"Our troops serving together in Afghanistan, our guys, the Americans, couldn't figure out why your guys were always talking about cheese. All day long, morning, noon and night, "why are the Aussies always talking about cheese?" And then, finally they realised it was their Australian friends just saying hello - just saying "cheers"."
A country that was first populated by people with vastly different religions, languages and cultures, who were then shoved aside by convicts and settlers, with a large British presence until great politicians and leading minds decided independence was a better tack. Now, am I talking about America or Australia?
It would be easy to assume that such places would develop similar slang. They didn't, partly due to linguistics not working that way, partly due to Australia being more isolated than the US (resulting in fewer immigrants), partly due to Australia having bizarre—and in many cases deadly—flora and fauna which required equal parts linguistic creativity and borrowing from native languages to describe, and partly from the pronounced Cockney/Irish lower-class majority in pre-gold-rush Australia (you know, the whole convict thing). Only around half of these are still in regular use, mate, g-day, budgie smugglers, thongs, bogan etc. Grouse, not cricket, skip etc are less common (but still used).
Here are a few common Australia-specific slang terms:
- G'day - Informal greeting, a shortened form of 'good day', but note that it is never used to end a conversation as 'good day' can be.
- Shit-stirrer, - Troublemaker; the best analogy might be "Troll" (in the internet sense). Also used in the UK with the same meaning.
- Arse-over-tits, - To fall over dramatically, e.g. "He tripped over the cord and fell arse-over-tits." One of the few to actually make more sense than regular English, since your head is pretty much always over your heels.
- Bungers - Mental, crazy, insane. "Go Bungers" can also be used to mean "help yourself" in the same way as "go nuts" or "knock yourself out". As in "There's plenty of grog in the fridge, so go bungers".
- Bunyip - A mythical beast, the Australian equivalent of Bigfoot or the Yeti (though Australia has stranger things than either). Former (left wing) Prime Minister Paul Keating said an opponent from the (right-wing) Liberal party was "from the Bunyip Aristocracy" (a quote from Daniel Deniehy, who made up the phrase), meaning he had fanciful notions of belonging to an aristocracy that does not exist. The term 'Bunyip' (from an Aboriginal language, although good luck finding out which one) is usually translated to mean 'spirit', although a more accurate translation might be "monster"—some tribes once identified the bones of the now-extinct 'giant wombat' Diprotodon as being those of the "bunyip".
- Bugger!, - A popular variation on Oh Crap whenever something goes seriously wrong. Identical to the British usage, however it is an almost innocuous word (while still used for its original filthy meaning.)
- Claytons, - A fake, or substitute; this term derives from the ad for Claytons non-alcoholic wine (the tagline: "The drink you have when you're not having a drink.")
- Daggy - Naff, out of fashion. Someone who frequently exhibits daggy behaviour can be referred to as a dag. A reference to the clumps of dung that get stuck to the arses of sheep.
- Drongo, - An idiot. This term is distinctly out of fashion.
- Galah, - Also means idiot, fool. Comes from the bird Galah, which has a rather hysterical-sounding squawk.
- It's also pronounced "ga-laah".
- Stubby, - A short bottle of beer, usually with 375mL capacity; this is a bottle type also used in Europe and Canada, but which is rare in the United States. The rubber coverings that allow the drinker to hold onto the bottle without getting cold hands is referred to as a stubbie holder.
- Speaking of which, a can of beer is sometimes referred to as a tinnie. This is also slang for a small aluminium boat. Drink enough tinnies while you're in a tinnie, and you may not feel it when the croc takes your arm. Hurrah!
- She'll be apples, - Everything will be going well, don't worry. This exact form is somewhat outdated, but She'll be right, and above all, No worries, remain perennial favourites. Not a drama is also tucked away in there somewhere.
- Bogan, - The Aussie term for the urban/suburban redneck/white trash; he may wear ripped jeans, have a mullet, hold a stubbie or bong, work as an unskilled labourer, drive a big, powerful, old, clapped-out car (Ford Falcon or Holden Commodore only), and use pretty much all the words on this list, the more unfashionable the better. See here. Also quite prone to dropping Cluster F Bombs wherever possible.
- Trackie Dacks, - Short for tracksuit pants ('Dacks' being broad slang for trousers, shorts or underwear. Or culottes, presumably, but that doesn't seem to come up.)
