Monday, September 19, 2005

Aussie linguistic encroachment

The expression "Good on ya" (with stress on the "on," as in, "Good on ya, mate!") isn't from American English; it's largely Australian. I've noticed, however, an increasing number of Americans who've quietly adopted the expression as their own in both speech and writing.

I credit the Aussie-accented sharks from "Finding Nemo" with this trend.



Anonymous said...

I never "got" that phrase, to be honest. I mean, what is the grammatical basis for it? "Good on ya"? It makes no sense. From the context in which I've heard it, I'm guessing that it means something like "Good for you" or maybe "Good job." Am I close?

Kevin Kim said...


Yeah, it's the equivalent of "Good for you," if I'm not mistaken.

Notionally, it may be somewhat similar to an expression like the Muslim "Peace be upon him" for Muhammad, in which "peace" is, metaphorically speaking, something diaphonous that settles comfortably upon a person like a benevolent cloud of... well, something or other.

If that's true, then "Good on ya!", while an interjection in terms of how it's delivered, is probably derived from a subjunctive construction (like the aforementioned "Peace be upon him").

Lots of bad things are "on us" or "on our heads" or "on our consciences," so why not have goodness settle upon us as well, Aussie-style, roight?

It's a short move from "Good be upon you!" to "Good on ya, mate!" Even if there never was a "Good be upon you," the derivation from the subjunctive notion is still possible.

[Actually, this may be a good time to note that many interjections are in the subjunctive mood. "Damn!" comes from "May he/she/it be damned!", for example. Same with "Goddamn," and so on.]

The above is pure conjecture, of course, and therefore likely to be BS. Will have to research the origins of the phrase.


Jelly said...

I blame Paul Hogan, of Crocodile Dundee fame. But then again I have blamed him, and will continue to blame him for every Australian phrase melded into North American use forever and ever.

Meanwhile, throw a shrimp on the barbie for me, Kevin. Good on ya!