gypsies; swagmen; apostrophes

Worldwide, every country has its own wanderers.
(Googled images; thanks google)



those who are constantly on the move, never settling to a permanent address, although many groups, (tribes/clans) often have a defined winter or summer area.

They move in, stay awhile, move on.

Back in the depression days, solitary men in Australia, who moved from area to area doing odd jobs for a few shillings or just a bag of flour and some tea, were called Swagmen.

The Swags they carried on their backs were usually a change of clothing, a few eating and cooking utensils, sometimes notepaper and a pencil, all tightly rolled up in a blanket, and slung across the back. From this usually hung a billy for boiling water to make tea, sometimes a pot or frypan for cooking food, a bag containing the essentials; flour, sugar, tea, salt, maybe some jam for the damper they cooked in place of bread.

A hat strung with corks to keep flies away from the face completed the swaggies outfit.

Mnay swaggies of the time were family men who took to the roads looking for work in order to send a few shillings home each week or month to the families they'd left behind.
Times were tough and work in the cities was hard to find. So they'd walk for miles, sometimes hitching a ride, from farm to farm, station to station, (ranch) doing whatever work they could find.

As the economy improved, many swaggies returned to their homes and families, renewing their marriages, once again getting to know children they hadn't seen for quite some time.

A few men found it hard to settle back into town life, they'd been bitten by the "wandering bug" and felt the need to remain on the move.
Many joined circuses and carnivals to satisfy this need.

Thinking of these wanderers brings to mind thoughts of the apostrophe.
Are these little indicators of possession or abbreviation the nomads, the swaggies, of the written language?

They'll move from word to word, sentence to sentence, popping up in unexpected places, always moving on, rarely staying "home".

Often travelling for so long that no-one is really sure anymore of where they do belong, these little gypsy curlicues of the written word.


  1. We often play spot the misplaced apostrophe, River. It's fun.

    The life of a swagman seems more poignant to me though, however much they might have believed they did it by choice.

    I suppose you can get used to a rough bed. Oh dear and then I think of the homeless.

  2. I enjoyed reading about the swagmen. Apostrophes drive me nuts.

  3. I heart apostrophes.

    They make more sense than numbers.

  4. Swaggie's were still around when I was a kid. I remember one coming to house and asking for? I cant remember. My last word on apostrophe's, if you arent sure, then leave it out rather than have someone tell you that you have your apostrophe's wrong.

  5. My RED Nomadism seems a bit too easy compared to the swaggies of yesteryear, and those who have it thrust upon them. So I'll just become an apostrope NAZI instead!!!

    Of course you can use my Kanyaka pic - I'll email it - and a couple of others so you can choose your fave!!

  6. Oh my goodness what a learned treatise, you'll give public housing a bad name!

  7. And our current grey nomads live a much better life than the swaggies ever did. I love apostrophes, though I am not always sure I have them right. Try, try and try again.

  8. My motto on apostrophes is if in doubt leave 'em out. I've been approached by beggars asking for money so they can get there daily fix of heroin or cocaine but no swagmen definitely a dying breed :-).

  9. Haven't seen a swaggie for decades, used to them very rarely when I was a kid and we'd be out for a country drive on a Sunday.
    Apostrophes are like bed bugs.

  10. Elisabeth; just for a change, try spotting the correctly placed apostrophe. I think the life of many a swagman must have been lonely.

    Delores; you and me both with the apostrophes.

    Toni; I heart numbers, which is a little odd since I'm not so good at math.

    Andrew; I've never seen a swaggie, ecxept in movies. My favourite being "The Shiralee", with Peter Finch.

    Red Nomad; thanks for the pics. I tried the Kanyanka as a desktop background but it didn't work so well. It looked out of focus because of being stretched I suppose.

    R.H. I'll try to dumb it down a bit, okay?

    EC; The greys certainly do have it better in terms of caravans and more available cash, but I'm sure a few of the swaggies loved their simple life in the open air.

    Windsmoke; I haven't been approached by a beggar for quite some time. I did see a young woman recently pushing a baby in a pram and asking for money to buy nappies.

    Jayne; I'm pretty sure I've never seen a swaggie, there was once an old man riding a pushbike with a big bundle tied on the back.
    Bedbugs? Eewww! Of course, they're everywhere too.


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