Aussie lingo: sheila

By Frank Povah 5 November 2010
Reading Time: < 1 Print this page
Frank Povah argues that the demise of ‘sheila’ is a shame and that it deserves a come back.

I CAN’T PUT MY on just why sheila became defunct, though I have my suspicions. Arising from the generic use of a given name common among Irish and Irish-Australian women, it died well before the recognition of the gender bias in Australian society and I reckon its demise goes deeper than that.

In the late ’40s there was a very real effort on the part of “the establishment” to kindle an affection for their “mother country” that was slowly dying in the aftermath of two terrible wars.

In print at least since the 1820s, sheila, by the 1950s, was constantly attacked by all who considered themselves an authority on proper English, those same wowsers who were always poking the borak at our accent and in the next breath bemoaning the “cultural cringe”.

I like sheila. I really do. I find it less cringe-making by far than the “guys” used by the simpering hosts of morning tv shows. Fair enough, globalisation has led several generations to believe that this is the real Australia, egalitarian and matey, but to me, sheilas, and its partner fellers, is bare feet, freckles and surf; rolling wheat paddocks and Uluru.

Source: Australian Geographic Issue 86 (Apr – Jun 2007)

Subscribe to the Australian Geographic YouTube channel.

RELATED STORIESMore Aussie lingo