Macquarie Dictionary



Toodle-em-buck was a game of chance played mainly by children in Victoria back in the 1920s for gambling on horseraces, especially the Melbourne Cup. The game consisted of a wooden skewer, a cotton reel, and a cardboard disc marked in sectors, each bearing a horse’s name and betting odds proportional to sector size. A pointer showed the winner when the disc stopped spinning.

Children are the creators and players in many games. Bedlam, for instance, is the Queensland name for the schoolyard chasing game British bulldog, in which a group of children run repeatedly through an area guarded by other children. Those who are caught each time join forces with their catchers until only one child remains uncaught and is the winner.

Brandings is another schoolyard game. In brandings, a tennis ball is thrown at the other players by the person who is `in’. The person hit is then `in.’ Brandings is is the common term in NSW, ACT and Tasmania. In the other states it is usually known as brandy. The idea is to throw the ball hard enough to brand the person hit – in other words, to leave a glowing red mark. Ouch! For some reason, it’s banned by schoolteachers the country over.

We couldn’t sign off without mentioning that Anzac Day staple, two-up: the classic Australian gambling game in which two coins are thrown off a kip into the air so that they spin. Bets are laid on whether they fall heads or tails – a fall of one head and one tail requiring the coins to be tossed again.

That’s game over for this week. 

Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.

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