Tuesday, 26 January 2016

A lesson in Aussie English

So here in Australia right now we are celebrating Australia Day. This is a day that is steeped in controversial history, and the current topic of a hot fight around the country as some argue to change its name, others fight to change the date of this celebration, and some say we can do away with it altogether. But I'm not here to talk about any of that today. While Australia's history is rich with colourful (and sometimes shameful) stories I would gladly talk about another day, today I am here to give you guys a lesson in linguistics. Aussie linguistics to be exact.

After my Fly on the Wall post on Friday where I wrote about Miss K wanting a glass of cordial, a lot of my American friends were notably confused about what cordial is. This comes up occasionally, and this time I forgot to include a translation for those of you who don't call Australia home. So today I have decided to give you a list of some of the words you may hear come out of the words of a typical Aussie person, and exactly what they mean. Please note the words G'day mate will not appear on this list, mainly because it's been covered to death elsewhere.

Hopefully this post will help you guys understand exactly what the hell I'm talking about when I write stuff down here. It should also help you stand out less as a tourist if you decide to visit our fine country, because if you don't see what you think is a popular word or phrase here (like crikey, or put another shrimp on the barbie) it means we don't use it, so you shouldn't too unless you want to look like an idiot.

Arvo - Afternoon. This is just a classic example of Aussies taking words that have too many syllables and contracting them.
Bench - Counter top or kitchen counter. These things take too long to say so of course we're going to go with the shorter word people. If someone asks you to put something on the bench, please put it on the closest counter-like surface you can find. If you put it somewhere we plan on sitting later you will get weird looks. The only time we call a chair a bench is if it is in a park, and then we call it a park bench.
Bikkie - biscuit/cookie. We call all biscuits and cookies bikkies, there is no stuffing around with checking if they are chewy or crunchy before we name it around here.
Bloke - Man. We usually use the word bloke in complimentary situations, like "he's a good bloke".
Blowies - blowfly. If someone walks in complaining about "those bloody blowies" this usually just means it is summer and the flies are out in force. Just smile sympathetically and offer them some fly spray.
Boot - Trunk of a car.
Brekkie - Breakfast.
Bottle-o - A bottle shop, or a drive through alcohol store. Another example of our unwillingness to use full words.
Bundy and coke - A classic alcoholic beverage (which I can't stand) of rum and coke. Bundaberg is just the local brand of dark rum. It is brewed in Bundaberg, Queensland.
Chuck a sickie - To take a sick day off work.
Chuck a uey - To make a u-turn
Ciggies - Cigarettes
Cordial - A sweet syrup concentrate you add to water to make it taste less like crap and more like sugar. The best brand is Cottees, no matter what anyone tells you. I know this one is really foreign to Americans, and the closest you guys have is Kool Aid, which is totally different.
Dickhead - A derogatory but not incredibly offensive way of calling someone an idiot. Dickhead is a pretty tame curse down here, but no one is safe from being called one, including the Prime Minister.
Footy - Australian rules football. This is different to English football or American football. What you guys call football we call soccer, because we found a better use for the word football.
Heaps - A lot. I didn't realise this was an Australian thing until I started doing research for this article, but apparently no one else says heaps when they mean an excess of something. A classic example of this will be if someone says "thanks heaps", this just means thanks a lot.
Howyagoin - How are you going? This is just one of those times where our habit of running our words together has created a new word out of three existing words. If you try to say howyagoin like the locals do, we will laugh at you, but just because no one can replicate our accent as lazily as we do, so don't feel bad.
Goon sack - Cask of wine. These are a cheap way to get drunk for young Australians everywhere.
Maccas - McDonalds (Side note, that is actually what the stores are called in Australia now, so if you see the golden arches next to a sign that says Maccas, don't think we've just ripped off the logo and made our own restaurant, it is still a McDonalds, we're just too lazy to say the full name.)
Milk bar - Convenience store/corner store. These aren't as common as they were in my youth, and are slowly being replaced by independent grocers, but you can still see them in rural areas. They are more expensive places to shop than supermarkets, so we only ever go there when we are desperate.
Mozzies - Mosquitoes. These are the bane of every Australian in summer, the same as blow flies.
Nah, yeah - This means you are wrong, and I am right. Nah, yeah is a very gentle way to say your argument is moot and I refuse to change my mind right now. There are stronger ways, but considering this is still a family friendly blog I probably won't mention them here.
No worries - This can mean no problem or it's all good, or yes I will follow through with your request, since you asked so nicely.
Petrol - The fuel we put in our car. Some cars run on LPG gas or diesel, but the most common fuel for now is unleaded petrol or ethanol petrol.
Petrol station - The place where we buy fuel for our car. All three kinds of fuel are sold at petrol stations, but we just call them petrol stations.
Rego - Car registration.
See you later - This just means goodbye. Apparently this one confuses Americans because they think we mean we'll be back, but we just don't like the permanence of goodbye, so we say see you later to keep the possibilities open.
Servo - Another word for gas station. Again we're lazy, so if someone says they're going to duck to the servo, they are just going to put fuel in their car (or buy an over priced pack of cigarettes)
Smoko - Cigarette break.
Stubby holder - A foam insulator for a bottle of beer. We don't just use stubby holders for beer though, I know I'm at a nice house if they offer me a stubby holder for my can of coke. It's called a stubby holder though, because once upon a time (and probably still for some people) bottles of beer were called stubbies. This is different from cans of beer which were called tinnies, but you could put a tinny in a stubby holder. A tinny these days is an aluminium boat.
Sunnies - Sunglasses.
Thongs - Flip flops. If we start talking about thongs, look at the feet and not the butt. If we mean the underwear we call that a g-string (or a g-banger if the person is weird).
Trakky daks/trakkies - Sweatsuit pants. These are one of the main staples of my wardrobe, but that's because I rarely leave the house except to go to the supermarket, so who do I need to dress up for?
Yeah, nah - I know this just sounds like I'm messing with you right now, but yeah, nah is different to nah, yeah. This means I see what you mean, but I disagree with you, or it could also mean I agree with what you are saying, but the situation as a whole is ridiculous. I know those two meanings are totally opposite to each other, so it is important that you listen to the rest of the sentence to understand which one they mean.

So this is by no means not a complete list, there are plenty more words out there, some which are unique to certain states, and others that are only said by people younger or older than I am. If anyone wants to add to the list, please leave them in the comments below. And to all my Aussie friends, enjoy your barbies, or your trip to the beach, or sitting at home listening to the Triple J Hottest 100, but most of all, enjoy the day off (unless you work for a hospital, the police, the supermarkets, or anyone else sacrilegious enough to make people work on Australia Day.


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