Is Barry on his Patma?

This piece was first published in the New Norfolk and Derwent Valley News on July 15, 2022

Did you notice the story about Barry Crocker getting cross because a men’s undies manufacturer used his name without his permission to advertise their product?

Their pitch went like this: ‘Make chafing a thing of the past.  Stop having a Barry Crocker with your underwear.  Buy [insert brand name of undies here]’. 

A ‘Barry Crocker’ is apparently Australian rhyming slang for a shocker.  This was a newie on me.  The Urban Dictionary gives as an example ‘your new haircut is a Barry Crocker’, or just ‘a Barry’ for short.

Crocker says the first he heard about the ad was when friends started ringing him up to tell him about it.  He says he’s less than impressed and that he might take legal action. 

‘They never called to ask my permission’, he said.  ‘Maybe they thought I was dead’.

Which was the first thought that occurred to me when I saw the story headlined in the papers – is he still alive?! But I was glad to hear he is and, more importantly, that he’s taking the whole thing with the requisite larrikin humour. 

He says people come up to him all the time to tell him they’ve had a Barry of a day.  He says he doesn’t mind this because it’s just good-natured banter, but it’s different when commercial outfits want to make money out of his name.  Then, as he puts it in colourful Aussie idiom, he wants ‘a fair suck of the sauce bottle’.

He says, continuing in the same vein, ‘these guys are so mean they would steal a worm from a blind chook.  They didn’t even offer me a free pair of Reg Grundies’.  I probably don’t need to tell you that ‘Reg Grundies’ is rhyming slang for ‘undies’, but I mention it for the benefit of new arrivals unfamiliar with older Aussie vernacular, or youngsters raised on a diet of American pop slang.  For the benefit of the same demographic, Reg Grundy was a famous Australian TV entrepreneur of the latter half of the last century.   

Barry Crocker’s lawyers haven’t had an official legal response to their letter, but the undies manufacturers have made a public statement denying that ‘Barry’ refers to any particular Barry, and have offered to gift him a pair of their grundies which they say are perfectly designed for dealing with the ‘horrible’ conditions of sweat, chafe and ride-up. 

Whether this will appease Mr Crocker’s quest for a fair suck remains to be seen.  A trademark lawyer popped up to say it wouldn’t be an open and shut case, because while he’s entitled to protect his name, ‘the advertisers are probably going to say we aren’t using his name, … we are using the rhyming slang’. 

It’ll be an interesting one to watch. 

It got me wondering whether, apart from Barry Crocker and Reg Grundy, any other well-known figures had achieved name immortality through rhyming slang.

There’s Adrian Quist, an Australian tennis-player of the ‘30s and ‘40s now largely forgotten but who was good enough to get into the Tennis Hall of Fame.  His name gave temporary currency to the expression ‘to be a bit Adrian,’ of someone who had over-imbibed.  I take it I won’t have to spell out for you the word with which his surname rhymed, and which means ‘drunk’ in popular parlance. 

Older readers might remember Frank Wilson, a genial TV game-show host of the sixties.  He always referred to a finger as an ‘onka’, and he might talk about putting your ‘frank’ on your ‘onka’. 

Your ‘onka’ was your finger.  It comes from Onkaparinga, a river in South Australia whose name was adopted by the local blanket manufacturer which made them.  Onkaparinga = finger. 

‘Frank’ was an exact parallel to what has happened to Barry Crocker’s name.  Frank Thring was a well-known Australian character actor (he was in Ben Hur and King of Kings) of the 50s and 60s who went on to become a radio and TV talk-show staple in his homeland.  So if you put your ‘frank’ on your ‘onka’ you are putting your ring on your finger.     

Sadly, I suspect both onkas and franks are on their way out.  

Was there ever a real-life Pat Malone, as in ‘on me patma’, as in ‘alone’?  I suspect not. 

Can’t think of any more name examples, but if you know of any more, you can pop them right here!