How to Speak Australian 101

“Hey, Mate!” “G’Day, Mate”

It seems that no matter where in the world you are, everyone has something to say, and it is all done in a rich tapestry that encompasses so many languages.  One rather unique language is that of the great country of Australia.  I am not referring to English or Aboriginal, but rather the colorful sounds of Aussie slang.  Of all the things I love about Australia, the slang spoken among the locals is something I am quite fond of.  Why, you ask?  It is hard not to smile or hide a laugh when you converse with someone down under in a quick-witted way that is filled with enough nicknames that rival a Dr. Seuss anthology.

For more than 200 years, Australians have developed their own language, which is mostly a slew of nicknames for everything around them.  A popular legend is that the slang was first developed by Australia’s first colonists, prisoners.  The prison populace formed their own language, so that they could freely converse with one another while the guards were present.  This origins of this idea come from the British Cockney rhyming slang; the Australians took that idea, and gave it some new terms while in the great outdoors of the bush and Outback.

One thing I noticed while I was talking to the Australians was how swiftly they spoke.  Not in a way that sounded like they were speed reading, but in a way that made them sound like they were in a rush to get somewhere.  Have you ever wondered why they say “G’Day” and not “Good Day”?  Or why “Crikey!” is preferred over “Holy S**T!”?  I had said earlier that this slang system was based on the Cockney rhyming slang, but with one exception.  The new words in Australia were shortened and said at a faster pace, like removing a syllable or letters from a word.  Apparently, prisoners would chat with another prisoner in such a way as if they only had a few seconds to talk, as if the police were chasing after them.  However, it would be wise not to point this out while in Australia; native Australians are not fond of tourists saying that everyone in the country is descended from criminals, especially since the country is filled with immigrants from around the world.  Nonetheless, the slang survives to this day, and it is often used as friendly colloquialisms and are regarded as amusements.  In fact, don’t be afraid of striking up a conversation with the locals, and don’t be hesitant to ask them the translation on all the most well-known words.  Another thing I learned in proper pronunciation.  For example, while in Melbourne and Cairns, I learned Australians do not recognize the letter R.  No one says “Mel-Bohr-ne” or “Carr-ns” (which would be the phonetic pronouncement), but rather “Mel-bun” or “Cayh-ns” (pronounce Cairns like you would Cannes, France, but with a nasal sound).  The same goes for Oyster Farmer (“Oysta Fahma”), and anklebiter (“ankle-bita”).  In case you haven’t figured it out by now, no letter R’s!

Here are a few examples of some Australian slangs:

Ace! : Excellent! Very good!
Aussie Cozzie : bathing suit
Ambo : ambulance, ambulance driver
Ankle biter : small child
Arvo : afternoon

Brumby : a wild horse
Brizzie : Brisbane, state capital of Queensland

Jackaroo : a male trainee station manager or station hand (a station is a big farm/grazing property)
Jillaroo : a female trainee station manager or station hand
Journo : journalist
Mozzie : mosquito
Jumbuck : sheep

Lair : a flashily dressed young man of brash and vulgar behaviour, to dress up in flashy clothes, to renovate or dress up something in bad taste.

Trough lolly : the solid piece of perfumed disinfectant in a men’s urinal
Truckie : truck driver
True blue : patriotic
Tucker : food
Tucker-bag : food bag
Turps : turpentine, alcoholic drink
Turps, hit the : go on a drinking binge
Two up : gambling game played by spinning two coins simultaneously

While I was in Australia, I had countless conversations with my tour guide, Tony.  I always loved having a back-and-forth with him at any moment, and not just because I got a kick out of hearing Australian lingo, only I did it without the accent, because even I have my limits.  I remember Tony being rather impressed with my vocal knowledge of how many slangs I was able to pick up on.  And in return, I let Tony introduce me to the vast vocabulary of Australia, by introducing me to a many new words and phrases I didn’t even know about!  Some dirty ones that I will politely decline writing about.  Another memorable moment came when I came across a rather friendly bloke on the streets of Cairns one night.  I was coming back to my hotel from the Cairns Lagoon on foot, when I tall, young man noticed my Brooklyn Dodgers shirt and pointed out that I was from New York.  With one answer, I returned the compliment by saying, “Actually, Long Island, but, close enough!”  Now that I had my feet wet, it was time to dive in!  I regret that I never got his name, but we must have talked for at least twenty minutes.  I talked about how I came halfway around the world to visit Australia, how much fun I was having on my trip, and my fondness for the music of Midnight Oil.  That hit a bit of nerve since he briefly protested how some Aussies see former lead singer Peter Garret not as an inspirational political figure, but as a sellout to the very political system he sung against during his musical heyday.  I, however, knew little about the politics of Australia and I was not about to open a can of worms.  I just commented on how really liked the music and how I hoped for a reunion; the band broke up in 2002.  I had dodged a bullet.  Nonetheless, it was an interesting moment between two gents from two different countries who formed a short friendship over a baseball shirt!  Proving once again that friendship is the international language, and no one needs a slang term for that!  Huh, I wonder what the Aussie slang for baseball is?

About admin

I am a graduate of Stony Brook University, and I have a degree in History. I am an avid traveler, with an extensive knowledge of geography, a passion for photography, and a knowledge of animals too. I enjoy pop music of the 1980's, fine dining, movies, baseball, basketball, and rugby.
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