Each week at the Australian Writers' Centre, we dissect and discuss, contort and retort, ask and gasp at the English language and all its rules, regulations and ridiculousness. It's a celebration of language, masquerading as a passive-aggressive whinge about words and weirdness.
This week's Q&A is heaps good...
Q: Hi AWC, I've started hearing young folk say "heaps good" everywhere.
Q: "Oh wow, that show was heaps good..." or "We have a heaps good teacher"... or "This double shot soy macchiato is heaps good"...
A: Thanks. Yep, 'heaps good' seems confined to Australian informal usage for now, and maybe isn't as new as you might think.
Q: What, so earlier than 2017?
Q: But later than 1788?
A: Well, yes.
Q: Hmmm, narrows it down a little...
A: We'll just tell you. The origin of 'heaps good' appears to have been South Australia -- and first noted in the early 2000s, but probably dating back into the 1990s.
Q: Wow, Adelaide representing. Nice. And here I was thinking that the suburb of 'Glenelg' was their sole contribution to word quirkiness.
A: Because it's a palindrome?
Q: Yep. Reads the same forwards as it does backwards. Unlike the rest of Adelaide, which I always thought of as backwards only...
A: Well, you were clearly wrong. Adelaide is rad.
Q: Radelaide even. So what does 'heaps good' mean exactly?
A: Fairly self explanatory. 'Heaps good' means 'very good' or 'excellent' -- with 'heaps' synonymous with 'very' or 'lots'. It is treated almost as if it were one word, which is why we end up with clunky sounding things like "me and Muzza are heaps good friends".
Q: Oh, do you know Muzza too?
A: It was an example.
Q: Oh, because I had a falling out with Muzza -- all to do with something Shazza did to Dazza back in the day. No? Must be talking about a different Muzza.
A: In our search online for 'heaps good' evidence, we see that back in 2008 the Adelaide Advertiser was reporting on the hottest fashion item of the day -- T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase, and even SA tourism billboards dedicated to it.
Q: That's heaps funny.
A: When we look at Australian informal speech, we see it's often dotted with incomplete comparisons --for example, something being 'sweet as' -- despite us never really knowing the thing it is as sweet as. 'Heaps good' plays along these lines too -- how many heaps?
Q: Maybe there's a slang measurement system out there. Three 'heaps goods' in a 'sweet as' and twelve of those in a 'fully sick'...?
Q: All I know is that whenever I'm 'fully sick', I get to have icecream and jelly and watch TV in bed.
A: Right. Well, anyway, the main thing is that 'heaps good' continues to be popular slang among young Australians. And that can come in handy when writing dialogue and wanting it to sound realistic.
Q: Your answers today were heaps good, bruh.