Fair Dinkum
Posted: 24 September 2013 06:20 PM   [ Ignore ]
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What I thought was a uniquely Australian word, apparently may have a UK origin instead.

The word/s ‘Dinkum’ or ‘fair dinkum’ mean true or genuine, as in “are you fair dinkum?” = is that true?

However, recently I met an English professor who mentioned that this word comes from England and has something to do with a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

Can anybody throw more light on this subject and supply material with references to either substantiate his claim or contradict it.

Thanks

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Posted: 25 September 2013 12:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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OED doesn’t shed any light on the etymology but its first citation is Australian:

B. adj.
Categories »

Honest, genuine, real; as adv., honestly. Phr. fair, square, or straight dinkum , fair and square, honest; as adv.phr., honestly, genuinely; interrog., really?, is that so? Also dinkum oil, the honest truth, true facts. Cf. dial. ‘fair dinkum! fair play’ (see quot. 1900).

1894 Bulletin (Sydney) 5 May 13/3 ‘And did yer stouch him back?’ ‘No.’.. ‘Fair dinkum?’ ‘Yes.’

The few google books citations I found dated from the end of the 19th century. I suspect its origins are in unwritten cant or dialect.  I think there’s a Lancashire phrase “dinky doo” meaning good - though the Urban Dictionary says it meant penis or poo in 2005/6. It made me wonder: how did Dinky Toys get their name?

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Posted: 25 September 2013 02:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Dinky, meaning ‘small’, has been around for a while.  Its involvement in a slang term for the penis is probably meant to be pejorative.  I would suspect that Dinky Toys were so named because they were small.

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Posted: 25 September 2013 03:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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"Dinky” means small but also extends to well formed or cute. I gather that US usage is different, in that dinky can mean shabby, or unimportant.
Etymonline cites a Scottish dialectal origin “dink” meaning well dressed and trim.  Not a big step to the meaning in “dinkum”

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Posted: 25 September 2013 03:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The professor seems to be right about dinkum originating in England and being associated with hard work. But of course, the word and the expressions fair dinkum are now quintessentially Australian.

The OED notes that the 1900 English Dialect Dictionary records dinkum “hard work” as being in use in English dialect:

1900 Eng. Dial. Dict. II. 80/2 You have gotten to do your dinkum, soä you understand.

However the earliest citation is by Rolf Boldrewood, a pseudonym for English-born, Australian writer Thomas Alexander Browne:

1888 ‘R. Boldrewood’ Robbery under Arms v, It took us an hour’s hard dinkum to get near the peak.

Given that Browne emigrated to Australia when he was five years old, it’s a fair guess that he picked the word up in Australia and didn’t import it from England himself. But he does use it in the dialectal sense, so he’s not far removed from the source.

So it appears to have been an obscure English dialect word that emigrated to Australia, where it flourished.

The ultimate etymology is not known.

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Posted: 25 September 2013 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Somewhere I picked up the expression “dinky shit little” meaning amusingly small. My wife just bought me a Scion IQ for my birthday. It is a dinky shit little car. I feel the expression has been with me for decades as if I had picked it up in rural Missouri or Arkansas.

[ Edited: 25 September 2013 06:23 AM by droogie ]
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Posted: 25 September 2013 07:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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However, recently I met an English professor who mentioned that this word comes from England and has something to do with a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

If the professor knew what he was talking about (they occasionally do), he might have have been a bit more specific.—But assuming he did know, perhaps “dinkum” might originally have had something to do with “income”?… Just a guess (brays)

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Posted: 25 September 2013 07:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I like that idea, though I like “Just a guess (brays)” even more.

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Posted: 25 September 2013 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I found this in google books (publication by the English Dialect Society dated from the 1870s onwards - I can get only a snippet view) which relates to English coal mining areas in the East Midlands:

books.google.co.uk/books?id=OHEMAQAAIAAJ

English Dialect Society - 1891 - ‎Snippet view - ‎More editions
DINCUM, 56. work. ‘ 1 can stand plenty o’ dincum.’ This word is used by colliers at Eckington.

Edit:
From WorldWideWords 2001:

But it seems very possible that it comes from an old English dialect term, which is recorded principally in Joseph Wright’s English Dialect Dictionary of 1896-1905. He found several examples of dinkum in various parts of England in the sense of a fair or due share of work. He also encountered fair dinkum in Lincolnshire, used in the same way that people might exclaim fair dos! as a request for fair dealing. But there’s no clue where this word comes from, and dictionaries are cautious because it is not well recorded.

[ Edited: 25 September 2013 11:22 AM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 26 September 2013 04:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Well, since someone suggested it, I’ll also add what the professor gave me as the root of the words ‘fair dinkum’, which I didn’t mention before because it sounded too pat and unlikely.
However it would appear to be a natural progression.

Fair day’s income > fair dinkum

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Posted: 27 September 2013 02:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Ha!  (brays triumphantly)

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Posted: 27 September 2013 07:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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But when has the phrase ‘ a fair day’s income’ ever been something that a normal person would say? ‘A fair day’s pay’, yes. But ‘income’? I just can’t hear it.

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Posted: 28 September 2013 05:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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It’s a ridiculous idea, and if the professor presented it seriously, he or she should be sent for remedial education.

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