She’ll be right, mate? Won’t she? This is Australia!

January 26: Australia Day. The only National Day of celebration Australia observes, that has any strong evidence of tradition.  Most Australians will relax by going to the beach, or at a pool party with family and friends most likely with a hearty outdoor barbeque. Given that we are such a new country, in Western eyes, is it the only tradition we observe?

Cormorants on Tangalooma


In the past, the British might have thought us uncouth(?) colonials, living in a faraway, dry and dusty place, a sun-burnt land of uncultured outcasts and white sandy beaches. And, if truth be told, as a small colony, we really didn’t have much that could constitute a national identity, in the modern Western sense. (The Indigenous people could quite correctly argue this point).

After all, we sang the British National Anthem, “God Save the Queen” in clubs and schools; the Queen of England’s Privy Council held final sway over our laws, (although the Queen has never exercised this Veto); our troops fought battles for distant Commonwealth countries, in conflicts unfamiliar to us; our flag was in part, the flag of Britain and lastly, our cuisine, until recently, was very much based on British/European dishes. ‘Aussie’ Culture? Hell, we didn’t even have our own language, did we?

Tangalooma wrecks - Moretone Bay Australia

In much the same way that isolation fosters the evolution of biology and art, geographical  isolation has allowed Australia to develop their own lingo, or slang.  For while we don’t technically have any dialects as such, in Australia, I would wager that not everyone would be capable of understanding the true meaning of the following passage, without prior experience in Australian ‘slanguage.’

Keep ya’ shirt on! You don’t want to get the raw prawn at the Barbie, this arvo. It’s a scorcher Straya Day, and every man and his dog will be heading to the beach, so it’s better to fill ya’ esky with a few tinnies, ditch the Reg Grundies and wear your budgie smugglers under ya’ boardies! Don’t forget your slip, slop, slap!  She’ll be right, mate! Fair Dinkum!

Translation: Hold your temper! It is not worth fighting about! You don’t want to end up in a compromising position at the outdoor meal prepared over a outdoor grill this afternoon. The weather is very sunny and extremely hot this Australia Day, and there will be a large group of people, of all kinds, visiting the beach. So it is wise to purchase an insulated portable picnic box, used for keeping food at a safe temperature, and fill it with ice and tins of cold beer, whilst dressing in the appropriate attire. That is: wearing ‘minimalist’ lycra swimming bathers underneath knee-length board-shorts, and leave the regular cotton underwear at home. Wear sunscreen, a hat and a thin cotton shirt to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun! This will be well accepted with the populace and everything will work out okay, without any harmful effects. You will have a fun time. That is the truth, friend!

As you can see, Australian speech focuses on being terse or using ryhymes, when speaking ‘slang’, as it takes twice as many words if you use the Queen’s English.  When it is 44 degrees Celsius in the shade, I guess there is a reason to be concise! Talking takes energy. Energy that is zapped by the ridiculous heat of the Australian summer.

Whether it was Australia’s colonial history or the sense of mate-ship, (stemming from  convict times), that forged the development of Aussie Slang, all Australians know and understand it as if it was their birthright, even if they don’t ALWAYS use it. But Slang  makes the job of understanding Australian speech, so much harder for foreigners, even if that person was already proficient in English as their first, or second language. Learning a little ‘Slang’ will stand you in good stead with your Australian friend!

What’s in a name?

And slang is not the only distinguishing tradition of Australian language. Aussies love to shorten names, or at least, to give you a pet nickname, the more derogatory the better. This is not meant, in any way, to offend, but rather given as a sign of acceptance and great affection.

If your name is Matthias, you will mostly likely be called ‘Matt’, ‘Matty’, ‘Matt the Rat’, or some other derivation, but never Matthias. Sharon is always ‘Shazza’, Karen: ‘Kaz!’ Laurence will not be known as Laurie, but ‘Loz’, ‘Boz’, or anything in between!

If your name is a short one, like Todd, you may be called, ‘Toddy’, or ‘Noddy’, or maybe even ‘Slugger!’  If you ever do hear someone address you by your official name, especially  in Australian male circles, you can be suspicious of that person’s intentions! They may not end up as your friend!’


So Happy Australia Day everyone, wherever you are in the world. It is time to get the tucker ready for tonight’s barbie!  I am Australian, after all, and if that’s our tradition, then I must continue to uphold it. “No Worries?”

In the words of Gangajang, This is Australia!

Out on the patio we sit, and the humidity we breathe,

We watch the lightning crack over the cane-fields,

Laugh and think that this is Australia

This is our country, Australia!

Like it or Lump it!

Traditional Slang to Ponder About

“I’m Only Yanking Your Chain!”
Link to more Aussie Slanguage here

More Australia Day celebrations at The Gypsy Life


Quakers or Amish? They’re all the same, aren’t they?

