Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meaning of Australian English - around the traps

I have my normal Sunday Essay largely completed, but I'm not really happy with it yet. In the meantime, Neil's Around the blogging traps… with its link through to a Wikipedia page on dated Australian English vocab caught my attention.

I actually use a fair number of Australianisms from various stages in my life because I find them so wonderfully evocative. One of them is around the traps. The Wikipedia article suggests that it means around one's usual haunts. That's actually not quite right.

I haven't checked the origins of the phrase, but I suspect that it may originally have come to Australian English from North America where trapping was so important. In Australia as in North America, trappers would set out traps around the bush to catch game. This became very important in Australia as the imported rabbit became a plague. During the Great Depression, rabbit and rabbit trapping was a major source of food and income for the unemployed. 

The phrase entered the Australian language to mean going out to your traps to see what you can find. This is not quite the same as usual haunts, because the phrase carries the connotation of going out to capture. It was and still is a country phase that then entered the political lexicon, especially in Labor and Country Parties.  

The phrase "around the traps" is generally associated with words like "heard" or "word": the word around traps is, heard around the traps, they tell me round the traps. Around the blogging traps implies that I or Neil have been out to see what we can capture: these are the results.

See why I like the phrase? It carries so much meaning.    

Postscript

A comment from cousin Jamie that I thought I should bring up into the main post:

As a young man who augmented his pocket money by trapping rabbits, I associate with this phrase. I certainly went out to check my traps to see what I had caught.

As an eight or nine year old, I think I caught my aged aunt Helen off guard when I asked her to put her foot on a specific spot so as to release my finger which I had inadvertently caught in my own trap!

I digress.

When I checked my traps, they were always in my "usual haunts" and if I returned to Glenroy today, I could show go straight to the warrens of my childhood. Hopefully they are still not there!

As a side, I sold my rabbits each Saturday Morning to a Rabbito who lived in a two story freestanding terrace in Uralla, which, when my father was born in 1911, moonlighted as a Hospital. Each year as we pass it, I point it out to his Grand Daughters whom he predeceased by some 15 years.

cheers

Jamie

So we do have usual haunts. However, it is still the action of going out to check that is central to the phrase or, alternatively, of receiving information while out there.

As townies, brother David and I did not go trapping. But I still remember the rusty rabbit traps hanging in bundles at places we visited. They were pretty lethal. I suspect that Jamie's caught finger really hurt.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a young man who augmented his pocket money by trapping rabbits, I associate with this phrase. I certainly went out to check my traps to see what I had caught.

As an eight or nine year old, I think I caught my aged aunt Helen off guard when I asked her to put her foot on a specific spot so as to release my finger which I had inadvertently caught in my own trap!

I digress.

When I checked my traps, they were always in my "usual haunts" and if I returned to Glenroy today, I could show go straight to the warrens of my childhood. Hopefully they are still not there!


As a side, I sold my rabbits each Saturday Morning to a Rabbito who lived in a two story freestanding terrace in Uralla, which, when my father was born in 1911, moonlighted as a Hospital. Each year as we pass it, I point it out to his Grand Daughters whom he predeceased by some 15 years.


cheers
Jamie