The history of the term ‘fair dinkum’ has a lot of interest to us here at BONWAG – mainly because it’s where the name ‘fairding.com’ comes from.
In Australia (the only place the term is currently used) it’s an affirmation, like ‘yes, really’ or ‘believe me’ or ‘I’m telling the truth’. Like in “the weather was, fair dinkum, bloody awesome today”, or ‘you are a fair dinkum idiot’.
There are three theories:
It comes from the old 19th century term ‘dinkum’ meaning ‘hard work’ or ‘fair work’
Chinese gold prospectors might have used ‘Ding’ (meaning nugget) and ‘Kum’ (meaning gold) together, and described a good deal for gold as Fair Ding Kum. (I don’t think this is convincing.)
It’s derived from the latin term ‘Veras De Cum’, meaning ‘with the truth’ which, when shortened to ‘Ver De Cum’ sounds a little like Fair Dinkum.
There’s no definitive answer, but I rather like the idea it came from Latin. I have a picture in my head of some petty criminal in a bar in Sydney explaining to his mates that his lawyer was successful in negotiating some small win. “Yeah, he kept saying to the judge “fair dinkum”, “fair dinkum” – and it worked!”
But, I think the truth is more mundane – and it sounds true that it came from 19th century England, where all the early settlers of the country came from. This is what wikipedia thinks, but the final word can probably come from this ANU and Oxford Dictionary analysis that suggests it’s come from England at some point and stuck around here (and not in the East Midlands where it originated) because it was adopted as a nickname by the Diggers (another nickname for Australia Soldiers) during the war. That sounds right to me.
Thanks to The Professional Hobo for some background and the inspiration to finally complete this article!