Beware the baitlayer

Word watch

Many words have historically been used to describe a cook, as Australian National Dictionary editor Dr Amanda Laugesen, BA (Hons) ’97, PhD ’01 explains.

Would you eat something prepared by a baitlayer? Or what about a water burner? The answer is likely to be ‘no’.

Australian English includes a number of words to describe a cook, especially a cook in an institutional or communal setting, such as a sheep or cattle station, a camp site or in the military.

The lexicon of English includes a number of slang words for cooks, some dating back to the underworld slang of the seventeenth century. For example, a cook-ruffian, first recorded in 1698, was a ‘bad or bad-tempered cook’.

American slang gives us colourful terms such as slum-slinger, dating to the 1840s, kitchen mechanic, from the late nineteenth century, and belly-cheater (with the variant gut-cheater) from the early twentieth century.