Review of The Default Country: A Lexical Cartography of Twentieth Century Australia, by J.M. Arthur.

It must have been a satisfying find. From the Brigalow Farm Management Handbook (1976) Jay Arthur reports the observation that 'generally it takes two seasons of flogging to clear an area of suckers.' It is the verb 'flogging' that interests her (though this reader could not suppress his awareness of another connotation of 'sucker' - a dupe. 'The rout of the gormless' - a painting by John Perceval?). To 'flog' the land is to overtax its nurturant capacity- in this case by grazing too many sheep. Jay Arthur's book is about the vocabulary that Australians have used since Federation in order to make sense of the land in which they live. As she reads that lexicon, Australians have been more or less constantly anxious about their relationship with 'the indigenous'. So 'sucker bashing' -a strategic use of sheep or whatever comes to hand - 'refers to the colonists' struggle with the indigenous bush that will not die.'

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Published 1 October 2003 in Volume 21 No. 2. Subjects: Language.

Cite as: Rowse, Tim. ‘Review of The Default Country: A Lexical Cartography of Twentieth Century Australia, by J.M. Arthur..’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 21, no. 2, 2003. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.30f38dbe0e.