Devonport’s Unique Dialect Uncovered

Posted by on Feb 09, 2010 | 3 Comments

After almost 135 years of  research, local heart-throb and linguist Gavel Flapp has unearthed evidence of Devonport’s once common, unique local dialect. Comparing his discovery in terms of significance with the recent Moa bones find on Mt Victoria, Flapp, 86, claimed the dialect was as common as Cockney Rhyming Slang was in areas of East London last century.

Flapp has collected all the words he has personally heard, that he has been told by long-standing Devonport residents, or has invented in the tattered recesses of his aging  mind. He has graciously allowed the Speculator to publish a sample of the some of the words below, from his upcoming book Gavel’s Gibberings.

Gavel Flapp

Gavel Flapp

Politics and Religion

Takapunies; Young miscreants from the desert beyond the golf course who frequent Devonport’s nightspots, misbehave and then flee as soon as the local constable arrives.

Forlorn Clemency; Justice meted out in Devonport for crimes of blasphemy. This involves being depicted  – naked and crucified – in a large painting which is then not exhibited to the local community.

Cloying Vehemency; Disproportionate rage directed at something considered relatively insignificant by most people, as in “Bob’s fury over the number of snails in his garden was considered by his neighbours to be a bad case of cloying vehemency.”

Cheltenham Envy

Cheltsunamitis; Fear of losing your Cheltenham villa to a tsunami. A person suffering from this malaise is often mistaken for someone enjoying the view of the sea from their multi-million dollar property, when in fact they are scanning the horizon for approaching fast-moving, towering walls of raging foam.

Chelta-nans; Young couples who choose to live in Cheltenham.

Catching The Ferry

Wharf footing; Term used to describe irritation after injuring oneself while running for the ferry or snapping high heels between wharf walkway planks, as in “I’m on a wharf footing this morning , because I ripped my trousers running for the 08:15….”

Rudder Fodder; Term used to describe someone who just misses the ferry.

Kea-Haul; the uncoordinated, rapid and random thrashing of limbs associated with the last 20 metre sprint of an attempt by someone of substantial body mass and inappropriate  attire reaching the Kea before departure. Common usage: “I’m on a wharf footing this morning because I did the Kea Haul and avoided being Rudder Fodder, but stuffed my knee in the process.”

Kea Clots; People who run for the ferry after the horn is sounded. People who sit on the outside upper deck of the Kea are often referred to as “Clot Counters.”

Kea Stalker; Someone who prowls around the ferry looking for a spare seat.

Kea Hole Surgery; Repairs to the Kea which require it to be taken out of service.

Star-aboard; Statement used by other passengers when a public figure is spotted on the Ferry

Barbared; To be told off for standing on the seats, expressing excessively right-wing views,  or forgetting to say please and thank you when buying from the Kea shop.


Pippa Shipper; Any ferry sailing carrying Pippa Wetzell, as in “Hi darling, yeah – I’m on the 6:00 Pippa Shipper….”;

Pippa Clipper; A man who pretends to accidentally bump into Pippa Wetzell while waiting to disembark from the ferry, so as to be able to apologise to her and hopefully strike up a conversation.

Finn Spin; The feeling one experiences when unexpectedly bumping into Tim Finn in the supermarket and being unable to converse or remember one’s name.

General Terms

Fish and Ships; The ritual of going down to Windsor Park to watch the cruise liners depart, while eating takeaways

Sea Slog; Getting to the Cheltenham waves at low tide

North Dread; The feeling experienced upon the realization that having reached the top car park,  there are no parking spaces left anywhere on North Head.

Stone-walled; When Stone Oven waitress does not laugh at your joke. A particularly bad day in Devonport might be described as “I got stone-walled and then Kea-Hauled, and still ended up Rudder Fodder.”

Mounting Victoria;  The act of mountain biking on Mt Victoria

Munting Victoria;  The act of causing damage while mountain-biking on Mt Victoria

Waste Line; The line of traffic that develops – according to some as a result of the cycle lane –  around 3:00pm on Lake Rd.


  1. GB says:

    sorry that las comment was from me, so it should have been GB signed. 😛

  2. JF says:

    Am not long in the tooth, but learnt all the devo stuff from my parents who used to use words like the Kestrel drunks and the devo ferry tarts, yes as well as down the shore etc…and thanks for the laughs there ed, very well done, I thought. 🙂

  3. J F says:

    In serious vein: going “round the shore” or “down the shore”, depending on where you actually lived in Devonport, was how early twentieth-century locals referred to going to the shops – never called village or shopping centre then. It’s a usage close to being listed as Obsolete, except among those long in the tooth!

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