The lost tribes of bogan: booners, westies and bevans
It may seem a little odd to some but I am a snob when it comes describing those who are generally referred to as bogans – where I’m from the correct term is booner. So being from Canberra it will always be booner and I rarely make allowances those who may not know what I’m talking about.
This may seem ridiculous but it does makes sense: calling someone a bogan (or booner) is after-all an inherently snobbish exercise in differentiating from others you consider yourself to be better than in some way, so you may as well do it properly.
Another reason for objecting to the term is its ubiquitous use in Australia at the moment is slowly strangling other regionalisms that at least gave a certain colour and flair to our condescension.
There used to be a plethora of terms in different states and cities to describe people we now group under the banner of bogan: westie, bevan, barry, chigger, scozza, mocca, gullie and booner.
Using bogan feels fake, it betrays my home city and my youth.
The generic bogan term does not evoke the same images as having a VB stubby thrown at your car on the Belconnen Way from red v8 Falcon at 140 km an hour, or being chased through Wanniassa on a Saturday night with the terrified scream of “run, booners” lighting up the night.
The use of bogan, dare I say it, feels a little commercial at the moment (the “Cashed Up Bogans” banner on the new VB ad being a perfect example).
If bogan be your native tongue then by all means use it, but there are other terms that are becoming extinct at the expense of its popularity.
The Macquarie Dictionary considers booner and other terms besides bogan important enough for separate listings:
booner ACT Colloquial (mildly derogatory) a person, generally from an outer suburb of a city or town and from a lower socio-economic background, viewed as uncultured, and, according to the stereotype, favouring mullet haircuts and clothing such as jeans and flannelette shirts or black T-shirts, women also favouring short tight skirts etc. CF. barry, bennie; bogan (def. 1); boonie; Charlene; Charmaine; cogger; feral (def.9) Especially Qld bevan (def. 2); Chiefly Qld bev-chick; WA bog; ACT charnie; Tas. Chigger; Reverina gullie; Melbourne Region mocca; Vic. Scozzer; Chiefly NSW westie.
Bruce Moore is head of the Australian National Dictionary Centre at the ANU and is currently working on entries of bogan and related terms for the newest editions of Australian Concise Oxford
Dictionary. He provided this list to The Punch which will be in the next edition:
bogan a person who is regarded a being uncultured and unsophisticated, especially such a person from a low socio-economic or poorly-educated background. [origin uncertain]
chigger Tas.. a person who is regarded as uncultured, lacking style, etc. [Chigwell , a suburb of Hobart ]
bevan esp. Qld a person who is regarded as uncultured, lacking in style, etc. [origin unknown, perhaps from the name Bevan ]
booner . ACT a person who is regarded as uncultured, lacking in style, etc.
westie 1. a resident of one of the western suburbs esp. of Sydney or Melbourne. 2 a person who is regarded as uncultured, lacking style, etc
Dr. Moore says that bogans’ dominance over other terms completes the search for a replacement for the now prized Aussie term of larrikin:
“Up until the 1940’s and 50’s the larrikin was associated with street gangsters. They were the bogans, now it’s lost its negative connotations.
“In the 60’s and 70’s westies came along . . . but the earliest popular use of bogan was Kylie Mole from the Comedy Company who defined bogan as “a person that you just don’t bother with. Someone who wears their socks the wrong way or has the same number of holes in both legs of their stockings. A complete loser”’
Dr Moore points out that this “dag” definition of bogan differs from its now accepted booner like associations which now dominate. Still he says the actual origins of bogan remain lost in the mists of time:
“We still do not know where bogan came from. The Bogan River area of western NSW has given us some Australian terms. A Bogan gate is a makeshift gate, a Bogan storm is a duststorm, and a Bogan flea is a plant with spiny seeds. But there is no evidence that our uncouth bogan derives from this.”
Much like the linguistic relationship between Hungarian and Finnish the most interesting bogan like term is the diaspora of bevans:
“The really strange one is bevan because it is used in Tasmania and Queensland.”
But Moore accepts that the bevan, the chigger and booner may be in their final days because of the popular acceptance of bogan.
“Bogan is on TV and has been popularised and has won for one reason or another. . . I saw bogan bingo the other night at a pub on the north coast.
“I gave a speech at a Canberra school recently and ended with a joke about booners and nobody knew what I meant. Ten years ago it would at least get recognition. Bogan has taken over and the booner may well be dead.”
Still, like worshippers of an obscure prophet, I will continue to curse the bloody booners and not damn the bogans.
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