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Some language trivia

Posted by Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President on 27 May 2014
I wonder how many of you think “wagging school” & “to play the wag” are peculiarly Australian expressions? I confess I did.

I’m currently reading Dickens’s novel Dombey and Son and recently encountered the following passage in Chapter XXII: A trifle of management by Mr Carker the manager.

 

“My misfortunes all began in wagging, sir; but what could I do exceptin’ wag?”

“Excepting what?” said Mr Carker.

“Wag, sir – wagging from school.”

“Do you mean pretending to go there and not going?” said Mr Carker.

“Yes, sir; that’s wagging, sir,” returned the quondam Grinder, much affected.

 

Incidentally, quondam was a new word for me. Here’s the Macquarie Dictionary online entry:

quondam
/?kw?ndæm/ (say 'kwondam)
adjective that formerly was or existed; former: his quondam partner.
[Latin: formerly]
Author: Garry Collins, ETAQ Immediate Past President
About: Garry Collins was ETAQ President from mid July 2005 to 15 March 2014. He taught English in state high schools for around 35 years and now tutors in English curriculum courses in the School of Education at the University of Queensland.
Tags: General news

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