Friday, July 11, 2008

Mermaids in the outback

One of the great things about Australian English is the richness of unique and colorful expressions that are foreign to those of us who grew up speaking one of the Northern Hemisphere variants of the language. Some of these are common throughout Australia. indeed, there exist lists on the internet that will provide translations of various terms, albeit devoid of cultural context. And having lived here for 11 years, I’ve heard most of the slang that is in widespread usage. But there are some choice terms which, due to either the physical isolation of the outback or the cultural isolation of my former career in academia, I have not heard. This is one of my favorites:

Mermaid: A weigh bridge operator.

It may be that some of the readers of this blog are the sort of isolated, industry-deficient people who have no knowledge of logistics. As such, one or two of them may not have used a weigh bridge, or even know what they are. So for their elucidation, here is an explanation.
A weigh bridge is a set of very large scales, which are used to weigh freight trucks. This is done to determine compliance- or lack thereof- with any of the various rules in regulations that govern the trucking profession. In addition to checking weight, the weigh bridge also serves as an enforcement point for other rules, such as logbook inspection, etc.

Usage: The mermaids dinged me for being less than a quarter ton over on my rear axle.
Sorry I’m two days late to site- I had to take the rig down the 4WD track to avoid the mermaids.

Most truckers seem to be drawn to the profession for reasons other than the bureaucratic quagmire that has been imposed on it by road safety. As a result, these rules and regulations are resented by many in the transport community, especially the small, independent operators who don’t have a head office to sort things out- or in some cases, the ability to read. This resentment towards the people who weigh their trucks explains where the term “mermaid” comes from.

Derivation: A cunt with scales.


Wayfarer Scientista said...

I like it.

EcoGeoFemme said...


Dr. Lemming said...

update: Look what I found in my "came from" category: jobs-australia&rp=