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 battling through like a trouper…
Q: Hi AWC!
A: What are you wearing?
Q: It’s my army camouflage. I’m going to a party as one of the members of ABBA.
A: Please explain?
Q: You know, from the ABBA song Super Trooper. The party is for my friend Fernando who has been going through a lot lately and has just been a real trooper about it.
A: Okay, in both of those cases, you mean “trouper”.
Q: I do?
Q: But I’m dressed as a trooper. I even hired a tank.
A: Well yes, because ABBA weren’t talking about a ‘troupe’ at all – they were referring to a type of spotlight named a “super trouper” (beams are gonna blind me) that was following them on stage and perhaps a metaphor for their touring life – wishing every show was the last show. And so on.
Q: Are you sure you don’t mean a groop of performers?
Q: So, I guess I messed up the song reference.
A: That’s right. It’s probably a little autobiographical from ABBA, talking about being on stage as super troupers (beams are gonna blind me), and all they do is eat and sleep and sing, wishing every show was the last show. And so on.
Q: But what about calling someone a “trouper” – I’ve always written “trooper”. You know, for “battling through” like troops do.
A: Sure, that could make sense. But there is a second definition for “trouper” that is “a reliable or uncomplaining person”.
Q: I seriously never knew that.
A: You’re welcome.
Q: So, from now on I’ll definitely be supporting the troupes.
A: Good for you. “Trooper” and “trouper” actually both came from the Old French “troupe” back in the 1500s. “Troopers” started off as cavalry in the 1600s, before also meaning mounted policemen. The word “troupers” as performers arrived in the late 1800s, with the “reliable, uncomplaining person” definition later still – around the mid-20th century.
Q: Good to know. But now I have a problem. I can’t get my deposit back for this tank.
A: That is a bit awkward. Wait, how about you go with “tanks for being a great friend?”
Q: That is genius.
A: You’re welcome.
Q: Okay, I think we’re through, we’re really through.
A: Oh, that was quick.
Q: I know but I have to go (I have to go this time I have to go, this time I know)…
A: Nice ABBA lyrics there.
Q: Actually, I really do have to go. Can I use your waterloo?
Do you have a grammar gripe or punctuation puzzle that you’d like our Q&A to explore? Email it to us today!