Following on from the post about disappearing Aussie slang, Byter Nadia asked for an item on the origin of the expression “better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick”, meaning better than nothing.
My researches have not established anything definitive about its origin.
The earliest recorded use of an equivalent expression is from 1786, “better than a thump on the back with a stone”.
There are variations to the above “burnt stick” expression, which is generally accepted to be Australian in origin:
- better than a smack in the eye
- better than a kick in the ass with a frozen foot (Canadian)
- better than a kick up the arse (or in the pants) (British)
- better than a slap in the belly with a wet fish (British)
- better than sleeping with a dead policeman (British)
Nadia’s other request, the origin of the expression “telling porkies”, meaning telling lies, is a lot easier. Its origin is Cockney rhyming slang, “pork pies” meaning “lies”, reduced later to “porkies”.
That expression was used a lot in headlines when, in June 2010, Primo, Australia’s largest producer of smallgoods was hit with a fine of $237,575 plus $200,000 in costs for mislabelling Danish and Canadian bacon products as Australian. The Daily Telegraph declared that Primo had told porkies about bacon.