Monday, April 11, 2005

Former Folkies

In Syndey, Australia, Derrick Chetwyn's site speaks of that Mike Ball musician in the local folk scene in the 1960s.
The club to which I developed a great affinity was the Sydney Folksong Club, which was, at that time, run by Mike and Carol Wilkinson, Mike Ball and Colin Dryden, all of whom became great influences on my development as a singer of traditional folk music. On Mike Ball's departure back to the Old Dart, (England) I was very flattered to be invited to join the remaining crew as a resident singer at the club! Over the next few years I started playing a banjo-mandolin to accompany the other guys singing and not a few people were sucked in by the F-holes I had drawn on the skin!
Having never heard that slang for England, I looked and found on a local radio station's site:
The “Old Dart” means “the old country”, that is Great Britain (especially England). This is a piece of Australian slang that can quite confuse visitors who come from the Old Dart, and have never heard it before. The earliest citation is from 1908 (from a book called “Quinton’s Rouseabout”). As to where it comes from the Oxford English Dictionary says only “origin uncertain” – so a bit of detective work is called for here. There is an earlier Australian slang word “dart” which could mean “a plan, an aim, a scheme” but which could also mean “a favourite or fancy”. This slang term “dart” appears to have died out before the Second World War. It’s first recorded in a book called “The Sydney Slang Dictionary” published in 1883, which says that a “dart” is “an object of attraction, or an enticing thing or event, or a set purpose”. Rolf Boldrewood used the word in that sense in his classic novel “Robbery Under Arms”. But we can, I think, go back one step further, because during the gold rushes “dart” was used to mean, “a scheme or dodge” or “a favoured location or object” or “a course of action”. A book about the gold diggings published in Victoria in 1859 says that “dart” was used by diggers as “the designation of stuff worth washing, as contradistinguished from that considered worthless”. In other words “dart” was “pay dirt” – a mixture of soil and rock from the diggings that was worth washing for its gold content. And from this the lexicographers suggest that “dart” is a corruption (or regional pronunciation) of “dirt”. And that looks like the story: the Old Dart meant “the Old Dirt” meaning “the Old Pay Dirt” – the good stuff, something desirable as a goal.

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