In a recent piece in the Australian newspaper paper Terry McCrann (the doyen of economics writers — he of the robust common sense) wrote that New South Wales’ chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant ‘has streeted all her peers through the pandemic’. This struck me because I had never come across the word ‘street’ used as a verb before. Terry tells me this is a bit of Aussie sports slang (it’s ours — no one else in the world seems to use this, or, at least, use it quite the way we do). I did some research and tracked down the sporting lingo Terry was using. It turns out that in colloquial Australian ‘to street’ someone means ‘To defeat by a large margin’. The earliest use of the term is recorded from 1975 in (would you believe it?) a pigeon fanciers’ magazine! In its January-February issue for 1975 it said that ‘The father-and-son combination “streeted” their rivals… with a total of 11 points’. There are further citations from Runners’ World (in 1983) and the Gold Coast Bulletin (in 2003). The earlier expression ‘by a street’ (an adjectival phrase) also meant to win by a wide margin.
This is recorded in London as long ago as 1886 and was still being used by the Times as late as the 1950s. But use of the term seems to have died out back in Britain while it survived here. And only here in Australia has this adjectival phrase been turned into a verb.
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Contact Kel at ozwords.com.au
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