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Stray thoughts: Going doolally over a box of fluffies

  • 16 August 2022
Welcome to 'Stray Thoughts', where the Eureka Street editorial team muses on ethical and social challenges we've noted throughout the week.  Headlines in print (newspapers and magazines) have some heavy lifting to do. They need to convey the essence of the story in as few words as possible, be enticing and hopefully be funny, clever or both. In traditional news terms, you should know what the story says from the heading, intro and first paragraph. However, the funny thing about being funny (especially with word play) is you’re assuming your audience knows the same things you do.

Asked for a headline for a walking tour of Cape Shanck I suggested ‘On Shanck’s pony’ until the vacant looks of the millennials in the office alerted to me the fact that I wasn’t half as clever as I thought I was.

In Eureka Street’s sister magazine Madonna, the phrase ‘bags of the afternoon left’ (meaning plenty of the afternoon) caused some consternation. A reader had not heard the term before, and it soon became apparent neither had others in the office. In explanation I used the phrase ‘a bit of Tartar’, only to be accused of ‘having a lend’ because the office had not heard of the tartar phrase.  

The playwright George Bernard Shaw once noted that Britain and the US are ‘two nations separated by a common language’. It seems the same applies to New Zealand and Australia. I know ‘having a lend’ means ‘having a person on’, ‘taking the mickey’ or ‘pulling your leg’ because it has been explained to me but it’s not a phrase I’d use.

So, in the interests of fostering communication, here’s some sayings that have caused misunderstandings, hilarity or looks of bewilderment over the years.

Doolally: A little bit mad, crazy. (Thought to be a corruption from the town of Deolali, the location of an army base and sanatorium where soldiers in India were sent.)

Box of fluffies (fluffy ducks): According to the Internet it is when something is working well or going your way. In my experience it’s used in the opposite way. You can probably tell from the tone of voice, but I’d always thought it had more to do with a kind of rhyming slang than the joy to be had from a box of cute ducklings.

Jeez, Wayne: An exclamation of exasperation. Definitely NZish, it came from the late 1970s comedy series A Week of It. NB. Be careful using it around significant others if their name is