From Pommie Bastards to Commie Bastards to Indian Bastards, is Brad Hogg simply channelling the spirit of Australia in the latest chapter of the India Australia cricket debacle?
More commonly, the word at the centre of the latest inter-cultural communication crumble means “illegitimate child” or is “a way to insult another person in a vulgar way” but it’s nothing if not flexible; the B word is also a “70s band which changed their name to Motörhead and became one of the best bands ever”, according to Urban Dictionary, not to mention a small town in Norway.
In a mountain of a defence, Hoggs’ team is apparently set to claim at tonight’s hearing that his promise to the Indian batsman — “I can’t wait to run through you bastards” — was not a shaming slur but a jovial colloquial reference in the vein of Sir Edmund Hillary’s quip of Everest, that he “knocked the bastard off’”.
The Australasian Order of Old Bastards, champions of the endearing greeting “Hello you old bastard”, formed by allied Servicemen based in Australia during the Second World War, is perhaps the earliest formal incarnation of the benign Australian bastard.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Aussie larrikin Barry McKenzie continued to fly the bastard flag in his famed descriptions of “Pommie Bastards” and “Commie Bastards”, among other racial groups like “Our dear little stunted, slant-eyed, yellow friends”.
On the back of the McKenzie revolution, the friendly bastard has woven itself inextricably into Australian cultural history. In the arts, ABC gave us Bastard Boys, Peter Brune’s A Bastard of a place, The Australians in Papua, Kokoda Mone Bay Gona Buna Sanananda gave the bastard historical significance, and former Labor national president Tom Burn’s references to Bjelke Peterson as “The old Bastard” gives it lasting political value.
And who could argue with the validity of a word that has its very own order and celebratory day? Good Bastard Day, held annually on the same day as The Melbourne Cup, unites booze and Bastards from all across the land.
There’s plenty more fuel for the semantic fire.