Q&A: Boom vs boon

Each week here 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 we’re boom boom, shake, shaking the room…

Q: Hi AWC, I’m celebrating today.

A: Oh really? Why is that?

Q: Because I bought a house in the city a year ago for $93 and last week sold it for $4.3 million.

A: Well, that is impressive.

Q: Ka-ching! All thanks to the property boon we’re having!

A: No, you mean “boom”.

Q: Boom! All thanks to the property boon we’re having!

A: No, the ka-ching can stay – we meant replace “boon” with “boom”.

Q: I thought Ponting replaced Boon?

A: Let’s just explain it. “Boon” means something that will be beneficial to people.

Q: Like drinking 52 cans of beer in one plane trip?

A: No, not exactly. An example might be “The latest interest rate cuts are a boon to housing investors” or “The new rail link was a great boon for the community”.

Q: Any other meanings?

A: Nope. Although an old meaning was “as a favour or request” – a king may have granted a boon for example.

Q: Well, I’m not satisfied. House prices blowing up like they did is surely a “boon” to people like me!

A: Yes, it is a “boon” to you – that’s correct. But as for the phenomena itself – well, what sound does house prices blowing up make?

Q: Boom.

A: Exactly.

Q: Very good. So a property boom is a boon for homeowners?

A: Boom! That’s right. Defined by Macquarie Dictionary as “a period of high economic growth and general prosperity”.

Q: So how long has it been used that way?

A: Good question. The original meanings of “boom” – the loud crashy version (from Dutch “bommen”) and the microphone or boat variety (from Dutch “boom”) turned up in the 14th and 15th centuries respectively. However it wasn’t until 1873 that “boom” first appeared in a prosperity sense – in the USA.

Q: And “baby boom”?

A: According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “baby boom” was first coined in 1941, while “baby-boomers” (referring to those born after the end of World War II – 1945) first got used in 1974.

Q: I bet house prices were cheap back then.

A: Especially if you bought out in the boonies.

Q: What does “boonies” mean?

A: It’s short for “boondocks” – an American expression for a rural area. Australians would call it “woop woop” and New Zealanders call somewhere remote “the wop wops”.

Q: Well today has been quite a boon for knowledge-thirsty folk. And no, that’s not the first time “Boon” and “thirsty” has been used in the same sentence.

A: Any final questions?

Q: Yes, Are David Boon and Merv Hughes the same person?

A: Almost definitely.

If you have a grammar gripe or punctuation puzzle that you’d like our Q&A to explore, email it to us today!

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