Monday, August 22, 2005


The story about a ban on Parliament house security guards and other staff in Canberra, Australia, using the word "Mate" as a form of address seems to have been picked up around the world. Outside Australia, however, very few people understood what it was all about. It goes back to the fact that the British-origin population of Australia mostly originated from the English regions and the English working class. And in such circles -- particularly among working-class Londoners ("Cockneys") -- it is normal to address someone as "Mate" if you don't know his name. I remember when I was in London, if I bought a downmarket newspaper such as the "Sun" from the newspaper vendor, he would say "Ta, Mate" when I gave him the money. If however I bought a more upmarket newspaper such as the "Times", he would say "Ta, Guv" when I gave him the money. So a custom that is class-based in England is universally respected in Australia, though still to a degree class-based. Australians these days are mostly bourgeois but working-class traditions are now national traditions. So an attempt to impose more formal manners on anybody was bound to meet with widespread condemnatioin -- which it did. One of the news stories about the matter is reproduced below:

"A ban by Australia's Parliament House on the term "mate," a popular colloquialism and symbol of egalitarianism, has been overturned following a barrage of protest. Security guards at Parliament House in Canberra had been directed Thursday to refer to people as sir and ma'am. The ban was imposed after the head of a government department complained about being called mate, local media reported. But a parliamentary circular issued Friday removed the directive warning staff not to use "mate" when dealing with the public or members of parliament, instead suggesting they use their judgment on when a more formal approach is required.

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke said the attempted ban was "pomposity gone mad," while current Prime Minister John Howard described the ban as "absurd and impractical." "There are circumstances where a more formal address is appropriate," Howard told Australian radio. "But in the same conversation you might start off calling somebody you have just met sir or madam but as you become more familiar ... you might end up saying mate."

The move also prompted a flood of calls to talkback radio around the country and was slammed by Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper as "ludicrous" because it took Australia back to the days of the class system.


A couple were banned from playing the Robbie Williams hit "ANGELS" at their civil wedding - in case it offended non-Christians. Howard Monks, 47, and Julie Sagar-Doyle, 36, wanted the star's 1997 song played as they took their vows, because it is "their tune".

But just 15 minutes before the ceremony, politically correct bureaucrats barred the tune by Robbie, as it contains the word heaven - giving it "religious connotations". Instead the pair had to settle for Shania Twain's From This Moment when they wed at Dukinfield registry office, Greater Manchester. Printer Howard, of Hadfield, Derbys, blasted: "It's ridiculous to say this would upset ethnic minorities. It's just a pop song. Robbie's hardly some religious bigot. The General Register Office said it is now reviewing the content of civil marriages.


The incorrectness of "Dixie": "To hear some newcomers to Hanover County, Virginia, tell it, 'Dixie' is a five-letter four-letter word. They want to change the county's annual Civil War commemoration from 'Dixie Days' to something else, to avoid, among other things, offending Yankees who have moved into the county. Dixie cups are probably OK, concedes one county official, but not 'Dixie' -- that reminds everyone of, well, the South. Jamelle Wilson, a member of an advisory panel reviewing the annual event, told a public gathering earlier this month that 'Dixie Days' is 'problematic' and that calling a Civil War commemoration by that name 'tends to represent the past.' If 'Dixie' remains, the county schools shouldn't promote or endorse it, she said. But a war, so far fairly civil, is brewing."

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