I am sick and tired of this wowseristic country

Norman Lindsay, 1930

I'm shocked by the wowserism moving into censorship

Jane Scott, Oscor Nominated Producer of Shine, The Australian, 20 January 2000

Australia has a long history of binge drinking. It is part of our beer drinking culture.. Australians have also long reviled the wowser. "I don't trust anyone who doesn't get drunk," a well known female singer once told me. And I understood what she meant. 

Too young to be dying for a drink, Sydney Morning Herald, September 21 2002

The other critical barrier is our well-entrenched grog culture -- even the National Alcohol Strategy refers to our love of “getting p-ssed”. It’s not politically smart to be labelled a wowser.

Alcohol II: no government wants to be a wowser,, 22 May 2007

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson also warned against becoming a nation of wowsers in attempts to curb the excesses of alcohol.

Nelson warns against becoming wowsers, The Courier Mail, April 30 2008

In the eyes of Governor Hunter:

A more wicked, abandoned, and irreligious set of people have never been brought together in any part of the world.

If that were the whole story then we wouldn't have had any need for a word such as wowser, which is perhaps our finest contribution to the English language.  But unfortunately, others of different character crept in our vast door. While the vile, working class scum of England and those terrible Guinness consuming Irishmen would have happily continued their singing, drinking, dancing and copulating in peace, far away from the oppressive class system of mother England, the self appointed moral guardians of the simple folk continued to harangue, harass and generally make annoyances of themselves in the name of the their god and morality. These people became known as wowsers.

An aussie faced with a wowser

Since the Australian is probably the lowest educated English-speaking person in the world, he obviously doomed to fill the role of a cockshy [target] for all the petty moralists, religious fanatics and other humbugs who infest the average social group.  He is a prey to all purveyors of prejudice and misinformation... it was no accident that skyrocketed the word wowser to a position of enduring importance in our language. 

Sidney Baker, The Australian Language, 1945. 

Many examples of wowser usage exist, but perhaps the one that best sums up its meaning was given by John Scaddan, Premier of Western Australia in 1912 (as quoted in The Ugly Australian, 1976):

A wowser is... a person who is more shocked at seeing two inches of underskirt than he would be at seeing a mountain of misery.

And if that isn't clear enough for you, then consider the words of Eugene Gorman, QC in 1960:

A wowser is simple, satisfying, succinct, single word which aptly distinguishes the whole race of windy. watery, cantankerous, snuffling Chadbands, Stinggingses, Holy Joes and Scripture-spouting sneaks, hypocritical humbugs, and unctuous, dirty-minded rotters, who spend their time interfering with the healthy instincts and recreations of healthy-minded, honest humanity.

A typical wowser cry is that we shouldn't drink at all.

It's so embedded in our way of life that those who choose not to drink are considered odd. And this is where the tension comes in: drinkers call reformers wowsers, and reformers call drinkers irresponsible, pointing to the fact that the social cost of alcohol is $7.5 billion a year, and it's all very well if you've never suffered from it, never watched the deterioration of an alcoholic.

Nothing gained in a return to forbidden fruit, Sydney Morning Herald, August 30, 2003

[Opposition leader] Mr Latham has made no secret of his love of a drink. Before winning the leadership, he was regularly spotted late at night at Canberra's bars during parliamentary sitting weeks.But Prime Minister John Howard is no wowser himself, being a long-time heavy smoker, a fan of scotch and fine wine and the host of some of the best parties in Canberra during the late 1980s.

Latham could swear off alcohol to regain health, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 August 2004

DRINKING at the beach on Christmas Day will be banned in the latest attempt to kill fun in Sydney. Guards and police will patrol Bondi beach during Christmas-New Year, strictly enforcing a no-alcohol policy... Waverley Mayor Peter Moscat denied council was made up of "wowsers".

Booze ban hits Bondi for Christmas, SMH, November 18, 2004

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