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.
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
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.
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?
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
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’?)