Saturday, July 16, 2016

You say Labor, I'll say Labour

While in Australia we use the spelling labour, one of our two main political parties is called The Australian Labor Party. Why?

It goes back a long time to a politician called King O'Malley. While he claimed to be born in Canada, and thereby a British citizen, it is now known that he was actually born in the US and not entitled to be an Australian politician. Wow, a politician telling a lie. How extraordinary.

There is a plaque in front of house here in the inner suburb of South Melbourne where O'Malley lived for forty three years. Among his many achievements was the transcontinental railway across Australia and the selection of the site and the naming of Australia's capital city, Canberra.

Another thing O'Malley was keen on was spelling reform and convinced the party to adopt what was thought to be the more modern spelling, Labor and not Labour. A century or so later, the party has stuck with the spelling, even though the spelling is at times vehemently criticised.

Photo from City of Port Phillip. NB It is very arguable whether or not he was the founder of the Commonwealth Bank but he was certainly a supporter and activist for its establishment.


When R worked for the City of Port Phillip, he had occasion to visit the former home of King O'Malley. Not sure how well this Google Street View embed will work, but I will give it a shot. There is a short oral history on You Tube by the City of Port Phillip presented by the present occupant of the house who has lived there for around thirty years. It's the double fronted house with cream picket fence.

19 comments:

  1. A politician who is a stranger to the truth? Who would have thunk it.

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  2. I'm shocked and appalled that a politician lied:)I love that street.

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    1. Sandra, just as well you have fine upstanding and truthful politicians, or we would all be in a mess. It is a nice street and I haven't been along that part of it.

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  3. At least honourable was spelled correctly!

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    1. True Hels. I think the party should revert to our spelling of labour.

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  4. I always wondered at the spelling; thought it was just one more example of political posturing.

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    1. River, it was kind of that, but around one hundred years ago.

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  5. I always wondered why it was spelt like that. I'm one of those weirdos who prefers American spelling of words. As a school teacher, it is far easier to teach phonetic spelling. Can anyone tell me why we need a "U" in labour, neighbour, favour, etc? These spellings are a throw back from old English when these words were pronounced differently but we modernised the pronunciation but not the spelling...go figure!

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    1. Diane, you are thoroughly un Australian. I would not be against the English speaking world properly embracing phonetic spelling, where it can be practically done. It won't always work though.

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    2. Further thought, isn't American spelling and much of the way they use the English language based on what the settlers from England brought with them at the time? Subsequently in England the language and spelling changed, but these changes were not transferred to the America.

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  6. When I learned English at school it was the English English so we learned "labour". Then I worked in American companies and lots of words were written different. They wrote labor ! it's like favour and favor !

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    1. Gattina, the list of differently spelt words is very long and must confuse people whose first language is not English. At least you understand that there are differences and are not puzzled by them.

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  7. Well I never! I've always spelled it as the Labour Party, it's a debatable point as to who is right.. well not that debatable, moi of course 😃😃

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    1. Of course you are correct Grace. You always are.

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  8. Interesting history and the birther notion, here is a big thing, very popular to diss politicians as non American.
    Obama fought the birther people, who included Donald Trump, who claimed Obama was really born in Kenya, despite release of his birth certificate proving to all normal people he was indeed born in Hawaii. Then along came Ted Cruz, as an extreme conservative Presidential candidate who actually was born in Canada, not the US.

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    1. Strayer, that was the most ridiculous thing that people pursued in Obama's early days. I thought Cruz was born in a Latin American country, so there you go.

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  9. I always wondered about the spelling of Labor. Thanks for the explanation.

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    1. As did I Victor, but I learnt the reason some time ago.

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