Have you ever wondered  about:

the Quakers?

There seems to be so very few in this movement, more correctly called the Religious Society of Friends in Australia, so I wanted to know who they are and what they represented? Here is what I found:

Quakers are not Amish, Amish aren’t Quakers, Amish are usually Pennsylvania Dutch, and Pennsylvania Dutch can be Amish. Got it?


Quakers are people, following a Protestant pacifist religion, that emigrated to North America from England and the British isles, in the 18th century, seeking religious freedom.

Quakers are unusual among Christians in that they worship without any form of priest or pastor. They believe that anyone can communicate with God, hence meetings for Worship consists of sitting in silence together, with individuals speaking when they feel so moved.

Quakers are pacifists and believe in simplicity, humility and equality, so their places of worship  are quite plain.

They wear ordinary clothes, unlike the Amish. Quakers are indistinguishable (on the outside) from other people.

Still confused?

The following passage may clarify:

The term Pennsylvania Dutch refers to descendants of German settlers of Pennsylvania (the German word for German is Deutsche, which is probably why others picked up the word Dutch). The Pennsylvania Dutch do have their own language — a derivation of German — but that language is virtually extinct at this point, and modern Pennsylvania Dutch are indistinguishable from other modern Americans. Pennsylvania Dutch are a variety of religions, including Lutheran, Mennonite, Baptist, Amish (yes, that’s a religion — more on that in a minute). The Pennsylvania Dutch are similar to any other ethnic group whose relatives came in the 18th century…They may have some lasting cultural traditions (certain foods, for instance), but they are in other ways much like any other Americans.

The Amish (at least the Old Order ones, which is who most people think of when they think of the Amish) do very much stand out from other ethnic and religious groups in the U.S. Amish is a Protestant religion (a particular denomination of Mennonite, actually), and most Amish are actually Pennsylvania Dutch — meaning (as you now know) they are descended from Pennsylvania Germans and spoke that particular dialect of German. What makes the Amish stand out is that the rules of their church prohibit many modern conveniences, including electricity and more modern technologies. They still drive horses and buggies (they will get in a car if necessary, but only if somebody else is driving); they wear old-fashioned dresses and overalls with bonnets and black hats; they value farm labor and de-emphasize education. They are very much an insular community, as marriage outside of the church is forbidden. Your child’s college roommate will most likely not be Amish, though there’s a chance he or she will be Pennsylvania Dutch — or Quaker, for that matter. Oh, and the Amish don’t like to have their pictures taken, so please don’t run up to them, mouth agape, snapping photos.



  • The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, wanted to break out of the English brand of Puritanism. From their foundation in the 1650s, the Quakers were persecuted in the British Isles and the New England colonies. The term “Quaker” stems from a patronizing jibe on the part of an English judge that the Friends “tremble at the word of God.” The Friends turned it around and started using the term themselves, although their formal name has always remained the same. Quaker core beliefs include “testifying” to four ideals in everyday life: pacifism, simplicity, equality and honesty.


  • Menno Simons

    The Mennonites are named for their founder Menno Simons. They evolved from the Anabaptist movement of Holland and Germany during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Despite all Mennonites taking their name from this one figure, from the very beginning of the Mennonite faith, the movement was split between Dutch and Swiss-German groups, and later fragmented further still. Mennonites are pacifists, and are practitioners of the 3-fold Believer’s Baptism: baptism by spirit, baptism by water and baptism by blood (martyrdom or ascetic lifestyle). Also, the Lord’s Supper (Communion) is understood as a memorial instead of as a sacrament.


  • The Amish are the heirs of Jacob Amman, a reformer who tried to convince the larger German Mennonite faith to embrace certain changes. Among other things, he wanted to strengthen the discipline of the church to include excommunication and ostracism. This lead to a severe split in the Swiss Mennonite community in particular. It is widely believed that the Amish are anti-technology or regard it as sinful, which is a gross over-simplification and largely untrue. Instead, they have adopted certain practices in keeping with their communitarian values and to shun people from outside their community. The attitude of different Amish communities towards modern devices can vary markedly.

Read more :


The Amish are characterized by their reluctance to adapt to the changes brought about by advances in modern technology. This continuing struggle against modernity can be traced back to their belief that one should live life in a simple manner. To better understand why this is so, one must understand the basic concepts of Amish belief. First is their belief in the rejection of Hochmut, which translates into what we call pride and arrogance. Secondly they give great importance to Gelassenheit and Demut. The former refers to submission and the latter pertains to humility. Gelassenheit is an expression of one’s reluctance to assert oneself and is a manifestation of the anti-individualist belief held by the Amish. This anti-individualism is a primary reason for the rejection of labor-saving technology by the Amish as to embrace new technology would make one less dependent on the community.

