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Into the Australian Way of Life : Dateline Sydney

Will Their Favorite Chant Ever Stop? Stop? Stop?

September 22, 2000|MIKE PENNER

It is unavoidable, inescapable, a never-ending rugby chant that has overtaken the Sydney Olympic Games.

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!

Oi! Oi! Oi!

I was on a train the other day, trying to hold a cellular phone conversation with an editor back in the States, when the conductor got on the loudspeaker and shamelessly began stoking the patriotic fever simmering in the cars behind him.

"Ozzie! Ozzie! Ozzie!" he crowed, laying the bait that no red-blooded Aussie can apparently resist.

"Oi! Oi! Oi!" the passengers screamed in response.

Back and forth the conductor and his crew went, again and again and again. By the time I finished the phone call and got off the train, I was reasonably certain my assignment for the day was to write about Ozzie Smith, Ozzie Newsome and Ozzy Osbourne plugging oyster oil ointment.

Where in the world did this chant come from?

And how, short of calling in the Marines, can it be stopped?

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the chant probably originated at cricket matches during the early 1970s. Probably. A letter written to the paper last year claimed that an ace bowler of the era, Rodney Hogg, inspired fans to chant along to his deliveries, "Hoggy! Hoggy! Hoggy! Oink! Oink! Oink!"

Another theory: Max Boyce, a Welsh folk singer, used to wind up crowds at his concerts with the exhortation, "Oogi! Oogi! Oogi! Oi! Oi! Oi!"--which was then exported to Australia during tours by the Welsh national rugby team during the 1970s.

Or, it might have originated in 18th-century England. According to a 1995 letter written to the Age of Melbourne, wives of tin miners would deliver Cornish pasties called "oggies" to their husbands at break time, announcing their arrival with a familiar refrain.

That would figure, coming from an Aussie. When in doubt, always blame the British.

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