigorously damnatory expletives -- but that was virtually unavoidable. A taste of Mr. Dyson's quality may be given, however, in respect to a desperate fistic duel between rivals in the affections of a flirtatious "donah." The Helen who had caused this war, it may be explained, was from the hue of her capillary attractions known as "Ginge." Thus speaks the jealous factory knight:

 "It's all fixed up, Mills."  

 "Wot! as she guv yeh brusher?" cried the packer.  

"No blinded fear. Ginge know's w'en she's got a good thing. The fight's 'ranged 'tween me 'n th' other bloke. We fight the prelim to the Bull Green 'n Coffee Hogan scrap et th' Smithers St. Hathletic room, Monday night fortnight, catch-weights, for harf a Jim 'n a five bob side wager-eight rounds, one t' win. Markis o' Queensbee rules, four ounce gloves 'n regerlation trunks. Prelimery starts punctooal at eight. Prices, two, one, and a tizzie. We've both signed harticles."  

"Good e-nough !" said the packer. I mus 'ave a deener's worth iv that."

Anyone who wishes to part with a "deener" can get for the money the whole worth of Benno and his push, whose adventures, it may be explained, have previously been chronicled in the "Bulletin. They are unmistakeably Bulletinesque.

First published in The Western Mail, 9 September 1911

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 11, 2012 9:00 AM.

Australian Bookcovers #301 - House of All Nations by Christina Stead was the previous entry in this blog.

Combined Reviews: Animal People by Charlotte Wood is the next entry in this blog.

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