The Quakers, on the other hand, do not share this view, as they have a different set of beliefs. The Amish are among the most conservative religious groups out there, as can be seen by their banning of electricity, birth control, women wearing pants, and higher education. The Quakers are just the opposite, as most of them are liberals. The Quakers, also known as the Religious Society of Friends, believe that everyone has a direct connection with God. Most of them reject sacraments and religious symbolism. This belief also eliminates the need for clergy, as everyone is directly connected to God. They believe firmly in religious tolerance and they do not use the word ‘convert’; they prefer the word ‘convince’, since this eliminates the use of coercion that is implied by the former. They do not try to ‘save’ anyone. They believe that it is not enough for one to read scripture in order to be spiritual; one has to practise it.

Both these groups, though they differ in some key aspects, are united in their belief in non-violence. Even on the national level, these churches believe that any form of violence, including war, is going against Christian morality. Both groups are part of the Peace Churches.

Something to Ponder about……

Researching your Danish Roots – Family history

If you have or suspect your family originated from Denmark, there is a surprising amount of information on the net to help you in this search. Danes started recording all individuals, in their kingdom around 1787 but church records sometimes go back further, depending on each family. I have found research that can trace my family back to 1620, as, during that era, they were parish priests or clergyman, and thus were literate and often collated census material themselves. This can be a wonderful tool for the family researcher. Emigration records also record those that left for the “New Worlds”, mostly never to return to their homeland.   Is this something we in the “New World” ponder about?

Danish Census and Emigration records online Haderslev gamle  hus

Some useful background information and tips to keep in mind when researching:


  • Birth and Christening

Births were generally at home until the 20th century. Infants were christened at home, and re-christened in the church. The christening was often 5-6 weeks after the birth. This can be a kind of tradition in some European cultures where the Mums are to stay home and not have visitors until the baby is 6 weeks of age. (see note * below under females for more explanation)

  • Confirmation

Confirmation took place usually between the ages of 14 – 19. It was necessary before participating in communion, being a godparent, or getting married. It was also considered a social passage into young adulthood. It is still very much active today in modern Scandinavia, especially Denmark.  A coming of age celebration.

  • Engagement records (pre-1799)

Although by law (Danske Lov of 1683) a male had to be at least 20 years old, and females 16 years old before marriage, young adults tended to marry when they were more established with work. This was often when a person was in the mid to late 20’s. Many years in age between the groom or bride (or bride and groom) are not uncommon, especially before the early 1800’s.

  • Marriage

Marriage took place after completing the engagement, and public banns. Long engagements were not common. Although civil marriages began in 1851, the majority of marriages were performed by a parish priest.

  • Birth and Christening of Children

Parents would take their children to the parish for the official christening. Each christening identifies the fathers’ residence at that particular time and place.

  • Death and Burial

Deaths generally took place at home until the 20th century. Burials were in the church yard (unless it was not permitted due to circumstances). The burial ceremony was performed by a parish priest.

Cemeteries: Like all cemeteries, you can usually find the death information of the individual on the headstone. However, it is important to note that in Denmark, a person only remains buried while the family pays for the grave. When there is no one else to pay for the grave the body and headstone is usually removed and taken to the catacombs or crematorium. The headstone is usually recycled!!

Other possible recorded events:

  • Censuses

The Dane’s started keeping censuses that recorded all individuals in the kingdom as early as 1787.

  • Military Levying Rolls

Between 1789 and 1849 the registration of males for military service (in the army) took place at birth. In 1849 the registration age was moved up to about 15 years old. In 1869 the registration age was changed to 17 years old.

Military Levying Rolls: If an ancestor was still included in the military rolls when they died, their name will usually be crossed out and a death date written in the notes column.

  • Possible probate

The probate system in Denmark was designed to settle the financial matters of the deceased and distribute inheritance to the heirs. This is especially true when there are children under the age of 25 years old at the time of either parent’s death.

  • Records associated to occupation (land, copyholder, guild, etc.)


  • Mothers Introduction after the Birth of Children

* Up until the 20th century, women were re-introduced into society about 5 – 6 weeks after giving birth. There are different levels of religious and social reasons tied to this practice. Some believed that the postpartum mother was being followed by evil spirits which might put others in society at risk. After 5-6 weeks from giving birth, the mother would be re-introduced in the parish church. This introduction officially welcomed the mother back into mainstream society.


  • The younger working class (after confirmation but before marriage) can be difficult to follow as they moved around more freely in search of work.
  • Until the industrial revolution of the late 1800’s, the majority of Dane’s worked with agriculture in rural settings. The remaining population worked with manufacturing, distribution, or trade.
  • Moving varies family to family as some stayed in a close area, and others moved further away. Residents in the cities moved the most.
  • Often people of advanced age are recorded as living with one of their children. This post is continued here: