Aussie Lingo: Ryebuck

By Frank Povah 22 June 2011
Reading Time: < 1 Print this page
Long before there was ‘cool’, ‘okey doke’ and ‘excellent’, there was ryebuck.

RYEBUCK HAD ALL BUT disappeared from the lingo when I was a nipper – though old codgers still used it. It probably came from Yiddish via England and underwent several changes in colonial Australia. It could indicate concurrence – “Do yer luv me?” sez I. “Ryebuck,” says she – or excellence.

In 1896 Henry Lawson used it to describe ‘top-shelf’ rum or whisky, the genuine article. A printed reference in 1913 does the same. “Ryebuck” experienced a comeback of sorts during the folk revival of the ’60s when, in 1967, that tireless collector of Australia’s traditional music, the late John Meredith, recorded Jack Luscombe singing The Ryebuck Shearer. It has a chorus:

“If I don’t shear a tally before I go/Me shears and stones in the river I will throw/And I’ll never open Sawbees to make another blow/And prove I’m a ryebuck shearer.”

It became a standard among the largely city-based ‘bush bands’ so popular in the 1960s to ’80s.

Source: Australian Geographic Issue 103 (Jul – Aug 2011)