The poor old bastard carked it

In strine, to cark it means to die (it presumably derives from the noun carcass). It is generally used in a slightly informal way, and it would be considered offensive to use it in a situation where the person is actually close to the deceased. For example, one Australian in his twenties contacted the author and stated, "Did you hear old durry carked it?" (Durry, an Australian word for cigarette, was the nickname of a mutual teacher who was also a chain smoker).   Carked it could be used in this context as, while we both were respectful, neither of us were exceptionally close to the man.

By way of contrast, it would be considered impolite (or at least very informal) to say to someone, "Sorry to hear that your mother carked it". It would connote that such an event wasn't that significant, and could be discussed causally. To tell a mate that "Davo's old lady carked it" would be all right, however, so long as neither party was close to Davo's mother. 

For students of strine, it is best to initially use carked when referring to people neither you nor your audience knows.  For example, the Calton poster man carked when he choked on an ox's tail. Tragic.

I cacked myself when I heard that he carked it.

Now is committed to making your interaction with Australians, if that is your intention, as enjoyable as possible. Hence we have decided to discuss the word cack in the same context as cark to avoid any confusion over the issue (as it could have dire consequences).  In strine, purely and simply, cack as a noun, means to laugh - hard.  Unfortunately, it is a sad inditement on our major dictionaries that it not recognised as meaning that. I suggest, in this context, that the lexicographers get out of their ivory towers, stop reading Australian literature (as our speech in no way resembles our writing), and get out there on the streets and bloody well listen. Especially to the working class.  Perhaps the problem is that the people who purport to document the language don't even speak the bloody language.

But enough of that. Cack can also be used as a noun to mean someone who is bloody funny, or alternatively something that is bloody funny. For example, you could say, "She's a cack", meaning, she is a very funny person. Similarly, "It's a cack", means that it, whatever it is, is also very funny (eg a film).

Now, for most Australians, that's as far as this word goes. That's it, that's all it means. However, if you are foolish enough to look into some Australian dictionaries to try and have this word defined, you will no doubt come across the technical (or archaic) meaning for this word. That is, shit (as a noun or a verb).  Good work, boys.

As far as can tell, there are two possible sources for this word. First, and in our opinion the most likely, it may derive from the original, forgotten meaning of shit (verb). That is, just as you can 'piss yourself', it was so funny I pissed myself, perhaps originally you could shit yourself. And in those days, the polite way of saying that you shit yourself, was to say that you cacked yourself, with the original meaning of cack being lost over the ages.

And if it wasn't for the existence of the english word, to cackle, that would be the end of the story.  However, as you know, to cackle means to laugh as well. Perhaps cack is a shortening of cackle? Certainly cack has nothing to do with cackling in the modern sense of the word. When someone cacks themselves, they piss themselves (ie the laugh hard). They certainly don't stand there and cackle like a witch.

Thankfully we have had a couple of people write in about this:

Just stumbled across and thought I'd let you know that here in Britain, cack is definitely still used to mean shit. You could say "What a pile of old cack" for instance. Although "I practically cacked myself" could be used to mean "laughed very hard indeed" .. and both of these are quite commonly used.

- Matthew Shepar, Britain, 26/07/02

Your explanation of the work "cack" does not match my understanding of the meaning of the word. In my experience "I cacked myself" does not mean "I laughed myself" at all. It means "I shit myself (because I laughed so hard)". It is often used in the expression "I nearly
cacked myself", which would be meaningless if your version is accepted: "I nearly laughed myself". It means "I nearly shit(ted) myself (because I laughed so hard)". 

Also, I have never heard the word used as a noun.

- Greg McFairlane, NSW, 24/04/02

 This seems to settle it - it looks as though the loss of cack to mean shit is a regional occurrence. 

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