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SMH: Linguists whine over M'sian PM's Strine
By Steve Waldon

27/6/2001 3:43 am Wed

[Orang yang suka mengejek adalah orang yang tidak beradab. Apatah lagi bila yang diejek adalah satu bahasa yang tentunya akan mengundang kemarahan bukan seorang dua tetapi berjuta-juta penduduk yang sekian lama menggunakannya. Ini termasuk rakyat Australia yang telah menyumbang tenaga dan kepakaran kepada Malaysia. Mahathir telah merusakkan kemesraan sesama manusia dengan mengusik bahasa. Apakah ini satu contoh yang baik untuk diikuti semua? Beginikah cara seorang bapa mengajar anaknya berbicara? Tepuk dada tanya selera!
- Editor

The Sydney Morning Herald
26th June 2001

Linguists whine over Malaysian PM's Strine

By Steve Waldon

The rain in Spain may have dripped off his tongue, but the Malaysian Prime Minister's weekend attempt at an Australian accent could start a diplomatic deluge.

Foreign Ministry officers have decided to store away Dr Mahathir Mohamad's mocking for another time, but experts in linguistics yesterday found his impromptu Strine mildly diverting.

"It's almost a music hall stereotype of an Australian accent," said Dr Mark Newbrook, from Monash University, Melbourne. "It wasn't that convincing because the accent involved very specific vowel sounds - it was a parody."

Perhaps not since Meryl Streep alarmed Australian filmgoers by saying a "dango" had taken her "boy-boy" has faux-Strine created such consternation.

Linguists said evidence the Australian accent was more difficult to master than others was empirical, but there were good reasons for Dr Mahathir sounding unlike Chips Rafferty.

"The sounds of accents are well below our conscious control," Dr Newbrook said.

Ms Kate Burridge, a linguistics expert at La Trobe University, Melbourne, said people trying to mimic the Australian accent often emphasised the nasality of our delivery - the characteristic most readily identifiable in Strine. But it is their emphasis on the drawn-out vowel twangs that betrays the imitator, she said.

Dr Newbrook added: "Real Australians detect the very fine variations: they can't tell you what the hell they're listening for, all they can tell you is they are aware of a difference."

If the Malaysian PM's audition for a part in Crocodile Dundee IV was as edifying as Benny Hill's Chinese restaurateur, there was general bemusement among those asked yesterday.

Dr Newbrook described Dr Mahathir's speech as "politically and linguistically ridiculous". He said: "It is part of his political battle with the West. It's at a pathetic level - it's a pity he hasn't got a better point to make."

Dr Scott Burchill, a lecturer in international relations at Victoria's Deakin University, claimed Dr Mahathir's speech was "designed to shore up domestic political support".

"It's remarkable given he is sensitive to racial stereotyping by Australians," Dr Burchill said.

"But Mahathir is famous for making some of the more bizarre statements of modern times."

Dr Burchill thought Canberra's subdued response to the incident was indicative of the Federal Government's attitude to the Malaysian leader. "They're just progressively treading water until his departure," he said.



Arvo: afternoon
Aggro: aggravated
Barbie: cookin' outdoors
Bloke: Aussie male
Brekky: breakfast
Bagged: criticised
Bathers (or Cossie) swimsuit
Biscuit: cookie
Bludger: slacker
Boofhead: fool
Brumby: wild horse
Chook: chicken
Chemist: drugstore pharmacy
Choc-a-block: full
Crook: sick
Dag, daggy: unfashionable
Digger: Australian soldier
Dobber: tattle tell
Doona: comforter
Esky: cooler
Fair dinkum: honest
Flat out: really busy
Fringe: bangs
Give it a go: try something
Globe: lightbulb
Good on ya: well done
Holiday: vacation
Knackered: really tired
Lollies: candy
Mackas: McDonalds
Mozzies: mosquitoes
Nuff nuff: fool
Pokies: slot machine
Pig's arse: that's bullshit
Pissed: drunk
Pom: person from England
Prawn: shrimp
Raging: partying
Roo: kangaroo
Root: have sex
Rubber: pencil eraser
Seppo: an American
Shonky: unreliable
Shout: buy a round of drinks
Singlet: tank top
Snag: sausage
Spot-on: just perfect
Takeaway: food to go
Thongs: flip flops
Torch: flashlight
Uni: college
Ute: pick up truck
Whinge: whine
Wonky: unstable