In Reply to: I'm bushed posted by Victoria S Dennis on July 21, 2008 at 18:19:
: : : : I told my friend that I was bushed and he thought I was strange. I was referring to my exhaustion from working on the farm that day. I can't find where that phrase originated. Can anyone help?
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: : : According to Collins' Dictionary of Slang, in the sense "exhausted" it is late 19th-century US, meaning "tired from walking in the bushes (i.e. woods) all day". The dic says there is also a slightly earlier Australian used of "bushed" to mean "bewildered" (i.e. "lost in the bush"). No doubt Pamela can tell us if Australians still use this. (VSD)
: : Well, I hadn't heard "bushed" to mean bewildered and nor had any of the people sitting around me. But there it is in the Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary: bushed adj. colloq. 1.a lost in the bush b. bewildered. 2. Tired out. I've checked out a couple of the touristy "Aussie Slang" sites and the only meaning of "bushed" listed is "tired out". So I'm guessing the "bewildered" meaning is either rare or regional. I did find in the dictionary some very commonly used phrases involving the bush, which I'll share in case they are new to you: "bush lawyer" (a person with no legal qualifications who gives you legal advice), "go bush" or "take to the bush" (run from the law) and "bush telegraph" (the rapid spread of gossip). These might be used worldwide for all I know. Pamela
: "Bush telegraph" is certainly current in the UK. (VSD)
I come from a rural background in the U.S., where "bushed" always means "tired, exhausted." I can't say if the expression originally had anything to do with bushes or bushy areas, but any such association has long since been forgotten in the U.S.
On the other hand, I have always supposed that "going bush" referred to hiding in a native area (in places where such existed, not in the U.S.).
As for bush-telegraph, I believe it originally referred to the spreading of information as to police activities by escaped convicts, or bush-rangers, living in the Australian bush.
I don't know whether or not the word "bush" has ever been specifically used in the U.S. to describe uncultivated areas now known as backwoods or boondocks, but a "bushwhacker" is either someone who whacks you from ambush ("from behind the bush"), or a backwoodsman who whacks his way though the woods beating down or clearing away bushes. The participle and verbal adjective bushwhacked means attacked from ambush, preferably in an uncultivated area.