Lingua Australia

Australia is a sparsely populated country far, far away from other English speaking nations* which means they’ve developed some enchantingly idiosyncratic turns of phrase.

* Even New Zealand isn’t that close – it’s as far away from Australia as Russia is from the UK.

Of course some Aussie lingo is internationally famous:

“No worries” is a two word embodiment of the Australian outlook on life; Male Australians do address everybody as “Mate”; And I knew I’d really arrived in Oz the first time a stranger said “G’day” to me in the lift.

And there’s some stereotypically aussie things that I have yet to hear anyone use:

Strewth, bonza, fair dinkum, flaming gallahs, tinnies, tucker and throwing shrimps on barbies must have all gone out of fashion.

But there are also some less well known words and phrases knocking about the lexicon:

  • Across it –this is business jargon. Usage: “Are you across the TPS report?” Meaning: Are you aware of the contents of this totally pointless report?
  • Capsicum – a pepper, might be a bell pepper, might be a chilli – to be honest, I’m not entirely sure
  • Cockies – diminutive for cockroaches. We’ve been warned to expect a plague of giant cockies in summer ( joy! )
  • Convos, regos, presos – short for conversations, registrations and presentations respectively
  • Crazaroo – Crazy. Not actually a common phrase but too funny to leave out: a colleague recently told me he expected a conference to be Crazaroo.
  • Cruisy – This one’s quite different to what the rest of the world might think. In Oz cruisy people are just easy going dudes. They are NOT (necessarily) out looking for gay sex…
  • Degustation – Pronunciation: like devastation but with a g. Has the same meaning as dégustation but sounds hilarious when said in a broad aussie accent rather than an affected French one.
  • Doona –duvet, see degustation for what would have happened if they’d used the same word as the UK
  • Flick – Forward on an e-mail. Usage: “Let me flick this across to you”
  • Footy – a deceptively tricky one this. If an aussie asks you to the footy they could be inviting you to watch 11 blokes kicking a round ball or 15 men chucking an egg shaped ball across the pitch, or even an unknown number of men doing something unspeakable known as “Aussie Rules”
  • Lollies – Any kind of sweet, with or without a stick. This is particularly ironic when the sweet shop is called the British Lolly Shop like the one near our flat.
  • Panadol – generic term for pain killer, not one specific brand
  • Rugged up – a person who is wrapped up warm
  • Schoolies – when high school graduates go on holiday with each other just after their final exams. The rest of the country is generally horrified by their behaviour. Sounds pretty similar to spring break in the US
  • Screenies, stubbies and sunnies – screenshots, bottles of beer and sunglasses respectively
  • ‘Strine – The language spoken by ‘Strines. Or “Australians” in a dialect that doesn’t omit so many consonants
  • Swimmers – useful catch all term for bikinis, swimming costumes, shorts etc
  • Thongs – flip flops. Not the skimpy pants favoured by Peter Stringfellow
  • Toolies – people who are not high school graduates who hang around in areas where schoolies are behaving in a debauched fashion.
  • Uey – a U-turn. Note: one doesn’t make or take a Uey, one hangs, chucks or throws one. For instance “hang a Uey by the dingo Bruce”
  • Utes – short for a utility vehicle. They’re called pick ups in the US, bakkies in South Africa and they don’t have a special name in the UK. We are thinking of buying one to tour the country bogan style later in the year
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11 Responses to Lingua Australia

  1. Nic says:

    My favourites are tradies (tradesmen), firies (firemen), and ambos (paramedics). And my favourite phrase is: that’s heaps good (that is very good).

    I was most thrown when a client asked me, at the end of the day: “how are you traveling?”, which apparently means “how are you getting on with that piece of work?”. I felt pretty stupid after telling him how I like to walk home across the domain.

  2. jude says:

    Ambos, haven’t heard that one but it’s heaps good :o)

    My office is fond of tracking as well as traveling: “how you tracking with that?” Although there’s less room for confusion with that one…

    Also just added thongs as it’s way too good to leave out!

  3. Nick says:

    I have a new Australian room-mate at work. Favourite jargon so far: ‘rennos’, for when she is asking after the work we are having done to our house (a.k.a. renovations). As a senior lawyer, she is always keen to be ‘across the detail’.

