the games

Rob Schaap rws at
Wed Aug 23 23:44:46 PDT 2000

G'day Catherine.

Sez you:

>but while i've agreed with you, and know who you are referring to quite
>well i still want to question it.
>who is the they/their in this? not you? not me? who then? the australian

Well, we've been here before, you and I. I'll respond with a mundanely uninteresting point and one which might be worth talking about. Firstly, then: To this once-mobile wog, Australians seem more like this than any other people twixt whom I have lived - and I've always found it a safe guiding stereotype when mixing with identifiably Strine strangers.

Which brings me to the second point. I don't reckon the sorta background consensus I'm talking about is necessarily the product of conscious, or even unconscious, agreement to those principles. It's about what everyone consciously or unconsciously agrees to be understood by everyone else in the society *as a normative guide*. A lot of Australians are much as I've described 'em, I reckon, but theoretically, none of them need be like that at all. All we have to share is the understanding that this is our ideal type, performing the role of appropriate scheme to guide one's social practices. We don't actually have to agree, we just need to understand.

F'rinstance, in Oz, I'd dare call a male stranger ugly before I'd call a woman ugly. And I'd dare call a female stranger a lousy driver before I'd call a man one. This from a particular man who actually believes there's no difference between the sexes on those criteria, nor any objective difference as to what they should mean. That's what it means to share a culture, I reckon: my actions/words towards you (recognised by me as an Australian stranger) are informed by what I understand you to understand to be understood by me. They neither convey my agreement with those principles nor an expectation that you agree with 'em. They just fill in whilst I find out what your particular preferences are - effectively enabling the relation and the communication we would have to pursue if I were to be afforded the opportunity to find out what those preferences were.

So accents are good things for foreigners to have. A strange accent allows the almost inevitably clumsy social actor to be forgiven for not behaving according to an unarticulated agreement as to what should be understood to be understood by Australian strangers.

So accents are bad things, too. Not because people fear you won't agree on such things, but because people fear you won't understand what everyone understands others to understand as the default-setting understanding - heh, heh - well, y'know what I mean. So suddenly there ain't a reliable premise for anything. So people say nothing. So we get ghettoes and the like.

Cheers, Rob.

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