- Dacking, - Pulling down another person's pants. Popular in the schoolyard, despite being a grave contravention of schoolyard anti-cootie measures. 'Cooties' are not usually part of the Australian child's lexicon, however—boy and girl germs are the primary threat facing the Australian child.
- Budgie-smugglers, - AKA Speedos. Refers to the fact that it looks as if a budgerigar is being smuggled within them.
- Dicktogs, - Like "budgie-smugglers"... but less polite.
- Banana hammock, - Like "budgie-smugglers"... but more hilarious.
- Root, - also means its traditional meaning of a part of a plant or beginning point of another thing, but in Australia is the unusual euphemism for sexual intercourse. "Wanna root?" is a coarse and unfortunately common proposition in Australian pubs. It's interchangeable with our favourite four letter F word as a verb, past tense verb, adjective, noun, and beyond.
- For this reason Australians tend to find it either offensive or hilarious when Americans ask "What team do you root for?"
- 'Route' is pronounced "root" as well, in both British and Aussie English. 'Rout' (as in the military term or carpentry cut) is still pronounced as in America, though.
- The multiple meanings are nicely summed up in Bryce Courtenay's book Brother Fish on pages 204-205. Yes, this troper went through the 835 page book to get a page reference. Appreciate it.
Jacko (Aussie): Mate, we're stuffed. Rooted.
Jimmy (African American): Rooted?
Jacko: It means we're fucked, up shit creek... it's Australian.
Jimmy: Rooted! Hey, dat's good, man! I'm rooted.
Jacko: No, that's not the same thing. When you say "I'm rooted" it means you're tired. "We're rooted" means we're stuffed, finished, washed up. "Get rooted" means piss off, beat it, scram. "I've been rooted" means I've been cheated or badly done by. "I rooted her" means I had sex with a woman.
Jimmy: Whoa, man, dat Aus-tray-lee-an a mighty strange language for sure!
- Strewth, - An expression of surprise, much like 'Oh god!' or 'Jeez!'. Contraction of "God's truth". This was an apparently-common English curse from the colonial period (compare "zounds!", which derived from "God's wounds"), and the contraction "strewth" now stands on its own. Note: no self-respecting Aussie would actually say "God's truth"; whether any self-respecting Aussie would say strewth is a whole other can of worms.)
- Grouse, - Rhyming with "house", meaning 'Excellent'.
- Munted, - Broken; also, hungover—the verb "to munt" can, in some regions (Victoria, southeast Queensland), mean to vomit, usually with drunken or hungover implications. This is an Inherently Funny Words; just let it roll off your tongue. So to speak.
- Also used to mean something like "messed up", like, "Gah, my hair's all munted" or about someone who's got bunions, "Their feet are all munted". It's kind of rude though, and not used all that much. Normally it is used with the former context (one about hair) more often, as in, easily fixed flaws rather than an actual disfigurement like the latter.
- Pom, - a British (but most often English) person. Allegedly a backronym for "Prisoner Of Mother (England)," the word is used instead of "Brit" because "Brit" doesn't lend itself well to the phrase most often used to describe a British person, "Pom(pous) bastard." (Try it; "Pommy Bastard" rolls off the tongue way easier that "Brit Bastard."
- Carn, - A corruption of "Come on", as in, "Aw, come on, let's go to the pub." Pronounced with a very long 'a' sound. If you hear a drunk making a cawing noise, they are trying to say this (unless they are a galah; see above). Often used at football games. Mostly heard at sporting events/broadcasts, as "Carn the [mono/duosyllabic abbreviation of team]." Carn the Kangas! Its phonetic similarity to a certain naughty word can make for an interesting-sounding exhortation—cf. the Frenzal Rhomb song, "Kaan Kaant".
- Speaking of such word-naughtiness, the c-word is essentially little more than punctuation in the vernacular of young Australian gentlemen—similar to their UK brethren. The American/Canadian squeamishness around the word is potent comedy to Commonwealth residents, to the point that Australian comedian Kevin Bloody Wilson wrote the song "You Can't Say 'Cunt' In Canada" when told he should avoid the word where possible. (Note: He first performed it in Canada)
- Fuck a duck! - A expression of simultaneous disbelief and dismay. Lengthened to "Like fuck said the duck", among the verbose, although this is probably more an expression of defiance ("Like fuck I will!"). Fuck a duck, there's a gigantic flying saucer hovering over the Harbour!
