Learning English - Words in the News
19 August, 2005 - Published 12:11 GMT
Australian parliament bans the word 'mate'
One of Australia's best known terms of endearment has been banned in the Australian parliament. Security guards in the building have been ordered not to call people 'mate' but to address them as 'sir' or 'madam'. This report from Red Harrison:
The Prime Minister John Howard was among the first to describe the ban as absurd and ridiculous, and well he might. Mate is one of John Howard's favourite words. He even calls President George Bush 'mate'.
The opposition labour party leader, Kim Beasley quickly saw an opportunity to make political capital - "not to call people mate is un-Australian", he says, "but it's also a reflection of the elitist culture of the conservative government which is all about masters and servants".
A former labour Prime Minister Bob Hawke says the ban is pomposity gone mad. Mr Hawke says the term "mate" is also folklore in the Australian labour party because if anyone significant calls you mate you know the knife is about to go in your back. And "mate" is also handy at official functions when you can't remember a name.
The ban was apparently imposed after a senior official complained of being called mate and security guards were ordered to be more courteous. Now the secretary of the parliamentary services, Hilary Penfold, says courtesy is fine but the ban went too far. It will be revoked later today.
RED HARRISON, BBC, SYDNEY
to make political capital
a reflection of the elitist culture
pomposity gone mad
the knife is about to go in your back
to be more courteous