I seem to have drifted into a space where I’m a dag. In some ways this is nice.
Who hasn’t grown up at the opposite end of the world watching twice-daily episodes of Neighbours and not wished they lived in a world where people could say: “you’re such a dag, Mike,” even though you’re name’s not Mike. The point is: you could have been Mike. We all could have been Mike.
But be careful what you crave.
I recently turned round a computer screen to show a woman something I thought was quite funny (a man dressed as a gnome, sitting in a car, pulling a gangsta pose, since you ask).
It was one of those situations where you have to hold on to your titters; where you know, as soon as the other person’s face starts contorting, you’re going to piss yourself.
Then, amid all the frenzied chortling, she said: “You’re such a dag.”
She slapped her knees as she said it. I slapped mine. If we were Swiss we might have slapped our hands together, then our knees and started yodelling. But from that point, for me, things changed.
Something that had never bothered me in all the years of Neighbours-watching snaked up through my body, wrapped itself round my brain and started squeezing; its tongue a forked question: what’s a dag? WTF is a dag?
It struck me that I should ask the woman. And so I did.
“It just means you’re really daggy,” she said, still laughing. “It’s nothing to worry about – I’m a dag too.”
This was comforting, but only to a degree.
I decided to quiz people discreetly. It was like the first time you heard someone on Home and Away calling someone a spunk and had to check they hadn’t actually meant “spunk”, that “spunky” didn’t, by extension, mean covered in jizz. You knew it didn’t – how obscene would that be? – but you needed to be sure.
I had a word in the ear of someone who used to live in the UK and is fluent in Australian and British.
“It’s just like ‘naff’,” he said.
“Oh, right,” I said. “Ha, ha …” Naff?
That’s the problem with questions – people sometimes give you answers.
A man dressed as a gnome, sitting in a car, giving a gangsta pose: naff. Was I naff for reshowing it? Transmitting this man’s japery? Stupid man. Naff bastard gnome.
But could “naff” really be the meaning? The Urban Dictionary’s fine, but you can’t always trust it, so I looked up “dag” in the Oxford Concise Australian Dictionary: “a lock of wool clotted with dung …” Hmn, that’ll be right … Now, what’s this?
Yes: “colloq. An eccentric or noteworthy person; a character (‘he’s a bit of a dag’ ).” Yes, I’d settle for eccentric and noteworthy – but I don’t think that’s what a dag is.
I kind of thought it meant “dafty” or “spoon” – something like that. You’re such a spoon? Yeah, I could live with that. You’re a dafty-pants? Yup, that’s ok.
But could the dictionary have it so terribly wrong? Why not?
I looked up “bogan” and it said: “a gormless person” (versus the Urban Dictionary’s definition: “a hideously repugnant and unintelligent … beast”).
Both seem wrong although, oddly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bogan.
My wife assures me they don’t exist in the numbers they used to; they are the lesser-spotted bogan.
I’ll point to someone – mullet, skin-tight jeans, Sherrin footy balls tattooed on their eyelids – and whisper: “Is that a bogan?”, to which my wife will reply: “no”.
The temptation is to transplant “neds”, so that ned-like people would become bogans.
You don’t see many neds here – sadly, in my opinion – and maybe that’s why you don’t see many bogans.
It’s also used as an adjective. Someone’s choice of clothes can be bogan, as can their hair. If they’re wearing sawn-off shorts, for example, their heaving chest on display, their skin green with rage, they’d be … erm … Hulk bogan …
Apologies: that’s such a daggy thing to say.
You can be daggy and a bogan, incidentally; but I’m not sure a bogan can be spunky, except in the eyes of another bogan, particularly is he/she says something daggy.
I won’t know for sure until I see one.
This brings to mind the old adage: if you can’t spot the bogan at a party, the bogan is you, especially if you’re drinking James Boag’s.
How does this make me feel? Not awesome. Not awesome at all.
First published on Innocent in Australia, 2011.