- More common is the similar phrase Shit-a-Brick!. When you see it...
- Furphy - A misleading statement that is not strictly a lie.
- Cheers - Thank you. Also used in the UK.
- Cheers, big ears! An alternately insulting and affectionate way of saying thank you. 'Insulting and affectionate' is a fair summation of the Aussie mindset... on a good day.
- Same goes, big nose! is the common response to it, instead of saying you're welcome.
- Cheers, big ears! An alternately insulting and affectionate way of saying thank you. 'Insulting and affectionate' is a fair summation of the Aussie mindset... on a good day.
- Sheila - A woman.
- Shacked up with the sheilas - In a bedroom with sheilas, generally meaning promiscuous women.
- Fun fact: the word derives from an Irish word for "homosexual". Long story.
- Ute - What an American calls a pickup truck, an Aussie calls a Ute. An abbreviation of "utility vehicle", and pronounced "yoot".
- Just don't use 'SUV'. Car advertisements don't seem to get the message.
- Pickup trucks and utes are two different things, however. While a pickup truck is half truck, half trailer, a ute is half car, half trailer. It's smaller and more ideal as just a normal car to drive around.
- Cuppa - A shorthand way to say "cup of", but can also be used in reference to tea, example "I'll just have a cuppa".
- This is also used in British English, along with "brew".
- Shonky - ersatz, poorly made, faulty, dubious, unreliable.
- Thongs - No, not the underwear, folks. They're shoes. Flip-flops to be precise. The 'essential' Aussie footwear. (This term has made its way to the U.S....and the ambiguity of the term is often played for comedy. For example, in Zits when Jeremy's mom uses the term with the "shoe" meaning, the teens visualize the "underwear" meaning. Squick.)
- Shithouse - Sometimes used to describe a toilet. More often used in the saying, 'built like a brick shithouse'. Most often used these days as an adjective - 'That was a shithouse performance by [Football Team] last night'.
- Spewing' - in a state of frustration, e.g. "I was spewing last night cause I couldn't find my car keys" - sometimes used as an interjection. It should be noted that the word still also maintains its meaning of "vomiting", but it's not frequently used like that.
Alice: I couldn't find my car keys last night, so I missed the movie.
- Spitting chips is similar. "You'd be spitting chips if you'd bought that before the price went down!"
- Ranga - a term for people with red hair. Usually meant to be insulting, but has been used so much that it can just be a way to refer to them. Ranga is short for Orangutan, the idea behind it being that Orangutans are covered in red hair. (This being a fine example of the Australian reputation for stating the obvious.)
- Bludger - A slacker, layabout, or someone who's just being lazy. 'Dole bludger' refers to ones on welfare. (no relation to Harry Potter)
- Buckley's chance (or simply "Buckley's") - No chance, or almost no chance. Comes from either the escaped convict William Buckley, or the now-defunct department store chain Buckley & Nunn.
- Also Buckley's and none - a supposed two chances (probabilities), being Buckley's chance (meaning a very small chance) or no chance at all.
- Too easy - meaning sure, okay, no problem. It does not mean we want to be asked to do something more challenging. (which we never do)
- Ta - thank you. Interchangeable with 'cheers'.
- Not to be confused with "the Tahs", aka the Waratahs, a New South Wales sporting team.
- No worries - don't worry about it, no problem, etc. Sometimes shortened to "No'oreez" or "N'worriz".
- Lower class Australian uses "Me" incorrectly, and the wrong tenses for "came" and such. "G'day mate, I just come by to check on me dingo, mate."
- It's quite common in many areas of Australia, not just lower class areas. Seems to be more of an accent thing, as opposed to an incorrect usage of the word.
- Skip or Skippy - An Australian of Anglo-Saxon descent. Coined by Greek and Italian immigrants who were subjected to racial taunts and wanted to return the favor. Comes from the TV show Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.
- Can also be used as a teasing term for someone with one leg. See also Blinky for blind people.
