I pick up grammar and reading ability quickly, but my Achilles heel is pronunciation. I love them dearly. The others make far less complimentary remarks. I have recently been trying to acquire a basic knowledge of Australian, a language which on the surface appears deceptively close to English. As usual, the grammar has not posed a problem, and I have already As people may have noticed, I enjoy learning languages. But the pronunciation!
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This was published 10 years ago Let stalk some more Strine Bob Beale welcomes the return of a book that attempted to capture our lexicon. October 24, — Let Stalk Strine, a lexicon of modern Australian usage by Professor Afferbeck Lauder, was a funny, quirky guide to the peculiar way we spoke, lived and thought after the war - and it sold like hotcakes, in Sydney in particular.
His keen ear meant the book was peopled with familiar characters and things with names that were clever take-offs of Aussie enunciations, coruscations and manglings of English. You might, for example, live in a terror souse or have a Gloria Soame in the suburbs, complete with an egg nishner to cool you in summer. Advertisement Yet for all his seminal impact at the time, Lauder himself remained out of the limelight and firmly cloistered in academia.
He was not only very modest but also dreadfully self-conscious of his strangely misshapen head, unruly red hair and extreme myopia, which meant he could read only with the aid of powerful trinoculars.
He blazed brightly and briefly in our cultural firmament, then simply faded from view, to become a forgotten icon of our unique Strine heritage. We know little more than spare biographical detail of his years as Professor of Strine Language at the University of Sinny and as a Fellow of the Yarnurdov Foundation, London. It has turned out to be a surprisingly rich tale, with romance, drama, intrigue, pathos and a most satisfying conclusion. The most remarkable tale to emerge was from Britain, and my chance encounter there with a refined but elderly woman in the linguistics department of Lunnon University.
Her name was Lucille Inkling and she just happened to be there for a staff reunion. Knowing of my interest in Lauder, someone suggested it might be worth my while chatting to her. Our chat evolved into a long conversation, a stunning confession and a plea for help that led me over many months on an extraordinary trail right back here to Sydney. Her story began back in when, as a research assistant to the renowned British linguist Professor Eebar Goom, she attended an international language conference.
At the conference dinner, the then Lucille Astick had impetuously succumbed to the charms of a handsome Czech linguist, Professor Ante Nucula. The cad had led her to assume he was an eligible bachelor and she allowed herself to imagine she might leave Freddie and find happiness with this charming newcomer. Over a drink in the university bar on the closing night of the conference, however, the bounder revealed that he had a wife and 16 children back in Prague.
Stunned and broken-hearted, Lucy drank heavily that night and in a fit of despair, and a fetching red dress, she threw herself recklessly into the arms of an Australian delegate, Professor Afferbeck Lauder, whom she found sipping a whisky alone in a dark corner of the bar. Lauder was as surprised as he was delighted by her sudden and unexpected ardour. For all his brilliance, women had always found him physically repellent.
The warmth and tenderness of their one night of passion was to stay with him for the rest of his life, as was a cherished item of her londger ray that he later found beneath his hotel bed.
His belle, though, awoke to the stark reality of her folly and fled in a flood of tears, and a black coat. She spurned all further contact with Lauder, who eventually returned home broken-hearted and immersed himself in his writing, and a cramped studio apartment overlooking Bonny Bay. Sadly for Lucille, she fell pregnant, and out of favour.
Freddie divorced her without a penny, or a sausage. She was disowned, disclaimed and disinherited by her dismayed, disappointed and disgusted parents, Lord Nose-Hoo and Lady Table.
Lucy nevertheless went through with the pregnancy, assuming Nucula was the father of her child. Her misapprehension was immediately apparent upon the birth of her son, whom she named Ivan. While still in the delivery room of the Lion Inn Hospital, the infant Ivan astonished his midwife and mother by ardently extending his gratitude to the former for so ably assisting with a difficult birth and expressing profound disappointment to the latter for his curiously misshapen head.
It soon became apparent that the left frontal lobe of his brain was freakishly large and complex, affording him abnormally advanced language-processing capacities. Before he reached his first birthday, he could speak fluent Jibrish. This talent was both a blessing and a curse. Throughout his primary and secondary education he was an outstanding scholar in languages, with a perfect record in English, Latin, French and Cherman.
But he was also an abject social outcast, spending his lunchtime in a remote corner of the schoolyard reading foreign dictionaries and compiling fiendish cryptic crossword puzzles. His strange head, his outlandish mop of red hair and extreme myopia - which left him unable to read or write without the aid of powerful trinoculars - were the subject of relentless, unremitting, incessant and merciless taunts from his fellow students.
Year upon year he grew more reclusive and, it must be said, bitter. In a science class on genetics, he had a moment of epiphany when it dawned on him that his congenital peculiarities were not inherited from his mother.
He then became increasingly fixated with learning more about his father and the origins of his physical and mental eccentricities. Sadly, as his resentment of them grew, so did a warped aspiration to exact revenge.
For reasons that remain obscure, Lucille had always told him that his father was the handsome Czech, but that he had died in a tragic car accident soon after the boy was conceived.
Importunate questioning then forced his mother to reveal the sorry truth. Lauder never learnt that Lucille had conceived a son, or that he was a father. Lucille later found a measure of happiness in a second husband, Gottan Inkling, and in a rather good fur coat.
Sadly, her son had spurned her. She asked if I would help to track him down, which I duly did. History will surely adjudicate that it was for the ultimate good when, as a young man, Ivan Inkling arrived in Australia only to discover that he had arrived too late to carry out his twisted plan of revenge. Lauder had died just months earlier in appalling circumstances.
While conducting etymological research in the University of Sinny library, the hapless professor failed to see a footstool left in a narrow aisle between the cramped shelves of reference books.
As he tripped and fell, Lauder grasped at a shelf and somehow pulled it down. He was killed instantly by a crushing blow to the head from a complete volume edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Learning of this shocking turn of events had a salutary and quiescent effect on Ivan Inkling. He was stunned, in particular, by seeing a photograph of his father taken by Al Terego, the illustrator of Let Stalk Strine. It showed Lauder reading in his small apartment.
For Ivan, it was like looking into a mirror: there were the same shelves of foreign dictionaries, the same red hair, bizarre cranial abnormalities and - most endearing of all - the same powerful trinoculars.
This established him as a young lexicological lion whose insights are celebrated in academic circles, and sometimes in quadrangles. Yet, if anything, he is even more modest and reclusive than his father - so until now the presence of this brilliant heir to the Lauder legacy and son of Straya has gone unknown.
We can only hope that the works of Ivan Inkling are greeted with the same enthusiasm - and bring such joy - as those of his late father.
Let stalk some more Strine
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