Tom Wrigglesworth - does the phrase ‘fair dinkum’ originate from Yorkshire?

Tom Wrigglesworth

Tom Wrigglesworth - Credit: Archant

Roger Federer goes one better than Tom, but has the Swiss tennis ace ever discovered an unlikely link between Yorkshire and Australia?

Good day to you dear reader, just to recap my previous two columns, I’m a proud new dad. Of eight week old twins. They’re not identical, which answers most people’s first question. Although when I’m out and about pushing a double buggy and someone asks ‘are they identical’ (which happens about once every thirty seconds on a quiet day), I’ve taken to replying ‘Well, one is identical, the other one is non-identical’. While this pithy remark has yet to illicit a single laugh, it doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of saying it. Whether you refer to them as ‘bizygotic’ (medical term), ‘fraternal’ (laymans term), or even ‘not proper twins’ (some bloke on the bus), multiple births are getting more and more common. And with a few celebrities endorsements from folk such as Beyonce, Clooney and Federer one might expect the trend to continue. Although naturally Roger and Mirka Federer have had two sets of twins, but I guess Federer was always going to beat everybody else.

The real, scientific fact behind the increase of multiples is, coincidentally, two fold. The first reason is that with the cost and risk of IVF, it’s standard practice for doctors to stick more than one embryo into the womb to be on the safe side and hope that at least one takes hold. This belt and braces approach was possibly inspired by whoever installed the old bathroom mirror in our house. A combination of grip fill adhesive, silicone sealant and mirror screws meant it took me over two hours to get the thing off the wall, and by doing so I’d reduced my hands to almost bloodied stumps. The fact that I was forced to look at my pained expression from extremely close up while doing the job made the while thing much worse.

Naturally conceived twins account for the other reason, and it’s because women have such incredible reproductive systems. As more and more women have children later in life, their reproductive organs go into a kind of ‘final chance’ mode, and often release two eggs in one ovulation cycle. Most men would probably best understand this phenomenon when comparing it to ‘last orders at the bar’. When hearing those alarming words accompanied by the urgent sounding bell, a lot of people panic and order two beers in one go.

I stumble over facts like these during sleepless nights spent sterilising bottles, warming bottles, and cooling bottles. Then rewarming them because they’ve become too cool, and finally chucking the contents out and starting all over again because they’ve exceeded the two hour ‘drinking up time’ that’s advised on the box of milk formula. I’ve tried ringing a bell and shouting ‘last orders at the bottle’ but it’s completely lost on their eight week old minds.

Other facts that have amused me of late are that Yorkshire has the biggest Indian restaurant in the world, and the best restaurant in the world, pretty impressive boasts, but the maddest fact that has had my mind whirring this week came from a 3am text chat I had with a friend who was on his lunch break in Sydney, Australia. This friend emigrated to Australia from Yorkshire six years ago. He comes back to Sheffield about every two years to visit his family, remind himself how to talk properly, and to stock up on Hendersons Relish. During our late night text chat, a mainly one sided diatribe about how people who use glue and screws to attach a bathroom mirror should be serving time in prison, he responded with the phrase ‘fair dinkum’ – meaning ‘fair enough’.

I replied that he must be the first Yorkshireman to have ever uttered the phrase ‘fair dinkum’. However, a couple of sterilising, warming, cooling and starting all over again sessions later, I learnt that the phrase ‘fair dinkum’ possibly originated in Yorkshire. What was I to learn next? Cork hats originally hailed from Barnsley? Fosters is actually made from Harrogate Spring water? The roads in Ripon were tarmacked using Vegemite?

Surely this can’t be true, but apparently the phrase ‘fair dinkum’ which means both ‘fair’ and ‘honest work’ comes from the mining community. People from Sheffield and Eckington have records of people using the saying in the 1890s, just as many miners shipped themselves off to Australia. It’s assumed they took the phrase with them while the locals who stayed behind switched to using the more normal sounding phrase ‘fair play’. Crazy right?

So next time you see someone pushing a twin buggy, don’t get bogged down with what sort of twins they might be, as it’s a conversation the pusher of the buggy would have had a thousand times that week already. Instead, just use a proper Yorkshire phrase and tell them that despite everything they’re probably doing great, and at the end of the day, it’s all fair dinkum.

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