‘winedot’: meaning and origin

The colloquial Australian-English noun winedot denotes an addict of cheap wine or/and of methylated spirits.

This noun occurs, for example, in the column Short Black, compiled by Robin Hill, published in The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales) of Tuesday 21st November 1989:

In vino very-crass . . .
SHORT Black is amazed and bemused at readers’ terms for cheap wine.
Diana Kerrigan of Burwood lived on a small vineyard during the depression and admits to some experience with plonk. She recalls the terms “clever Mary” and “Africa speaks” for the nasty stuff. Frank Mulville of Peakhurst reckons that, at 74, he is an authority on the old winedot days and says “red ned” * was the most frequently used term.

* The colloquial Australian-English noun Red Ned denotes cheap red wine.

The noun winedot was apparently coined jocularly after Wyandotte, denoting a domestic chicken of a medium-sized American breed. This is what Sidney John Baker (1912-1976) explained in The Australian Language (Sydney: Currawong Publishing Company, 1966):

Addicts of cheap wine are known variously as winedots (a play on Wyandottes, domestic fowls of a U.S. breed), plonkdots, plonkos, plonkies, plonk fiends (or artists or merchants), bombos, bombo-bashers, darkies (addicts of fourpenny darks, but surviving its eclipse), bunches of grapes and muscateers.

In fact, it seems that Wyandotte has occasionally been spelt winedot. The following, for example, is from the account of an agricultural show, published in The Boyup Brook Bulletin (Boyup Brook, Western Australia) of Friday 9th November 1934:

Commenting on poultry, Mr E. A. Abbotts said there was a slight improvement in quality only, with exception of the silver laced winedot hen of Mr Corkers and the rhode island red cockerill of Mr P. D. Dents, which were exceedingly good.

The earliest occurrences that I have found of winedot, in the sense of an addict of cheap wine or/and of methylated spirits, are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From The Advertiser (Adelaide, South Australia) of Tuesday 9th May 1933:

“WINE-DOT CADGERS”
Gaol For Methylated Spirits Drinkers

“These men are regarded by the police as wine-dot cadgers, and nuisances generally,” said the Assistant Police Prosecutor (Mr. J. P. Walsh), in the Adelaide Police Court yesterday, when Frank Ernest Hook and George Churcher, of no fixed abode, were charged with being rogues and vagabonds. Messrs. W. James and A. J. Jarrett, who were on the bench, ordered them imprisonment for six months.
Mr. Walsh said Hook and Churcher had been seen frequently in the west-end of the city in a filthy condition by Plainclothes-Constables Phin and Sharpe and Constable Horne. They were always more or less under the influence of methylated spirits. On two occasions in April the constables had taken bottles containing methylated spirits from them, and smashed them in the gutter. The men were seen together again at Hindmarsh on Saturday, and they smelt strongly of methylated spirits, which was known among undesirables as “White Lady.” They admited [sic] that they had no means of support, and said they had been living anywhere.

2-: From The News (Adelaide, South Australia) of Thursday 15th April 1943:

Tells Court She Gave Husband ‘Hiding’

Because she said she had given her husband “a hiding,” a woman in the Adelaide Police Court today asked that a peace complaint she had laid against him be withdrawn.
The woman, Ivy Alice Roberts, of Oak avenue, Unley, told Mr. Muirhead, P.M., that she would give her husband another hiding if he misbehaved.
The husband was Richard Orford Roberts.
Asked by the magistrate why her husband was not present in court, she replied, “He’s in bed. I injured his back so much that he can’t go to work.”
Mr. Muirhead—You say you injured your husband?
Mrs. Roberts—I’ll say I did, my dear man.
Does your husband want a separation?—I wish to goodness he would go. I don’t want him, the wine-dot. Men, at least 75 per cent. of them, are all alike, if you ask me.
After the complaint was withdrawn, the woman, smiling broadly, said to Mr. Muirhead, “Thank you, my dear.”

3-: From The Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, New South Wales) of Tuesday 12th September 1944:

Move to Clear City Of “Winedots”

“Winedots”—men who drink cheap wine and become derelicts—have been annoying local citizens by their begging and have received attention from the police. A recent clean-up is expected to have the desired effect.
[…]
A police officer said today that the men drink cheap wine and even methylated spirits when their money runs out, and become real “beachcombers.” After a raid, and the men get time to “sleep it off,” they generally profit by their experience and return to their station work. Most of the men arrested last week came from stations, and some have returned.
The “Red Ned” drinkers generally have their spree at week-ends and attempt to sponge on mine workers on Fridays and Saturdays.
Police are to keep a look out for these public nuisances and intend to free the town of them.

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