Friday, March 16, 2012

Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi


A few days ago I used the expression Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi.  For the benefit of overseas readers who may not be familiar with it, this is an ancient Australian chant that denotes great sexual prowess.  Nahh, I made that up.  It is a common chant of Australian supporters at sports events.  Hear it at:

Here are some facts and trivia items about the chant.

The full version is:

Man: "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!"
Crowd: "Oi! Oi! Oi!" 

Man: "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!"
Crowd: "Oi! Oi! Oi!" 

Man: "Aussie!"
Crowd: "Oi!" 

Man: "Aussie!"
Crowd: "Oi!" 

Man: "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!"
Crowd: "Oi! Oi! Oi!"

 The chant originates from a British chant - oggie oggie oggie, oi oi oi. 

An oggie (also spelt oggy) is a slang word for a Cornish pastie, from the Cornish word “hoggan”.  The call “oggie oggie oggie” was used by pastie sellers standing outside the Devonport Dockyards at lunchtimes calling out “oggie oggie oggie'', to which hungry  labourers and miners would respond with “oi” or “oi, oi, oi”. 

Members of the Royal Navy claim to have used the chant, or a version of it, since the Second World War. 

At some stage in the postwar years it came to be used at British soccer games as a chant and was in widespread use by the 1960’s.   

In the 1970s the Welsh folk singer and comedian Max Boyce popularised the chant to excite the crowd at his concerts. Through Boyce, a rugby union fan, the chant also became used at Welsh rugby union international matches, from where it spread to rugby crowds at club level. Eventually it was used at many other sporting occasions at all levels.  The chant was also used by Coventry City football fans during the 1980s and 1990s in appreciation of then goalkeeper Steve Ogrizovic, who was nicknamed 'Oggy'. 

(When Margaret Thatcher came to power in Britain in 1979 a variation of the chant – Maggie Maggie Maggie Out Out Out -  was adopted by some of her opponents). 

The chant fell into decline by the Brits after they became bored with it.  And because the Australians stole it.

Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi was already recorded in use in Oz in 1987 and came to be widely used during the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

In 2004, a Melbourne couple, inspired by a Dick Smith campaign supporting Australian-made products, and following publicity surrounding the ownership of the trademark for the Australian-developed Ugg boots being owned by a US company, registered the phrase as an official trademark in an effort to protect it from overseas exploitation.

Read the story at:

One writer, Rory Gibson, writing in 2010, has called for the chant to be dropped, referring to it in terms such as “bogan”, “puerile” and “pathetic”, and its practitioners as “ignorant boofheads”, “dorks” and “loud and obnoxious”.

He writes:

"IF I ever find a receptacle with a genie in it who offers me three wishes in gratitude for being let out, I have no doubt my first request would be to erase from every Australian the desire to chant "Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi''. I would keep a little loot for myself, for administrative purposes mainly, but also to travel the world watching great sporting events.  Big item in my bucket list, that one.  But I would only really enjoy it if the genie could manage to achieve the first wish - ridding the planet of the most boring, irritating, cringe-making chant in the history of crowd noise."

Gibson has a point. Just as the Eureka Stockade flag was adopted by the extreme left (various militant unions) and the extreme right (the white supremacist group National Action), thereby bringing that symbol into disrepute, so the Southern Cross and Aussie Oi chant have been adopted by xenophobes, racists and bogans.

Consider the following:

·         The aggressive drunken louts who took an active part in the 2005 Cronulla riots waved Australian flags and yelled the chant as they attacked anyone suspected of having a Middle-Eastern background.

·         In 2007 protestors against a proposal to build a Muslim school in Camden aggressively chanted the phrase in unison as part of an anti-Muslim tirade.  Amongst other actions, gids’ heads were mounted on stakes on the site.

·         On Australia Day in 2009 at Manly, New South Wales, a large number of youths draped in Australian flags and covered in green and gold zinc were reported to have shouted the chant along with racial slurs whilst causing considerable property damage and injuries to some bystanders.

·         On the same day at Burleigh Heads, Queensland, a large number of youths draped in Australian flags were witnessed yelling the chant whilst clashing with police and damaging property.

·         Some time earlier during an Anzac Day ceremony at Villers-Bretonneux in France, an event conducted for the solemn remembrance of the war dead, some Australians were witnessed climbing a tall tower and loudly yelling the chant to those standing below.

Stephen Alomes, an associate professor in Australian studies at Deakin University whose principal area of research over the past 30 years has been Australian nationalism, has argued that the chant  "represents enthusiasm for the tribe.”

As early as 2006, however, writer John Harms in an article in The Herald/The Age stated that the chant, once a celebration of “us”, has now come to be used as an ostracism of “them”.  He further presents and elaborate case that such an us-and-them mentality finds a simple expression through sport.

Perhaps the xenophobic, racist attitudes that have increasingly become associated with the chant have lessened, perhaps they have increased.  Time will tell.

Some things to consider when you hear it at the 2012 Olympics.

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