While today (in most parts of the world) whaling is thankfully banned, in the past, whaling was an occupation that was carried out regularly. Whales were hunted to extremes for their blubber, oil and bones. Western Australia was no exception with whaling being an early industry in the colony. Early accounts indicate great excitement at whales being killed and reports were regularly printed in the papers. On 2 September 1843, the Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal printed an article recounting the news for the whaling industry for the previous fortnight. They then went on to describe “a curious scene” in Fremantle.
Numerous whales had been attacked by the whalers however it was reported that one of them had been harpooned and then managed to pull away, dragging the boat and its occupants with it. Near Straggler Rocks it began to dive and the whalers in the boat had no choice than to cut the rope attached to the harpoon.
Thinking that they had lost the whale, the whalers returned to shore. A few days later news soon spread that the whale had in fact died from its wounds and had been found washed up on North Beach, located a few miles from Fremantle. The whalers gathered what they needed and headed straight to the beach, hoping to recover as much of the whale as possible.
Meanwhile, news also reached Perth of the whale on the beach. The fascination at seeing a whale close up was too much for some and as it was only an hour’s ride from Perth to the Fremantle area, many people took off on their horses to catch a glimpse of it. One amongst the group was a young man, suitably nicknamed ‘Jonas’ by the paper, perhaps in a bid to protect his identity.
‘Jonas’ arrived and noticing that the first spade was about to be dug in, decided to seize the opportunity of being first for himself. He jumped on top of the whale and dug in his spade, only to be met with an almighty explosion! There was nowhere else for ‘Jonas’ to go but down into the rotting belly of the whale.
Initially everyone laughed at his predicament but seeing as though ‘Jonas’ was struggling, they quickly went about undertaking the difficult task of rescuing him from inside the whale. ‘Jonas’ was safely returned to land unhurt but left in a rather putrid state.
True to form, it was while digging around on Trove trying to find something interesting to post for Valentine’s Day (yes, this post has been sitting in draft form for quite a while) that I came across a reference of ladies admiring dudes.
Initially, I laughed. I thought about the word ‘dude’ and the context in which I knew it existed. It’s been around throughout my lifetime and has been spoken by characters such as Bart Simpson. To say hello to someone, you might say, “Hey, dude!” While referring to someone, you might call them a ‘cool dude’. I again thought back to the article and giggled some more. The word in my head was most likely completely at odds to the meaning portrayed in 1885. Ladies of the very proper Victorian era admiring ‘dudes’. Hilarious!
The word ‘dude’ has actually been around for a lot longer than I realised. Far from being a recent invention courtesy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Simpsons, its origin began in the early 1800s and, according to Google’s Ngram Viewer, gained in popularity towards the end of the 19th Century before skyrocketing in the late 20th Century.
The above graph mirrors results on Trove with respect to its use in the late 19th Century. In particular, the increase occurred during the 1880s and continued throughout the 1890s. This post will explore the word ‘dude’ during this time period.
In the Victorian era, a dude was described as…
…a vulgarly-dressed man who tries to dress well and be a gentleman, but can’t; a person who carries himself in a loud manner, usually ambles along in an absurd manner, extending his arms in all sorts of shapes, like a person in livery. [Evening News]
The “Dude” as described by the social Buffon of New York is a man of about twenty-five. […] “His trousers are very tight,” so is his shirt-collar, which is “clerical in form.” His shoes are pointed. His cane has a silver handle. The “Dude” parts his hair in the middle… …the “Dude” also wears a “bang,” or fringe… He never laughs, and never displays any other emotions. [The Bega Gazette and Eden District or Southern Coast Advertiser]
They were further described as men who gave too much attention to their outward appearance as well as “naturally ridiculous” and “deficient in brains“.
If it wasn’t obvious from the above, the word ‘dude’ was not considered a term of endearment, it was an insult.
The Australian newspapers rarely reported on anything positive associated with the dude and while, at times, they offered the occasional in depth explanation as to what constituted a dude, more often than not, the dude was heavily caricatured and severely ridiculed.
Poetry, was clearly a favourite mode of expression.
One rather clever person even created an alphabet shape poem which illustrated in a cartoonish way what the dude was meant to resemble.
On occasion, articles attempting to humorously imitate the dude were printed in the papers. Written as if the dude was speaking and told in the form of a story or anecdote they provide additional information as to how a dude was supposed to sound like. It gives an indication of a speech impediment, with the letter ‘R’ in words always replaced with a ‘W’. They also had a habit of saying ‘aw’ while talking.
Aw – good evening. P’raps you don’t know me. My name’s – aw – Henwy Talbot Cholmondley Bwowne – Bwowne with an “e,” you know. My father’s a gweat swell, and – aw – do you know he thinks I’ve got bwains.
Generally, images without the associated jokes were rarely published. Where there was an illustration printed, it was done so at the expense of the dude.
It’s obvious that the definition of the word ‘dude’ has slowly changed and evolved since the Victorian era. Calling someone ‘dude’ today would definitely not be considered an insult, it’s become complimentary. In looking over these articles, poems and jokes and the derision in which people held the dude, I can’t help but be reminded of our contemporary equivalent: the hipster. While the descriptions of a hipster and a Victorian era dude differ slightly, I can however see similarities in how they were/are often made fun of. It’s interesting to see how the passage of time softens and changes a word and how it’s used. Who knows, perhaps in 100 years’ time the word hipster (like the word ‘dude’) will change and will take on a new meaning of its own.
Being an obsessive Trove and Australian Women’s Weekly browser, there have been many instances where I’ve come across the short, adorable comics, Wuff, Snuff & Tuff by Tim. Most of the time however I was already searching for something else and apart from a quick glance, I didn’t really pay careful attention to them. Today I finally looked closer and my eyes were opened to how cute, sweet and witty they are.
Wuff, Snuff & Tuff is a comic featuring the lives and adventures of three little puppies named (I’m sure you can guess it) Wuff, Snuff and Tuff. They were always printed as being by ‘Tim’ but the full name of their creator was actually William Timym (pronounced Tim). William was born in Austria in about 1901 and grew up in Vienna. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna before moving to England in 1938 to escape the country’s Nazi occupation.
William became well-known for his cartoons such as Wuff, Snuff & Tuff as well as Bengo the Boxer Puppy, Bleep and Booster, Humphrey, Sniff, The Boss and Caesar. Thanks to his education in Vienna, he was also a highly skilled fine artist and in the 70s he took on many commissions for lifelike portraits and sculptures.
A search on Google indicates that Wuff, Snuff & Tuff was not only a comic printed in media around the world but it also became printed in book format and was turned into various types of wooden puppets by Pelham Puppets.
The comics were often printed in The Australian Women’s Weekly as being ‘for the children’ but the innocent humour, sweetness and general theme of kindness makes them comics that all people (young and old) can enjoy and smile over.