Is "bonzer" bonzer?
May 13, 2008 7:57 PM   Subscribe

To bonzer or not to bonzer, that is the question for our Aussie MeFites.

Do real Australians actually use the word "bonzer" in conversation? I'm writing a book (no, really - it's for my chapter in the MetaFilter novel) in which a character has been identified as Australian. I'm toying with the idea of having the character use the term "bonzer idea," however, I'm not really sure if this is just a cliché for tourists, or if people really say it. Google results return a lot of commercial sites, so that makes me suspicious. Thanks in advance.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson to Writing & Language (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's actually "bonza" - whether or not it is in use depends on where you look. What sort of background does the character have? I hear it get used a fair bit, but only by certain types of people.
posted by cholly at 8:08 PM on May 13, 2008


No-one really uses it, as far as I, a latte-sipping, chardy-gulping inner-urban type Aussie, know.

It's possible that cockies may say it still.
posted by pompomtom at 8:13 PM on May 13, 2008


(...and I think I'd spell it 'bonzer' - but it looks horrid written down...)
posted by pompomtom at 8:14 PM on May 13, 2008


We don't know too much about his background at this point, but he likes to use colorful language. Mouths off a lot. Tries to be clever. The phrase in question would be, "Look, maybe this wasn't such a bonza idea..." Would that sound realistic, or phony? Thanks!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:14 PM on May 13, 2008


I've never heard it used, except tongue-in-cheek, or sometimes by people trying too hard to live up to some sort of cliche, like Ernie Dingo.

And it is indeed spelled "bonza".
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:16 PM on May 13, 2008


I'd use the word 'grouse' in place of 'bonza'. It's still idiomatic, but it's a little less forced.
posted by tim_in_oz at 8:23 PM on May 13, 2008


Well, I think my suspicions have been confirmed, then. I don't want the guy to speak cartoon Aussie. Thanks - Best answers all around!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:26 PM on May 13, 2008


Yeah... use 'grouse'!

(which is a little cartoon, but cartoon as in self-conciously cartoony-good, so if something weren't such a fantastic idea, one may well say 'not such a grouse idea' to emphasise the error)

(Or beanplate. One of those)
posted by pompomtom at 8:33 PM on May 13, 2008


It would be perfectly appropriate if used ironically. In which case you might as well use "strewth!" and "stone the crows" as well.

"That wasn't such a flash idea" would be more natural. Or "crash-hot".
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:41 PM on May 13, 2008


It's an anachronism rather than a caricature, so if it's a period novel, it might be appropriate.
My grandfather used to use it, but then he also used to say things like "you're a real white man" when someone was kind or generous, so there you go.
...and it's spelled "bonzer".
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:45 PM on May 13, 2008


It's something I very rarely hear. More often it's "grouse" or "ripper" or "you bewdy!". But more often than those it's "cool" or "nice" or "lovely". I guess it's just a matter of which crowd you're with.

On the subject of Antipodean Patois, having recently returned to Brisbane from the slightly more cultured Melbourne, I was literally nauseated to heat the word "moot" (pronounced like "foot", not "boot") employed for the first time in eight years.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:46 PM on May 13, 2008


"heat the word" = "hear the word". Sigh.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:46 PM on May 13, 2008


It has been used a few times in my presence. In my experience, it really only seems to get used if someone inclined to using such Australian expressions finds something really, really good. For example, your boss has just told you that you're getting half the day off of work at full pay... "Bonza!" Think of it as an Australian version of "awesome!"

I think I know the characters you're talking about. I'll Me-mail you with my thoughts on its use by them in a minute.
posted by Effigy2000 at 8:48 PM on May 13, 2008


Definitely anachronistic. 'Ripper' would be better. Or 'you beauty'.
posted by wilful at 8:53 PM on May 13, 2008


On review: "It's not such a crash-hot idea" is entirely current and appropriate.
posted by pompomtom at 9:16 PM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Honestly, the word I hear used the most is "awesome" and it's usually expressed as "bloody awesome". Grouse is well, very 80's...
posted by latch24 at 9:37 PM on May 13, 2008


I agree with the above. However, I have shocked myself by saying "G'day" naturally, so you can use that, and I do hear "mate" everyday as well, but more from men than women. "Bugger" and "bloody" for the older crowd, "fuck me"= a sense of amazement. I lived in outback and coastal Queensland and speak with a twang that I can not eradicate. If the character was from Townsville, s/he should end every sentence with the interrogative "eh", seeking agreement, not conveying confusion.
posted by b33j at 9:39 PM on May 13, 2008


I wouldn't use grouse unless the character is from Melbourne. I've lived in Sydney most of my life and Brisbane for 4 years and hardly ever hear that word.

Some people in Australia I know use bonza without trying to be ironic or sarcastic. So it is in everyday use, but it definitely depends on the type of character. Inner City office types, no. Country types, yes.
posted by Admira at 10:14 PM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks, everybody! For the record, I went with: “Look, maybe this wasn’t such a crash-hot idea, after all…” It's not something this character is likely to say a lot, but he's doing a lot of deflecting with colorful turns of phrase in this particular passage, and I liked the way it fit into the scene.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:30 PM on May 13, 2008


This not-so-crash-hot idea...did somebody float it like a Bondi Cigar?
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:25 PM on May 13, 2008


Admira writes:
> I wouldn't use grouse unless the character is from Melbourne.
> I've lived in Sydney most of my life and Brisbane for 4 years
> and hardly ever hear that word.

Well you learn something every day. I'm showing my origins as a life-long Melbournite.
posted by tim_in_oz at 11:55 PM on May 13, 2008


Rippa is good too

Grouse seems more Victorian/South Australian
posted by mattoxic at 2:58 AM on May 14, 2008


I'm a "ripper" kind of a chick. From time to time I do the "bonza" thing, but it's usually tongue in cheek... not that every one always realises that.
posted by taff at 4:15 AM on May 14, 2008


Nthing "ripper", it's far more commonly used that "bonzer", which has rapidly become a stereotype to be thrown in with the other "prawns on the barbie".
posted by jozzas at 6:40 AM on May 14, 2008


"Bonzer" is by far and away the most common spelling, not "bonza." Macquarie Dictionary confirms this and gives these alternate spellings: bonz, bonze, bonza, boshter, bosker.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:32 AM on May 14, 2008


In aviation circles "bonzer" is a nickname/brandname for a radar altimeter.
posted by bz at 1:10 PM on May 14, 2008


Grouse seems more Victorian/South Australian

I'm actually from Texas.
posted by grouse at 5:59 AM on May 16, 2008


There are others you might consider - dependant on the age of your character:

That's a choice idea, mate (if your character is from Wollongong, maybe - but it's made a resurgence of late in the general NSW pug circuit). ~30-40 yo

Or maybe it's a sick idea - or fully siiiiiiiick mate(if you want to throw a bit of Lebanese influence in your Australian) ~20-30 yo

Rippa is about as used as bonza and grouse - moreso by 40+ year olds taking the piss out of 50 year olds - they are pretty old skool and really cliche.

A lot of 'mericanisms have found their way into the latter teen patois - sigh ...
posted by strawberryviagra at 5:46 AM on May 24, 2008


Heh - general NSW pug circuit - meant pub. I'm a fucking numb-skull.
posted by strawberryviagra at 5:49 AM on May 24, 2008


Tim-in-Oz - you're not a Melbournite, you're a Melbournian.
posted by strawberryviagra at 5:51 AM on May 24, 2008


Actually, a Melburnian. Yes the o is dropped. No I don't know why.
posted by wilful at 7:32 PM on May 25, 2008


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