In a discussion today someone used the expression “not worth a brass razoo.” This then led to a further discussion as to how the phrase may have originated.
According to Wikipedia:
Brass razoo is an Australian phrase that was first recorded in soldiers' slang in World War I. It is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as "a non-existent coin of trivial value". It is commonly used in the expression I haven't got a brass razoo, meaning the speaker is out of money.
That tells us what it means but not how it originated. That’s where it gets murky.
There are a number of opinions and explanations on the possible origin:
- That Australian troops serving in France used the smallest denomination in French currency, a sou, to denote having nothing eg “I haven’t got a sou.” Over time this became corrupted to “razoo” with the word brass, meaning money in England, being added later.
- The Yanks use the term raspberry to denote a derogatory farting sound . It was also known as a razoo. Interchanges between Australian and American infantry serving in France jokingly included razoos, later known as “arse razoos”, which then became “brass razoo” and applied to having nothing.
So there you have it, the jury is still out on this one.
Which leads to another strange one, a favourite expression of someone in the first office I worked in: that something written out that was untidy looked like a pakapoo ticket. (This is also written as a pak ah pu ticket).
Pak ah pu was a gambling game commonly called the Chinese Lottery that was brought to Australia in the 19th century by Asian immigrants. Its name came from the Cantonese word for pigeon in that a trained pigeon picked the winning characters. The game utilised books with characters and players bet on which characters might be picked. It is said that the modern gambling game Keno is an adaption of pah ah pu. The indecipherable sheets, at least to non-Asian observers, resulted in untidy writing being compared to such tickets.
Dorothy Dixer is the term applied in Australian Parliaments to staged questions asked of the leaders and Ministers that enable those persons to then deliver a very favourable prepared reply or report.
Dorothy Dix was the pen name of US writer Elizabeth Gilmer who found fame as an advice columnist. Gilmer was reputed to write not only her responses to the questions sent to her but also the questions themselves.
As a result, from the 1950’s the questions of government leaders and ministers that were a set up to enable a prepared reply to be given came to be known as Dorothy Dixers, later shortened to just Dixers.
From The Australian, 28 May 2003:
Like everyone else, Kevin Rudd was spellbound when diminutive Liberal MP Sophie Panopolous rose to ask a dorothy dixer. And it was not her husky voice or hair or makeup that stopped traffic, but the rows and rows of pearls .. dangling beneath her neck. 'Condolence motion to the oysters', barked Rudd.