Fair Dinkum

Our departure time is 'dinkum', and no mere rumour

Digger Carl Jannsen, Mena Camp, Egypt, 1914

It's got to be a fair dinkum change of heart. We all know what that is.

Prime Minister John Howard on Iraq while in America, Sydney Morning Herald, Feb 10 03

So be fair dinkum, and vote yes, yes for an Australian Head of State

Bob Hawke,  Former Prime Minister of Australia, 31 October 1999

We'll have to bring a fair dinkum judgement to this issue.

Prime Minister John Howard, PM's fair dinkum line on Zimbabwe, 19 March 2002

It is great that he was able to come to a country and be proud that, although he might have started life as a Pommy, he had become a fair dinkum Aussie

Minister for Urban Services commenting on the former Director of Town Planning with the National Capital Development Commission

ACT Week 5 Hansard (27 August 1998) Page 1425

The beer consuming public that loves cricket knows who is fair dinkum.

Carlton & United Spokesman, David Park, Truth First Casualty in Beer War, Daily Telegraph, Feb 2002

Dinkum Aussies

Fair dinkum is an old Australian expression very roughly translating to mean genuine. It used to be very common in the early days, and was often used as an example of Australian English. Go on, check your standard English dictionary now - we bet it's in there.

Let us get fair dinkum when considering the form of rehabilitation in the early intervention programs.

Hon. Mr Mitchell,  MP, 24 March 1999

There are some people in business, as there are in politics, that are pretty thrusting and grubby. But the best people I’ve dealt with have impressed me with their integrity and fair-dinkumness.

Olympics Minister, Michael Knight, Financial Review, 5 August 2000

I met a lot of shallow types over there to do with the movie. They do this thing where they hug ya. My mum taught me that a hug was getting your hearts close to show love, a fair-dinkum thing. But these people are chunks of steel, like concrete mate.

Steve Irwin (Crock Hunter), Is this the best known Aussie in the world?, Sydney Morning Herald, 7 September 2002

But of course as with all foreign languages, there is no real translation for the phrase. You can only look at the context in which it is used.  We'll do our best here, to translate into English English:

"Mate, are you fair dinkum?" - Kind Sir, are you telling me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

"Mate, I'm fair dinkum, bloody oath I am" - Why of course!!

"He's a fair dinkum drongo" -  He is honestly quite a fool who isn't too bright and gets nothing right. The fair dinkum adds the honestly part to the translation, the rest comes from drongo.

"You have to let him know you're fair dinkum" - You  have to let him know you are bona fide.

"Fair dinkum?" - No shit? 

At the same time and I see this over and over again a lot of injured workers are fair dinkum, but they get a rough deal

Hon. Mr Pearce, MP, 15 Apr 1999

Australian [cricket] players will pledge they are fair dinkum

Sydney Morning Herald, 6 May, 2000

Men flunk the tampon test of fair dinkum feminism

Sydney Morning Herald, 16 February, 2000

By the looks of things, all the coppers are concerned about are bravery awards, but fair dinkum, aside from Constable Lucas at the end, they didn't do anything. I don't really care what they say, because all of the onlookers and all of my family know what really happened. I'm not chasing a bravery award.

I saved my family, not police, says survivor of petrol inferno, Sydney Morning Herald, 27 August, 2002

Recently (1999) in the Brisbane CBD (Central Business District), one of the authors was parking his car when the car attendant told him to use the services of the car park across the road (as it was owned by the same people and he had used all of his early bird spots). Unfortunately, the other attendant quoted a very high price for the day's parking, and the author returned to the original car park. Upon hearing the price quoted by the other attendant, the first attendant scowled, looked the suited customer in the eye and said:

He's a f______ c_________. Fair dinkum.

And let the author in for the cheaper price.

During world war I dinkum took on an additional meaning (The Anzacs, 1976):

   It was said of the men who rushed up to join when the war was declared that they were, 'Dinkum Aussies'. The men who joined later, after hearing of the fearful death toll, were called 'Fair Dinkums': men who enlisted even though they knew the odds were against them.

Recently, the long standing Tim Fisher resigned as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. In one of the interviews he gave on his departure, he was asked about his days in the Vietnam war. Tim looked a little uncomfortable, obviously disturbed by the memory, when he said, simply, "It was fair dinkum".  The interviewer needed no other explanation.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order! This matter is before the courts. I ruled last time and I ruled earlier that if the matter was before the courts the member would be out of order. I ask the member to keep his comments general rather refer than to a specific case.

