Who were the ten pound Poms and the Jennings Germans?

Australian English has long reflected the varied migration that has come with the European colonisation of Australia.

Two such terms that reflect the nature of migration to Australia in the middle of the 20th century are ten pound Pom and Jennings German.

Both terms have been used retrospectively to refer to people who migrated under particular migration schemes.

The term ten pound Pom, (also ten pound migrantten quid migrant, and ten pound tourist), is first recorded in the 1970s.

It refers to those people from the UK who migrated to Australia under the Assisted Passage Scheme, a scheme run by the Australian Government after the Second World War.

The fare for passage to Australia was set at £10. It was expected that these assisted migrants would work for a period of time.

Passengers watch from the deck as SS New Australia arrives in Colombo Harbour, Ceylon in 1955. Photo: Vaughan Evans/Australian National Maritime Museum/Flickr

The use of the term Pom (and Pommy) for a British person was a well-established term in Australian English.

It is first recorded in 1912, and while many etymologies have been suggested (the most well-known being that it came from P.O.M.E., an acronym for ‘prisoner of Mother England’ and referred to convicts), it actually evolved from a rhyming slang term for immigrant, pomegranate (sometimes also spelt pommygrant).

An earlier rhyming slang term for an immigrant, jimmygrant, co-existed with pomegranate/pommygrant in the early 20th century, but over time jimmygrant was overtaken by pomegranate and its abbreviated forms pommy and pom.

Many other nationalities came to Australia in the post-war period under a variety of immigration schemes, changing the demographic profile of Australia.

They included Germans, a number of whom migrated under the sponsorship of building company A.V. Jennings in 1951 and 1952.

A much smaller scheme than the ones run by the Australian Government, it nevertheless brought a group of migrants who would later refer to themselves as the Jennings Germans to the nation’s capital of Canberra. The term is first recorded in 1977.

Jennings Germans were all single young men who were skilled carpenters, and they worked on many houses in Canberra suburbs.

Some also went on to work on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme that brought many other European migrants to Australia from 1949 through to the early 1970s.

Migration has shaped Australian English, and we will continue to trace the ways migration and the language of migration shapes it.

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