- The genre of music created by Australian rappers is derisively referred to as Skip Hop. The stereotypical crappy Skip Hop artist raps a poor imitation of the worst American rappers in an Australian accent that is painful to hear even for other Australians.
- Bastard - a very complicated word in Australian English, which can be used as a generic term of abuse and low regard, without the connotations of illegitimate parenthood, or as an affectionate term of address to one's friends. An Australian can get away with calling his friends bastards, but if you're not Australian, do not try it. It has at least three meanings which must be worked out from context- a general vulgar expression of affection, an illegitimate child, and an unpleasant person.
- The best example is from the Bodyline cricket tour, when the English Captain Douglas Jardine informed Australian captain Bill Woodfull that one of his team members had called him a bastard. Woodfull turned to the dressing room and roared out, at the top of his voice, "Which one of you bastards called this bastard a bastard?"
- It is rarely used when talking about an illegitimate child, and the other two uses are easy to decipher from the tone of voice. If the person calling you a bastard sounds pretty happy, laidback or admiring then you are probably okay; if they call you a bastard and they sound pissed off, watch out (especially in pubs). It should be noted that tone of voice trumps modifying adjectives in the case of bastard - whether you're a lucky bastard, a miserable bastard, a fucking bastard, or any other variety of bastard, you'll still be relying on the speaker's tone of voice to know whether that's a good thing or not.
- These days, another word has in Australian slang come to adopt pretty much the same meaning, if at a slightly higher level of intensity: a certain C-word.
- Septic - American. Rhyming slang. An American is a Yankee, which is shortened to a Yank, which rhymes with septic tank, which is shortened to septic. As an added note: Americans do not consider all Americans to be Yankees, but Australians do. Shortened to "Seppo." Not necessarily used in a derogatory manner.
- Wog - Any person coming from any country adjoining or abutting to the Mediterranean - primarily Greece, Italy or any former Yugoslavian state, although usually not France or other Balkan states. As with most Australian words, it's highly offensive but is often used in a totally non-offensive manner.
- Hectic - A word used to replace any adjective from slightly busy to Holy-Mother-Of-God Armageddon, and with a strange side-meaning of also meaning "very crazy, but in a good way." Similar to "nuts."
- A good example would be in describing a party: "That party last night was HECTIC! I woke up naked five blocks away!"
- Squiz - To look at something, if made into a noun; "Here, take the binoculars and take a squiz at the skyline."
- Shang - Meaning "pass", as in "Could you shang us the Vegemite?" as opposed to "Could you pass me the butter?"
- Not Cricket - Something out of line, unfair or ridiculous, as in; "That's just not cricket." Naturally comes from Cricket terminology and thus may also be found in Britain. Other common cricket terms used in non-cricketing life:
- Hit for Six - To be surprised and heavily defeated or wrong-footed.
- Let through to the Keeper - To actively decide not to deal with a difficult subject.
- Stumped - Same as in American usage, but with the added imprimatur of being a very vivid image to an Australian, since it is a cricketing term.
- Wrong'un - In cricket, a ball that is bowled to spin the opposite direction to which it would otherwise spin; in real life, similar to the US "Curve Ball."
- Sticky Wicket - A difficult situation.
- Play a straight bat - a simple defensive batting move; in real life, to be simple and direct and honest.
- Sledge - To trash-talk in an unbecoming manner; in proper circles, trash-talk must be witty and urbane, such as "Learn to bowl straight and I might even play the ball," or any funny comeback to an offensive sledge. It becomes sledging when it is simply abuse with no element of class, ie, "You're fat. Why are you so fat?" It is rather subjective.
- Some would argue that sledging is a fine art, take this exchange between Pakistani batsman Javed Miandad and Australian bowler Merv Hughes:
Javed: You should be driving buses, you're too fat to be playing cricket.
Merv: *Bowls Javed out* Tickets please Javed.
- Also note that terms such as "Back pad," "Silly Mid On," "Deep Fine Leg," and other cricketing terms lend themselves well to an Australian's filthy mind.
- Crikey - Expression of surprise. Best known to the internet generation from the renowned independent news website crikey.com.au.
- Bugger/Fuck - Can be used in pretty much any sentence, and Australians being Australians, quite often is, although this applies to any expletive.
- Wowser - A killjoy or spoilsport, especially of the Moral Guardians type. Comes from the slogan of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, "We Only Want Social Evils Remedied". Nothing to do with Inspector Gadget's Catch Phrase.
