So I'm in a local mall the other day when I asked Christine if we were going to the "newsie," short for newsagent—a shop that sells newspapers, magazines, candies, fishing licenses (so I found out) and assorted sundries.
She looked at me like I had just said something really stupid. In Bulgarian.
"It's a newsagent, it's not a "newsie." She said it just like that, all snotty.
I was sure I'd heard her call it a newsie, and told her so. She insisted I had not.
We go into the not-newsie, and the clerk says the woman who just left had left something behind. I went and found a woman who I thought I'd seen in the shop and asked her, "Were you just in the newsie?" It just slipped out.
She looked at me like I was stupid, and Bulgarian, and said, "Do you mean the newsagent?"
Christine has told anyone who will listen about this minor event, every time while pointing and laughing at yours truly.
Now here's the thing: Australians shorten everything, either by adding an "ie," a "y," or an "o." A fisherman is a "fisho." Chewing gum is "chewie." A mosquito is a "mozzie." A present is a "prezzy." A car registration is a "rego" (soft g, just like in registration). If something is expensive it's "exy." A freaking fireman is a "firie," for god's sake. They shorten, in short, everything.
But not "newsagent." The one Australian word I decide to use on my own, that I take out for a little linguistic test run—no no no no no. Not that one. Wrong.
"If it was going too be shortened," said Christine's sister, Shannon, "it'd be news-o, not news-ie." Everyone agreed with her.
There's a rule, apparently, in Australia, regarding the shortening of words, and whether you shorten it with an "o" or "ie." Everyone, apparently, knows this rule. And so I have been informed that not only did I shorten a word that is one of the only words in the entire English language that is not under any circumstances to be shortened, I shortened it in a way that it would not be done if it were to be done at all. I was wrong, and I was wrong wrongly.
Well, enough is enough.
I will henceforth be using the word "newsie" whenever I approach, enter, mill about in, leave, or just think about a newsagent. I will speak about "newsies" to my friends, to relatives overseas, to strangers that I meet on the street. "Do you know where the nearest newsie is? Is that a good newsie? Does the newsie have chewie? Is the chewie exy at the newsie? Have you ever been spanked in a newsie? I have. Delicious good fun, being spanked in a newsie..."
I will shout "newsie!" into the windows of sleeping children, so as to infiltrate their dreams with this brand new word.
I will hire small airplanes to drag banners through the sky saying, "Get the latest news—at the newsie—you bastards!"
I will write letters to the editor of every newspaper in the country, and I will mention "newsies" in said letters at least fifteen times each, even if it makes no sense at all to do so. I will newsie the freaking newsie out of all the newsiest newsies in newsie-dom.
I will use the word "newsie" so often that Australians will start using the word themselves, thinking that it's a perfectly natural word, that they've been using it all their lives, never knowing that it was me, it was me that planted that word in their minds, in their language, in their country.
This is my personal quest for one simple and perfectly sensible short word: "newsie."