Ion (Jack) Llewellyn Idriess 1889-1979

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Did Jack invent the term "Stone the Crows"?


Beverley Eley (Ion Idriess, p101) had Jack using the phrase "Stone the bloody crows" and said Eric Partridge (A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English) credits Jack with popularising the term in print. This is interesting.

The Partridge entry (p834) is:
Stone the crows! An Australian expletive: coll. : Ion L Idriess, Flynn of the Inland, 1932.

Jack did indeed use the term at page 115 of Flynn of the Inland but Eley implies he also used it in Madman's Island (she mentions the term in the context of describing Jack's adventures on Howick Island). However, Jack did not use the term in either of the Madman's Island books. It is not clear from where Eley got her quote but early in the 1970's (when Jack was well over eighty) he gave a sad, meandering interview to Tim Bowden in which he said, "Stone the bloody crows! here am I on this barren little island with this bloke here ...".

Now it is not clear how and when the term was invented (or what it originally meant). There is a body of opinion that it is an old English term. It certainly was in print around the time that Jack started writing his books. Australian references include Lennie Lower's Here's Luck, 1930: "I told Stanley that you had been thrown out and asked him to pull up, but he merely laughed and refused," he explained. "Stone the crows!" exclaimed Stanley indignantly.

Did Jack's work popularise the term? Probably not through his books in which he uses the term rarely but he might have used it more often in his many magazine articles.

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J&S-Mac drew attention to the following article in The Register (Adelaide) 16 March 1915. Under the heading "Some Language" it clearly indicates that "Stone the Crows" was in common use in Australia in 1915.

SOME LANGUAGE

Americans claim that they have so altered and improved on the English language that it deserves a title of its own. Certainly, it is. quite an accomplishment to be au fait with the United States vocabulary of slang. But the Australian has also contributed his quota of 'frills' to the mother tongue, some of the individual terms among which have become classics; for example, 'wowser,' 'bonzer,' 'boshter,' and the like. Then, besides these Commonwealth coined nouns and adjectives, the ready-lipped Australian has framed phrases of exclamation every hit as boldly picturesque as those of the gay old English roysterers, with their, .'By my halidom!' 'Odd hodikins!' 'Gadzooks!' 'By our Lady!' and so on. Take the fervent phrase (oath, if you will), 'S'truth!'

A party of picnickers at Noarlunga the other day, surprised some vivid expletives out of a thirsty wayfarer. They were seated around a holiday-spread, by the side of their motor, and a variety of bottles graced the 'table'. The 'swaggie' 'cadged' a 'gurgle.' 'What will you have?' asked one of the picknickers. 'Well, what have you got, matey?' enquired the old fellow with the 'bluey.'

'Oh, here's some tonic ale,' was the reply. 'Starve the rats!' was the disgusted comment of the 'sundowner.' Well, how about soda and lime?' 'Stone the crows!' he croaked. 'Have a go at this can of ice cream, then.' It was the positive, comparative, and superlative degree of insult in rapid succession.

'Gawd stiffen the bees!' croaked 'Old Booze' as he shuffled down the trail;
'Good-night, you wowsers!'.