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"Don't do your lolly!" I've sometimes been advised, in moments of righteous anger. That phrase is the Australian equivalent of Don't flip your lid (US), Don't get your knickers in a twist (UK) or simply Cool it! (universal).

To Australians, lollies are what others know as sweets (UK) or candy (US). For most of my life I've wondered what possible connection there could be between these two kinds of lolly.

My Internet friend Anu Garg, born in India and living in Columbus, Ohio, who produces the popular newsletter A Word A Day, has at last enlightened me (and half a million other subscribers.)

"Deolali is a small town in western India, about 100 miles from Mumbai (formerly Bombay) with an unusual claim to fame," he wrote in a recent newsletter. "It's where British soldiers who had completed their tour of duty were sent to await transportation home.

"It was a long wait - often many months - before they were to be picked up by ships to take them to England. Consequent boredom turned many a soldier insane, and the word doolally was coined.

"At first the term was used in the form 'He's got the Doo-lally tap', from Sanskrit tapa (heat) meaning one has caught doolally fever but now it's mostly seen as in 'to go doolally'. In Australia, it goes as 'don't do your lolly'."

And in Australia we also have two other phrases with a similar meaning: Don't do your block and Don't spit the dummy. If they puzzle you, block means head (as in blockhead, a person with two heads?). Some pushy types are apt to say rudely to underlings "I want to talk to the butcher, not the butcher's block." That's a different sort of block altogether.

And if you want to know why you should never spit the dummy, a dummy is the English word for what is known in America as a baby's pacifier. When a baby spits the dummy it can't be pacified.

Similar expressions are to go feral, hit the roof, have a cow, be madder than a wet hen, and pop a vein. If you do any of those things, you'll find yourself chewing nails and spitting tacks.

If you ever feel tempted to flip your wig, you can find a patented wig-flipper by clicking on TOTALLY ABSURD. And for great lists of phrases like these, consult CLICHESITE.


Copyright 2002
Eric Shackle
Story first posted June 2002

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