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<   No. 524   2004-07-03   >

Comic #524

1 Screen: From: financeminister@finance.gov.ng
1 Screen: Our greetings come to you, our helpful friend,/ We hope that on your grace we can depend.
1 Screen: To share with you good fortune is our need -/ One hundred percent legal, guaranteed! -
1 Screen: To pay our country's debts we have a stash/ Of thirty million dollars all in cash;
1 Screen: But it appears the U.S. Treasury/ Will not accept transfers from our country.
1 Screen: To transfer this Nigerian amount/ We ask the details of your bank account.
1 Screen: Through your account the money we will send,/ Then ten percent is yours to keep and spend.
2 Ophelia: {reading her e-mail} Wow, that's several orders of magnitude above their usual command of English. In fact...
3 Ophelia: {walking over to Will's desk} Will? Are you moonlighting for the Nigerian Finance Ministry?!

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2013-07-02 Rerun commentary: Uh oh. Sprung!

Actually, now that I've written that, I wonder if the word "sprung" is used in this context and meaning outside of Australian English.

A brief search on the net indicates it might not be. The primary slang meaning of the word "sprung" in American English appears to be "to be infatuated with (someone)", such as in "She's got me totally sprung".

This is the slang meaning listed on Wiktionary and also on several other internet slang dictionary sites (which I will not link to, because they tend to also be full of various obscene meanings for pretty much every single word you might want to look up). This is a meaning I don't think I've ever heard before. Meanwhile, the Australian English slang meaning of "sprung" I did not find listed anywhere in my brief search.

Well, I guess it's time to get educational. In Australian English, "sprung" is used, often as an interjection, to indicate when someone has been caught doing something they shouldn't be doing. It's typically used by kids when they find a sibling doing something naughty, that will get them in trouble with their parents (if the parents find out). Also often used by school children when they become aware of other kids either breaking the school rules, or having been caught by a teacher.

You can be sprung stealing cookies from the kitchen, or smoking in the school toilets, or sticking a biology lab rat into someone's lunch box. If you borrow the parents' car without them knowing, and put a dent in the door, you are so sprung!

Criminals can also be sprung by police, which pretty much means the same thing as being caught red-handed.

Anyway, Will is definitely sprung by Ophelia here.

(And I just realised, in the American usage, it's more like Ophelia is sprung by Will... Interesting!)

EDIT: Oh, yes, there's also the colloquial meaning of "sprung from prison", meaning to have escaped or to have been assisted to escape. I'm familiar with that meaning, so it didn't seem notable enough to comment on here.

EDIT AGAIN: This has generated quite a bit of discussion. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, the American slang usage of "sprung" I mention above is actually more along the lines of "sexually aroused by", not the somewhat more innocent "infatuated with". I honestly had no idea - the usage was entirely new to me and I was just going off what I read in Wiktionary, which seems to have erred on the slightly prudish side in its definition (when I looked at it - being a wiki, it's probably changed by now).

Also, this usage is somewhat limited in spread (so I am informed), appearing mostly in Rap and Hip Hop culture. So many Americans may not even be aware of it. It's interesting, because I just saw (US) in the usage note and figured it was "American" usage, not just a subculture thereof.

Finally, some people offered non-Australian equivalents to the Australian usage of "sprung" I explained above. The most common one mentioned was the American English "busted" - as in "You are so busted!" This is pretty much an exact equivalent. I am familiar with the term "busted" from exposure to American media, but it didn't come to mind as a way of explaining the Australian usage of "sprung".

It's interesting that I can be quite familiar with foreign English usage like this, but that it doesn't actually come into my head as something I would ever use myself - even when searching for a way to explain an Australian English word with an identical meaning.

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