Get the Claus out

The Australian - - INQUIRER - strewth@theaus­ JAMES JEF­FREY

Once upon a time we might have pic­tured Scott Mor­ri­son com­ing down our chim­ney only be­cause he thought he stood half a chance of find­ing coal in our fire­place. Now, thanks to the com­bined ef­forts of Michael McCor­mack and the Ar­moured Pho­to­shop Divi­sion of one of our sib­ling pa­pers, the vi­sion has been ex­panded. The Trea­surer laid it out at the very start of his press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day: “As much as The Daily Tele­graph loves to play dress-ups with me on the front page, I can tell Aus­tralians I am not Santa Claus and there won’t be a Christ­mas in May and the Grinch won’t be mak­ing an ap­pear­ance ei­ther.” But as fetch­ing as he looks in his beard and red robes in the Tele, the fourth es­tate was on hand to give credit where it was due. Journo: “It was the Act­ing Prime Min­is­ter that ac­tu­ally called you Scott ‘Santa Claus’ Mor­ri­son, not The Daily Tele­graph. Is the Act­ing PM wrong in say­ing this?” ScoMo: “He was en­thu­si­as­tic about the im­por­tant in­vest­ments that have been made in in­fras­truc­ture but I’m sure he would agree with me that our bud­get will be one that lives within its means ...” If there’s one thing Act­ing PM McCor­mack brings to the ta­ble, it’s an al­most eerily undimmable en­thu­si­asm. Journo: “So what are some of the gifts your Act­ing PM has …” ScoMo: “No, I don’t be­lieve that is — as I said, I’m not Santa Claus and I’m not bring­ing a bag of gifts in May and there won’t be any Christ­mas in May …”

Know­ing ScoMo’s fond­ness for 1990s Aus­tralian pop, it’s a pity he didn’t start­ing singing “Don’t call me Santa” to the tune of Madi­son Av­enue’s 1999 hit Don’t Call Me Baby (“You don’t know me / The way you re­ally should / You sure mis­un­der­stood.”) Any­way, it was all fun and games un­til Bill Shorten char­ac­terised Santa as a “myth­i­cal per­son”. Which may have led to a few bumpy chats with chil­dren last night. It was pretty dis­tress­ing for Strewth, too.

Santa the right way

Mean­while, a small, help­ful note to the hard­work­ing folks in ScoMo’s of­fice who tran­scribe his press con­fer­ences. Strewth ad­mires the con­sis­tency with which you stuck to spell­ing Santa’s name as “Clause”. In fu­ture, just re­mem­ber that it’s like a rave af­ter the po­lice have been through with the snif­fer dogs — there’s no “e” in sight. Un­less you were mak­ing a sly nod to the Tim Allen flick The Santa Clause (’s help­ful syn­op­sis: “When a man in­ad­ver­tently kills Santa on Christ­mas Eve, he finds him­self mag­i­cally re­cruited to take his place”). Or bet­ter yet, this bit from the Marx Brothers’ film A Night at the Opera: Drift­wood: “That’s in ev­ery con­tract. That’s what they call a san­ity clause.” Fiorello: “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You can’t fool me. There ain’t no San­ity Clause!” The tran­scriber/s had no prob­lem what­so­ever with “numpty”, which ScoMo gave yet an­other air­ing. It’s an old Strewth favourite, and one im­bued with a cer­tain charm not to be found in, say, Bill Shorten’s beloved “knuck­le­drag­ger”. Here’s a lit­tle “numpty” ex­plainer from The Guardian in 2007: “Scot­land’s favourite word, ac­cord­ing to a poll by BT Open­reach, is numpty. De­rived from ‘numps’, an ob­so­lete word for a stupid per­son, rather than the more ob­vi­ous numb­nuts or numb­skull, the term im­plies gen­eral id­iocy, of­ten in my ex­pe­ri­ence ac­com­pa­nied by wind­bag­gery.” And as the ar­ti­cle says, it’s a word of great flex­i­bil­ity. We hope that when ScoMo tires of this very Bri­tish in­sult he re­places it with an­other: waz­zock.

Plane speak­ing

The very en­ter­pris­ing then small busi­ness min­is­ter Bruce Bill­son once adlibbed when a plane flew over a press con­fer­ence: “Now was that an air­craft, or the roar of small busi­nesses say­ing, ‘Thank good­ness we’ve got a gov­ern­ment that is the best friend small busi­ness has had’?” The man sure had lob­by­ing in his blood. La­bor’s Ja­son Clare had a crack at do­ing a sim­i­lar thing dur­ing a joint press con­fer­ence in Cairns yes­ter­day, but it just didn’t have that Bill­son zing: “It’s the sort of thing that the lo­cal com­mu­nity has been call­ing for, for a long long time, and if Bill Shorten and La­bor win the next elec­tion.” (Cue plane over­head.) “Just in case you missed that, it’s the sort of thing the lo­cal com­mu­nity have been call­ing for, for a long time, and if Bill Shorten and La­bor win the next elec­tion, then it will hap­pen.” Shorten also tried ris­ing to the oc­ca­sion af­ter an­other plane: “Doesn’t this just show that a busy air­port needs the roads to match the busy­ness?” Bruce, please help these peo­ple.

Quite the del­i­cacy

A post­script to yes­ter­day’s av­o­ca­dos, cour­tesy of reader Pat Quilty: “Wil­liam Dampier brought the word ‘av­o­cado’ into English from Cen­tral Amer­ica, where it means ‘tes­ti­cle’. The con­cept of ‘smashed’, or even the slightly less im­pact­ful ‘mashed’, causes me to squirm.” Quite so.

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