    They have shipped their ‘barbie’ over and gone to the trouble of finding an adapter so it can use English gas canisters (which turn out to be different) and are intending in all seriousness to cook their Christmas turkey on it. I have warned her that this is foolish.

    • jude says:

      Wow, I have no idea how you would even begin to cook a turkey on a barbie! I need to get across the detail of that one…

      Hope you, Joy and the cats are well x

  4. Mr. Tee says:

    Can’t wait to hear your rendition of these in a few weeks 🙂

    I hope you put “The Queen’s English” in the language spoken at home question in the census

    • jude says:

      We did indeed Mr T, we put: (Proper) English :op

      Looking forward to catching up in a couple of weeks.

  5. Savage says:

    I’m Australian, but it looks like some of your spelling is off.

    For the most part, the slang ‘Australian’ name was usually ‘Strayan’ or ‘Straya’ Being a slack jawed way of pronouncing ‘Australian’. Most notable is when people are poking fun at Australia day.

    The reason you haven’t heard anyone say ‘Throw a shrimp on the barbie’ is because, well, Crocodile Dundee is a pile of crap. We actually call Shrimps “prawns”. No one walks around with bowie knives, and the amount of people who actually own a cowboy hat is usually limited to people that actually live in the country. In fact, most people don’t walk around with weapons at all. I’m yet to be confronted by an angry person waving a gun or a knife and I often put myself in remarkably dangerous situations.

    Also, you would cook a christmas turkey in a barbequeue by using a long metal skewer through the middle of the turkey, placing said skewer on hooks inside the barbequeue to keep it elevated, seasoning it as per normal and closing the lid on the barbequeue for the desired amount of time, checking it and turning it as necessary. It’s essentially a gas oven with a different door, in this instance.

    I’m not sure how these things go straight over the heads of people from other countries, but I suppose things like declawing cats or keeping a baseball bat beside your bed provoke the same kind of ‘WTF’ from me. Or even television registration fees. I can’t get my head around that one. Or In America, how there are federal taxes and state taxes…

    Strewth is generally only used by older people, generally ones that are from slightly more regional areas… I’ve never used this term before.

    Capsicums are bell peppers… I know they can be used as a general over the thin chilis and the bigger ones, but as a rule, Australians will call long thin ones chilies

    Our idioms can more often than not be deciphered by considering what the word itself means. ‘Across’ being one you’ve mentioned… If something is across another thing, it’s covering it – I.e. I’m across my deadlines at work.

    Flick- when you flick something it shoots in another direction. Flick it to me- send it my way.

    I tend not to use a lot of Australian idioms that others use which is probably why I find it so funny when people make amused posts about them on the internet. I’m sure I’d make an amused post at all the British people talking about having a fag (but on the odd occasion I smoke, I tend to call them fags). I’m a fan of British slang far more than Australian slang… British slang, to me, sounds just a little bit classier than American or Australian slang. I like New Zealand slang, too…

    I’m frequently mistaken for Canadian or British… So maybe it’s just that I actually speak my words properly as opposed to others that tend to use the broad, and loose Australian accent. I’m also not exactly proud of being associated with the rest of the people in my country, so maybe that’s why I’m always so amused when I read about how bizarre Australian idioms are to others.

    • jude says:

      Thanks for your comment – my first from a genuine Aussie. You certainly could write a very long blog post about all the strange things they say over in the UK. I don’t think Australian idioms are that bizarre in comparison!

  6. Noel says:

    “dole bludging daggy bogan” is my favourite Australian phrase at the moment (learned from my Aussie girlfriend. I also suggested that “ute” could be a used as reference to her uterus. She’s less keen on that.

  7. Mark says:

    So, I’m adding this waaaay late, but you missed off my absolute FAVOURITE.

    Shallots. An Australian uses the term ‘shallot’ for what we Brits would call a ‘spring onion’. I especially like this one, as it throws up a quandary: given that the term ‘shallot’ has been re-allocated, what do you then call shallots?

    I have asked quite a few people this question. Mostly the problem is solved by not selling shallots, or not knowing what they are. However, the actual response is that they are ‘eshalots’. Pronounced eh-shal-ots.

    In other words, the Australians use the French term for shalots, pronounced in the manner Jude describes above.

    This then further confuses me when you start talking about aubergines or courgettes . . .

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