Media release: Cussing Competition

10 August 2016

Professor Kate Burridge asks, “What the Bloody Hell happened to Zooterkins?”

Zooterkins, sard, gadzooks, zounds, waesucks, gadsbudlikins, potzblitz, snails and consarn it are just some of the extraordinary array of expletives which once rolled off the tongue at times of frustration and consternation. Now we are likely to hear only one word when someone hits their thumb with a hammer and that word begins with F. Like other areas of the English language, swear words have been dulled and culled, made extinct by globalisation and mass communication.

But language is an ever-evolving thing and the organisers of the Ex Libris Port Fairy Festival of Words plan to revitalise the oath at this year’s festival. Under the expert guidance of Kate Burridge, Professor of Linguistics at Monash University, there will be a Cussing Competition and an Antiques Oath Road Show.

Festival coordinator, Kirsty Hawkes, said: “As well as the usual author talks I wanted to put on something lighter and more interactive this year. The Cussing Competition will engage the community and get folk thinking creatively about the bad language they use every day. I first began thinking about how much more colourful insults used to be when I read Norman Lindsay’s The Magic Pudding. Why does no-one ever call anyone else a carrot-nosed poltroon or a sausage shaped porous plaster these days?”

During the festival swearing boxes will be placed around Port Fairy for people to post their new insults and oaths.  A “Hurling Insults” contest will also be set up on Fiddlers Green on Saturday. Punters are invited to write down a creative cuss on a piece of paper, scrunch it up and hurl it at a topical target.  There will be on the spot prizes for a well-aimed insult, and all entries will go into the competition which will be judged by Kate. For further inspiration Kate will be giving a talk on one of her pet subjects, the history of swearing entitled “What he Bloody Hell Happened to Zooterkins?

“Kate may be one of the world’s leading experts on the Amish language, but she is not at all a stuffy academic. She was delighted when I suggested the competition to her and is looking forward to seeing what people come up with.” Said Kirsty.

Kate, who presents regular language segments on ABC Radio and has appeared on ABC TV’s “Can We Help?” and “The Einstein Factor”, will also be hosting an Antique Oaths Roadshow in the Reardon Theatre on Sunday.

Visitors are invited to drop in with old words, sayings and expressions, insulting or otherwise, and have them dissected by Kate. Who hasn’t wondered about “slinging your hook” or mincing an oath can? Just ask Kate.

The competition also commemorates Roald Dahl who was born one hundred years ago on 13 September. Aided by his dyslexia, Dahl, was a master of the neologism (a newly coined word or expression). The BFG contains all kinds of peculiar profanities – filthy old fizzwiggler, frogglefrump, shizbits, bogwinkles to name but a few so why not raise a glass of snozzcumber juice to an expert expletarian and get creative!

“Only people who attend the festival will be able to enter the competition,” said Kirsty, “but my advice is to start working up some great new bad language now. Just think of something or someone you really hate for inspiration. I’m from Scotland and the profanities which Donald Trump inspired after his last visit there are superb. Cockwomble was a favourite, but hamster heedit bampot is the winner for me!”

Professor Kate Burridge will present the winners of the Cussing Competition with appropriate prizes at the festival’s last event. 

Ex Libris Port Fairy Festival of Words runs from 9-11 September. The full festival program is available online at, and print copies can be found in local libraries, information centres and some stores. Don’t wait, book your ticket now!

[For more information, contact Kirsty Hawkes, Ex Libris Port Fairy Festival of Words coordinator, on ph 0437 762 508 or email]