Mr Reynolds: How about being fair dinkum

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I ask the member to continue. I will listen very carefully

24 Mar 1999,  Legislative Assembly 705

As fair dinkum is one of the most fair dinkum Australian expressions, it is unfortunate that it is one of those phrases that appears to be being used less and less by the younger people - particularly the middle class.  While all Australians understand the phrase, it does not come naturally to many in a spoken context although the pollies don't seem to have any trouble.  Of the authors of this site, one can confess to being comfortable in two of the senses listed above, whereas another claims to use it quite frequently when in the company of working class North Queenslanders. Two others (one the bilingual son of a migrant couple), can not really claim to ever using it in a fair dinkum way.

I certainly hope that MIM is fair dinkum when it says that it will keep the Collinsville  coalmine open if it is given assistance from the Government. Within two weeks, we  will see whether the company is fair dinkum.

Hon. Mr Smyth, Legislative Assembly 6106 19 February 1991

However, we are pleased to report that a Brisbane supervisor of construction workers has observed that fair dinkum is alive and well in the vocabulary of the workers, even if they are young (along with sheila). But then again the reports are that the phrase is dead in the Northern Territory.   

That shows how fair dinkum he is in trying to resolve this problem.

Hon. Mr Heath,  1991

And just plain dinkum can be very handy when wanting to get your point across to parliament as well:

I want to talk about a favourite subject of mine: smoking. The problem was brought home to me loudly and clearly when I spoke to an old digger from the Second World War. I have spoken to several people about smoking and whether State and Federal Governments are really dinkum about people giving up smoking…. Are we dinkum about encouraging people to give up smoking? …. As I see it, the problem is that the State and Federal Governments are not dinkum about helping people give up smoking…. If these Governments were dinkum, they would help people with a method of giving up smoking which has worked for thousands and thousands of people… If the Government was dinkum, assistance would be provided in this area….If the Government is dinkum, a course of these pads should be on the free list.

The Hon. G. WEATHERILL, South Australia Legislative Council, 5 April 1995

In the segments of society in which the usage has been eroded, its use is becoming more and more restricted to meaning genuinely Australian, rather than in the generic sense. Possibly because of our isolation, Australia has developed quite a few words meaning, specifically, genuinely Australian.   For example, there is not really anything in the world that is dinki-di except something that is particularly Australian. And similarly, the phrase true blue while meaning genuine in standard english, now exclusively means genuinely Australian in Australian English. It even can mean the state of being Australian, as any true blue aussie would know.

I hope I contributed something worth while to my adopted country and people recognise me as a fair dinkum Australian. If people remember me as that, I would be modestly proud

John Gilchrist, former Director of Town Planning with the National Capital Development Commission

Quoted ACT Week 5 Hansard (27 August 1988) Page 1426

He wanted to be described as a Pommy who left his mark and became a fair dinkum Australian. From my experience of dealing with him, he was certainly a fair dinkum Australian. He told it exactly as it was.

Minister for Health and Community Care commenting on John Gilchrist

ACT Week 5 Hansard (27 August 1988) Page 1424

Let's get fair dinkum and keep the language that's ours ours

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie, Spitting chips (not french fries), Courier Mail, 9 March 2003

A foul-mouthed former radio announcer yesterday became the first person in Victoria to be convicted of a bullying charge that did not involve physical violence. In November 2002, Mowat allegedly said to a co-worker: "Fair dinkum, you're f---in' useless . . . you're just f---in' me around." He then said: "I will take you down the back and f---in' smash you, I will."

Radio announcer a bully who scared co-workers, Sydney Morning Herald, 23 July 2004

"A biological, science-driven solution is the only fair dinkum way to solve this problem," Senator Campbell said.

Cane toads can't be stopped, News.com.au 6 August 2005

Queensland surfer Peter Smith, 30, got more than he bargained for when he roomed with two German women at a Coffs Harbour hostel. "They told me they finished school and just come here to fulfil their fantasies," he said with an incredulous look on his face after a big night. "Mate, I was just passing through on my way to Sydney and I've fair dinkum been to heaven and back".

Surf, sex and easy money, The Sunday Telegraph, Jan 9 2005

"The Australian people look people in the eye and they know when they are being fair dinkum," Mr Rudd said. "You [John Howard] have spent 11 years not being fair dinkum."

PM in Parliament Rudd rage attack, News.com.au, 30 May 2007

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