Almanac Poetry: Mister Vernacular

Australian magpie – just add speech and butcher. See below. (Source: Wikipedia.)



Mister Vernacular


talked like a butcher’s magpie
covered more ground than the early explorers
was as ugly as the old man’s backside
gave me a father of a hiding
made the greatest comeback since Lazarus
was as graceful as a cow with a cup of tea
mad as a cut snake
often Molly the Monk
sometimes happy as Larry
toey as a Roman sandal
made silk purses out of sows’ ears
had a beer pocket but a champagne purse
didn’t know whether he was Arthur or Martha
went from chocolates to boiled lollies
had an eye like a mullet that stunk
– I mean a stinking mullet.



Read more from Kevin Densley HERE


Kevin Densley’s latest poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, is available HERE


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Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, has just been published (late 2020) by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Recent other writing includes screenplays for films with a tertiary education purpose.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Strewth, what a bewdy mate!

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, mate! Now I feel like a rat with a gold tooth!

  3. Kevin Densley says

    … but I suppose I’m underselling myself, if one analyses the full meaning of what I’ve said in the above comment – for in spite of the showiness and ostentation, a rat with a gold tooth is still a rat! … Oops!

  4. Daryl Schramm says

    From a rooster to a feather duster . . .
    Talk underwater with a mouth full of marbles.
    More front than John Martins.
    Carries on like a pork chop.

  5. Kevin Densley says

    Many thanks, Daryl – these are all expressions which could’ve fitted into my poem!

  6. Nice, Kev. A few there I didn’t recognise. They sound quite good strung together like that. I don’t think the next generations will get such rich pickings from our current Australian vernacular.

  7. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Clem!

    I agree that our vernacular has some rich pickings, particularly in terms of older expressions – and that our current language is not as interesting, overall.

  8. Love it. I used to throw those into staff meetings on purpose and the younger team members would be incredulous and amused. Australian vernacular has disappeared from everyday discourse. Buried under the sludge of American tv and social media.
    “Full as a church school”
    “Dumb as a post”
    “Dry as a dead dingo’s donger”
    “Couldn’t lie straight in bed”
    “Nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs”
    “A heart like a pea”
    “Got his licence in a chook raffle”
    “Silly as a two bob watch”
    “Head like a mallee root”
    (And plenty of racist/sexist ones not fit for repeating in our more aware age)
    Best put down in heard in person was ALP Senator Don Grimes call Lib Senator Shirley Walters “Creamy – because she’s thick and rich”. Even the Libs pissed themselves as Don waited to withdraw his “unparliamentary” remark.

  9. Kevin Densley says

    Many thanks, PB, for your fine response.

    I love your list! “Nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs” particularly took my fancy – I knew it, but hadn’t heard it for quite a while.

  10. Australian horse racing once had a fine line in vernacular. Frank Hardy of Power Without Glory fame was a mad gambler and wrote a collection of stories called “The Needy and the Greedy”. First came across his yarns on the ABC TV panel show “Would You Believe?” in the 70’s. The rotating group of panelists included Jacki Weaver, Cyril Pearl, Michael Baume, Noeline Brown, and Len Evans. All great raconteurs and wits. The show was like the current “Would I Lie to You?” that Rob Brydon hosts – but less gags and more straight faced.
    Racing vernacular I remember:
    “Wouldn’t run two miles down a well”.
    If a horse’s odds were drifting it was “blowing like a dunny door in a gale”.
    If a tipster was talking up the breeding of a young untried horse; the response was “and Johnny Weismuller’s sister drowned”.
    Shifty jockeys had names like “Handbrake Harry” White.
    Reticent trainers setting a horse for a plunge “wore a tongue tie to bed so he wouldn’t talk in his sleep”.
    Bookies gave away “homing pigeons and boomerangs”.

  11. Kevin Densley says

    Ripper stuff, PB!

    The horseracing world is certainly rich in stories and vernacular expressions. A horse that “went like last week’s pay” immediately springs to mind!

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