Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Gay Kookaburras

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry, merry king of the bush is he
Laugh kookaburra, laugh Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be - from "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree", Marion Sinclair 1932

Next thing you know, they'll be changing Van Gogh's "Sunflowers"!

I read today that a school in Australia has banned the word "gay" from the classic Aussie song for children - "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree".

Instead of "Gay your life must be", students at Cheltenham's Lepage Primary School have been told to sing "Fun your life must be" in another win for political correctness.

How bizarre - think up your own song Garry Martin, principal of Lepage, Don't go around changing other people's creative efforts. Next thing you''ll be wanting to clothe Michelangelo's David, or changing the words in "The Merchant of Venice".

Seems like "Kookaburra Sings in the Old Gum Tree" is getting more than its fair share of attention lately.

"Kookaburra was penned" 75 years ago by Toorak teacher Marion Sinclair and is now owned by Larrikin Music. This year the Federal Court of Australia awarded Larrikin 5% of the royalties from their song "Down Under" after ruling that Men at Work's "Down Under" had breached copyright by including a riff from the Kookaburra song. The decision is under appeal.

I'd watch out if I were you, Mr. Martin.

And then there's our unofficial National Anthem - the one that brings tears to the eyes of Aussie expats everywhere.

There's a new version - a translation sung, here by Indigenous Australian Ali Mills - "Waltjim Bat Matilda" in "Kriol" - which used to be "Creole" which used to be "Pigeon".

For non-Australian readers - in Ali's version, "Baah" is the translation of "jumbuck" which means sheep. Words! When will we get them right? ....

I think it's one of the better versions I've heard, but will there be a problem with it? Certainly the the use of Creole in government literature has been considered, and probably has been, demeaning. Take the case of the brochure and the he U.S. Department of Housing (HUD).

Late 1999 Rezedents Rights & Rispansabilities was published by HUD. Purportedly a "Creole" translation, the document began, "Yuh as a rezedent, ave di rights ahn di rispansabilities to elp mek yuh HUD-asisted owzing ah behta owme fi yuh ahn yuh fambily," and continued in that vein for several pages. Some declared it a "racial parody" and it was eventually withdrawn from distribution.

I tend to think that the brochure WAS demeaning whether it was meant to be or not. It was probably a good thing that it was withdrawn.

But language should be looked at in context and I was sorry to read that Ali Mills had initially worried that she'd set back the image of indigenous Australians by 50 years if she recorded "Waltjim Bat Matilda".

People like Garry Martin who no doubt will be ever known as the spoiler of gay kookaburras, need to get a life.

I close on a brighter note. Take a walk in my neighbourhood.

My name is Kathleenwng and I approve this message.


1 comment:

Jaded NYer said...

Language. Can anyone get it right?

They don't call it the Tower of Babble" for nothing !!!

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