Sunday, 2 March 2008

Icy reception

A backpacking drongo graffitied New Zealand's Franz Josef Glacier. Disgusted tourists took photos of the vandal in the act and handed them over to the DOC and police, who nabbed him as he was waiting for the bus out of town. He was told to fix up the eyesore.
[Constable] Gurney said it took Scharbert 1½ days to clean up his handiwork, during which he was severely dressed down by passing glacier guides and tourists.

Police said DOC was satisfied with his repair job, meaning he escaped a wilful damage charge and left Franz Josef "in one piece".

I love New Zealand.


Duncan said...

What a *#$%wit.

budak said...

why are drongos deragatory down under?

Snail said...

Indeed, Duncan! I'm appalled that he took spray paint to the glacier in the first place. And it's not as if this git was a 13-year-old, either.

Budak, I think it's down to a 1920s racehorse called Drongo that failed to win any races. It's not fair, of course, because drongos are wonderful, wily, slightly mad birds. But the name's stuck!

Anonymous said...

I say, snail, the Drongo etymology entry in Wikipedia - on which most google-found entries are based - is a popular fable with just a small kernel of fact. The Wikipedia entry uses a Bill Wannan book from the Seventies as its reference!
Wannan has published some of the stupidest rubbish this side of the black stump ;-)

The Australian National Dictionary online has better detail - - including the fuller retailing of Drongo's not so bad racing form.
Although he never got a win, he placed handily over his career. Which is not unlike many racehorses overall.
The origins among the racing fraternity (so-called because they're like brothers everywhere - rivals and often prepared to murder each other) are more likely from a sort of reflexive in-joke on the Age journalist who predicted an eventual win for the nag - just before it retired without winning :-)

The term only really got its more derogatory meaning (and a well-known place in Australian slang) during the Second World War when it was adopted by the RAF
There are more dark implications to being a raw recruit when a person's flying a plane than when they're studying the form, unna.

Then, like many other popular Australian slang words of today, it got well publicised, in Australia just as much as outside the country, as it tagged along with the massive wartime global publicity/propaganda machine that Cinesound and Hollywood ran worldwide.

This effect is shown right back when The Sentimental Bloke, a silent flick based on the poetic works by CJ Dennis, got wide popularity, and in more modern stuff like the Barry McKenzie and Crocodile Dundee flicks - and the Crocodile Hunter tv stuff.

Michael Quinion, that British National Treasure, does word origins better than most.
His Posh dismantles quite a few etymology folk tales.
Unsurprisingly, he hasn't touched drongo yet.

Forgive the droning-on. I have been sentenced to a week or two of office work and I seek any opportunity to stop going ga ga.

tcfra d***y

Snail said...

Please go on as much as you like because you're a pleasure to read. That ANU link is a winner.

I got my reference from Wilkes' 'Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms', which is both a great resource and a great distraction. It mentions the RAAF usage in relation to a drongo's 'clumsy flying', which sounds a bit odd ... unless they couldn't tell the difference between a drongo and a pheasant coucal. Now there's a clumsy flier! Drongos, as far as I recall, are pretty nifty aeronauts.

Although the dictionary refers to the RAAF usage as preceding the horse-racing one, it emphasises the latter. So maybe it was one of those terms that gained currency by later association?

The book has a bunch of wonderful quotes from Dymphna Cusack and Sumner Locke Elliott to show context. They don't shed light on the origin of the term but they certainly illustrate usage.