Aussie lingo: borac

By Frank Povah 9 December 2010
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If you’re trying to deny something, you might be “poking the borac”.

BORAK or BORAC IS ANOTHER home-grown word, as fair dinkum as eucalyptus oil. It comes to us from “burag”, a word that the Wathawurung people of the Geelong region used to negate or deny something. Sometimes spelt “borax”, it has replaced “baal”, its Dharug [NSW] equivalent, undergoing some subtle changes on its  journey to the 21st century.

Borak popped up in print as early as 1839, and in 1845 Melbourne’s Standard reported that an accused man had “…merely denied the charge by using the word borac [sic]”.

By the 1870s, Aussies were beginning to poke the borak at one another and its modern meaning was fixed – anyone who has ever umpired an Aussie sporting match knows only too well what it means.

In the glory days before political rallies were stage-managed ‘events’, politicians needed to be resilient. Getting up in front of a crowd meant copping the borak, making for some interesting exchanges.

Another commonly used Aboriginal word is “bujari”, a Dharug word expressing approval. By the early 1800s, Aussies were combining Dharug words and British colloquialisms. For example: “It was a budgeree feast and that’s baal gammon.” “Gammon”, English dialect for a lie, went into Aboriginal English.

Source: Australian Geographic Issue 101 (Jan – Mar 2011)

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