Macquarie Dictionary Blog: Archives
The Aussie battler
Mar 15, 2012
Battler seems to be a homegrown Australian use which derives from phrases like 'battle on' or 'battle around'. A battler was someone who battled on against all odds.
The term comes into use in the 1890s depression and was in a rural context synonymous with a swagman. But in general a battler was someone who struggled to survive – as on the streets in the city or on a small landholding – and who wouldn't give up.
The battlers were significant again in the 1930s depression. You will find plenty of references to battlers in the works of Kylie Tennant. There was an element of anti-authority in the idea of the battler. They also displayed that great Australia virtue of being able to improvise and make do.
The battler rapidly came to mean a person who attempted to make a living from small bets on the races. It also came to mean a prostitute. These were the real battlers.
Post WWII the battler became an Australian stereotype for anyone thought to display courage in economic adversity and to represent 'genuine Aussies'.
1965 K Smith: 'Everybody in Australia has his position. Roughly speaking, there are three kinds of people in this country: the rich, the middle class and the battlers.'
Every politician wants to be seen to side with the battlers. They are often opposed to trendies and chardonnay socialists who claim to care for the underprivileged but who don't know what being poor is like. The battlers are the ones who really know what hardship is.
However, the term is now a bit slippery – everyone can be a battler in relation to someone else in the community who is better-off.
This was originally posted on our Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
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