Fair dinkum I'm knackered, cobber

Robert Elmer: Question for you: I'm a American children's author, currently at work in a series of pioneer novels set in 1868 Australia. I want some of the characters to be using Aussie vernacular, words like "knackered," "ocker" and "stickybeak." But I have to make sure those words were in use at the time. Can you steer me to a source that can put me straight? Thanks much! P.S. I'm also curious in the date of birth and origin of terms like "cobber," "fair dinkum," and "she'll be apples."

Terry O'Connor: Briefly... Ocker cited from 1916; knackered is probably British rather than Australian; stickybeak cited from 1920. Cobber (probably from the British cob, to like) cited from 1893; dinkum cited from 1888; fair dinkum from 1890. dinkum was British dialect for work, hence fair dinkum good, or hard, work, hence honest or true. She'll be apples is rhyming slang, from apples 'n' spice, nice. cited from 1940.

Dan Stalker: A couple of suggestions for you. The Penguin Book of Australian Bush ballads has poetry going right back to convict days. The poems are mostly dated so you would get a good idea of the era you want. My other suggestion is to read a book called "Such is Life" by "Tom Collins" which was first published in 1903, which covers life in the Bush around the period you seek. It was written by Joseph Furphy a bullock driver in Victoria and Southern New South Wales, and bullock drivers were renowned for their colourful language.

Adam Broit: Cobber - My understanding is that it came from the Hebrew "Chaver" which means "Mate" or "friend". This may be a source, but look in Eric A Partridge's "Dictionary Of Slang". It's very good and heavy(!), listing not only Aussie slang, but (other) cultures too. Good Luck.


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