‘Bushranger’ and ‘Croppy’ : A Footnote to Convict Jargon and Euphemism


In a recent study of convict jargon in this journal emphasis is placed on the use of convict terms outside convict circles, particularly in the important 'migrant handbooks' published between 1820-1840. Mr Eagleson points out that the 'one definite linguistic advantage' in working from such books is that they were written by non-convicts (either free settlers or visitors to Australia) and that the terms given 'are the ones which must have been so widely and generally used as to become known outside convict circles':

They are terms which must have enjoyed a degree of stability and generality amongst the convicts and a certain currency within the community as a whole. No doubt other words also existed, but these under consideration are most interesting and valuable because of their currency, and their recognition, if not acceptance, outside the circle responsible for their creation.

Linguists might add considerably to their knowledge of early Australian idiom by studying yet another independent source, the manuscript journals and correspondence of early residents, particularly those of the early clergy and visiting missionaries to the colony. Commencing in 1798 the journals and letters of the missionaries of the London Missionary Society resident in or visiting New South Wales contain a number of references to local idiom.

The full text of this essay is available to ALS subscribers

Please sign in to access this article and the rest of our archive.

Published 1 June 1966 in Volume 2 No. 3. Subjects: Australian English, Australian culture, Bushrangers, Colloquialisms & slang, Convicts, Language.

Cite as: Gunson, Neil. ‘‘Bushranger’ and ‘Croppy’ : A Footnote to Convict Jargon and Euphemism.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 2, no. 3, 1966, doi: 10.20314/als.61b6ef45ba.