‘a long streak of pelican shit’: meaning and origin

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The colloquial Australian-English phrase a long streak of pelican shit designates a tall person.

This phrase occurs, for example, in Bench Mark, by Bernard Lagan, published in The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales) of Saturday 10th October 1998:

HIDDEN away, up a dark staircase, in a tiny back office of the NSW Parliament in the early 1990s, was one of Bob Carr’s better assets.
He was a young man, barely in his 30s, with a big frame and bigger mind and he quietly constructed some spectacular bombs that Carr, then Opposition leader, had to detonate under the fresh-faced, cocksure Coalition Government of Nick Greiner.
Mark Latham was built like a front-row forward and he quickly made a name for himself as a ready-made political brain, equipped with a bravado that rendered some speechless.
A target was Greiner’s then chief secretary, the National Party minister Garry West, a gangly country MP who always seemed wide-eyed at city life. “Hey, chief, what’s your mother say when you get up? Does she bring you a cup of tea, chief? Ya big streak of pelican shit.”

The phrase a long streak of pelican shit was first used—and perhaps coined—by the Australian playwright Alexander Buzo (1944-2006) in Norm and Ahmed (first performed in 1968)—as quoted in an article on censorship, published in Tharunka 1 (Kensington, New South Wales) of Tuesday 21st April 1970:

I remember one bloke. A real coot. Played prop for Balmain juniors. Tall bloke, he was. A long thin streak of pelican shit. He tried to hang one on me at Leichhardt Oval once, so I administered a knuckle sandwich to him.

1 Tharunka: the Journal of the University of New South Wales Students’ Union.

The phrase a long streak of pelican shit gained currency from occurring in Gallipoli (1981), an Australian war drama film by the Australian film director Peter Weir (born 1944), scripted by the Australian playwright and screenwriter David Williamson (born 1942)—as mentioned in the following two texts:

1-: An interview of David Williamson, by Geraldine Brooks, published in The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales) of Saturday 1st August 1981:

It is de rigeur [sic], when writing about David Williamson, to describe him as “lanky” to reinforce the impression of his extreme tallness. Even hidden in the recesses of a loose handspun jumper, the leggy, attenuated frame is striking: Williamson has the fragile improbable proportions of a new-born foal.
Perhaps the most creative, if not the most lyrical, description of Williamson is given in the film Gallipoli when somebody calls him: “That long thin streak of Pelican s…”
Since Williamson wrote the Gallipoli screenplay, it is, in fact, his own description of himself.
Williamson makes a brief, Hitchcockian appearance in the film as an Australian soldier playing football at the training camp in Egypt.

2-: The review of the film Gallipoli, by Neil Jillett, published in The Age (Melbourne, Victoria) of Thursday 13th August 1981:

It is quibbling to find fault with the film’s opening section in Western Australia. The middle section, where the boys go romping and Wog-bashing in Cairo, has some good scenes, but most of the time we are deep in Barry McKenzie 2 country. David Williamson is even allowed to appear and be described by his own screenplay as “that long, thin streak of pelican shit”. It is astonishing that this self-indulgent scene, so disruptive of the film’s best qualities, was shot; it is appalling that it was kept in the film.

2 Barry McKenzie is a fictional character created by the Australian comedian Barry Humphries (born 1934).

The phrase is euphemised in the column On Television, by Mike Carlton, published in The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales) of Wednesday 16th May 1984:

On Seven, Graham Kennedy has been fronting 11 AM in the absence of Vincent Smith, eyeballs rolling like the Cookie Monster. His own absence from the box has been far too long, for he is brilliant once more. Mind you, at those prices he’d want to be.
“I don’t move outside the front door for less than $35,000,” he assured Ross Symonds the other day. “Logie-lips,” Kennedy called him, “a long, tall streak of Pelican … er … deliciousness.”

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