Do You Speak Australian?

July 24, 2017

in Australia, Oceania, Spring 2017, Tarryn Michelson

I hate to break it to you, but Australians don’t really say G’Day anymore. That is unless they are middle aged men being ironic or they are from Queensland. I know, I was as shocked as you to discover that this catchphrase along with sheila and crickey, made famous by Crocodile Dundee and Steve Irwin, are fading from Australian vocabulary. But this doesn’t mean that the Australian way of speaking is becoming more like the American, rather Aussies have invented an infinite number of new slang and abbreviations- abbreviations to words that are perfectly fine without being abbreviated, I might add- as time moves on.

This uniquely Australian language can be difficult to naive visitors and I’ll admit, in picking an English-speaking country, I wasn’t expecting a language barrier as something to adjust to. The slang and often times heavy accents made this dialect as foreign as any other language in the world. With the majority of my background knowledge coming from Outback Restaurants, they could have been speaking Greek for all I understood. In fact, my very first conversation with an Australian featured a tired customs official asking “how ya goin’?” and me promptly responding with “Sydney”. He stared at me for a beat before saying in a deadpan voice, “That means how are you, not where are you going?”

Oh. That’s one mistake I never made again.

Despite the steep learning curve, it has been an interesting time figuring out the language from everyday speech or in questioning the locals. Some of my favorite conversations with Australians came about comparing our slang and the weird things we both do. In one such discussion I found myself asking about Christmas and I received a very Australian answer.

“So, what’s it like having Christmas in summer?”

“Well, what’s it like having Christmas in winter? Its normal.”

They had a point. Oddly enough, it was this same conversation that my friend from Sydney who traveled to Nashville for a month tried to convince everyone that Americans didn’t label their bathrooms. Which then led to the debate of if you can even call it a bathroom if there is no actual bath in it. They simply refer to restrooms as the toilet, sounding horribly rude to my American ears.

Now, I didn’t think I had learned this new language all that well in the 5 months since I arrived but the last few weeks has me acting as the unofficial translator for my family as they visit me in Sydney. To my ears, once unintelligibly thick accents are understandable, the new vocabulary as interchangeable as its American counterpart. I have included my favorite slang words and their definitions below. These are the most common, especially among college age students. Of course, there are some sentences I listen to and only get every third word but seeing as nearly half the Australian language is slang or abbreviated, I call this a win.

Arvo- afternoon

Barbie- barbeque

Bathers- swimsuit

Brissie- Brisbane

Bogan- kind of like an Australian redneck. Bogans wear flannos (flannel shirts), have a mullet and tattoos of the Australian flag, and can usually be found doing a shoey (drinking out of a shoe) of Tooheys beer.

Bottle-o- liquor store

Brekkie- breakfast

Funny as- Rather than saying “that is funny as (insert expletive)”, Australians simply shorten the expression to the adjective + as, especially in situations where one can’t swear.

Chokkie- chocolate

Daks- pants

Esky- cooler, icebox

Good on ya- well done, good for you

Goon- cheap box wine

Heaps- a lot

Hire- to rent

How ya goin’? – how are you?

Lolly- candy

Maccas- McDonald’s

Mozzie- mosquito

No worries- no problem, you’re welcome

Prawns- shrimp. So, it turns out Australians don’t have shrimp on the barbie. They have prawns on the barbie.

Reckon- to think

Ripper- really great

Sunnies- sunglasses

Suss- to investigate (I need to suss that out more)

Thongs- flip-flops. Not to be confused with the underwear which is just called a G-string here. There were several uncomfortable situations with this particular translation.

Tomato sauce- ketchup or marinara sauce depending on the situation. I could go on and on about this but I’ll save you from my rant.

Whinge- whine, complain

Youse- you all (Where youse goin’?)

Just me talking to a local.

Maccas

Brekkie of blueberry porridge.

Luckily the mozzies weren’t too bad as we explored the Daintree Rainforest.

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