Foreigners are notorious for assuming New Zealanders and Australians are the same people. In fact, using most of this slang in New Zealand will earn you a derisive snort. Particularly thong, which New Zealanders call a jandal.
Note that saying some of these to anyone under the age of 35 may net you withering looks, as the expressions are aging somewhat; genuine slang changes quite rapidly across time and places, and phenomena such as globalisation and Americanisation mean that even if many younger people do know what these words mean, they sure as hell won't use them. On the other hand, many young men seem to take a semi-ironic delight in reviving the most obnoxious slang available—this may even act as a feedback loop, not only sustaining distinctively Australian slang, but intensifying its crudity... We can only hope.
Further note: saying any of these to any Aussie, if you aren't Australian, will not endear you to them. Unless they taught you themselves. And its pronounced "Ozzy" like the guy from Black Sabbath, not "Ah-zzy", which is Aussie for "American fuckwit" (see below)
Additionally, Australians are often too lazy to bother saying a full word - Aussie (Australian), Barbie (Barbecue), Trackies (from the aforementioned 'trackie dacks') and "A-over-T" (arse-over-tits) are all briefer variations on already-brief terminology. This passion for abbreviation crosses all classes, with things such as Elsty (the suburb of Elsternwick), Akker (footballer Jason Akemanis), "The G" (MCG, the Melbourne Cricket Ground) or Brissie (Brisbane—to add a touch of withering scorn or regional semi-ironic pride, we also recommend "Bris Vegas" or "Brisneyland"). If your name is longer than two syllables, expect it to be shortened to one, with an optional '-o' or '-zza' for a suffix. Even if your name has merely two syllables and is already shortened, it will probably be modified just the same. Gary = Gaz or Gazza; Stephen = Steve-o; Larry = Lazza. Those named Leonard should not expect their name to be shortened to "Lezza", for the obvious reason. Unless it turns out to be funny.
Speaking of hell, another particularity of Australian English is that we swear.
A bloody lot a shitload (The previous strikethrough notwithstanding, 'bloody' is often thought of as the Great Australian Adjective). Not "Quentin Tarantino" Wil Anderson "a lot", but then, no-one's that mannered. Essentially, 'bloody' is a modifier used to denote emphasis, as in "Get a bloody move on!" Australians are fond of emphasis, and will insert it anybloodywhere...
Perhaps an indication of how attached Aussies once were to the great Aussie adjective, the following are three verses from Austral-aise by CJ Dennis (one of Australia's foremost early 20th century poets), which (sung to the tune of Onward Christian Soldier, of all things) was once a finalist for the national anthem (without the German-slurring later verses, we assume, but you never know, with Australians). Just think how awesome it would be if this (especially the second verse) were played every time an Aussie won gold at the Olympics...
Fellers of Australier,
Blokes an' coves an' coots,
Shift yer bloody carcases,
Move yer bloody boots.
Gird yer bloody loins up,
Get yer bloody gun,
Set the bloody ener-my
An' watch the blighters run.
Get a bloody move on,
Have some bloody sense.
Learn the bloody art of
Joy is bloody fleetin',
Life is bloody short.
Wot's the use uv wastin' it
All on bloody sport?
Hitch yer bloody tip-dray
To a bloody star.
Let yer bloody watchword be
When the bloody bugle
Don't be like a flock o' sheep
In a bloody trance
Biff the bloody Kaiser
Where it don't agree
Australia also recommends the use of the term "fuckwit" in place of the neologism "fucktard" -- "fuckwit" has a longer heritage and is more conceptually coherent, retains the phonetic vigour of "fucktard" and avoids the Unfortunate Implications of "fucktard"". Try it -- you'll like it!
There are also several words which shouldn't be used in Australia due to alternate meanings. Some are rather innocent, such as the word "bum" meaning "buttocks". However, the words "fanny" (female genitalia) and "root" (to have sexual intercourse) should never be used in polite company. If you were to say you were "rooting for your football team", you may be met with some laughter, although at this point, we've all watched enough American TV to be desensitised to it. The same goes for the nickname "Randy". (Although most Australians who live anywhere else in Australia still think that the Sydney suburb "Rooty Hill" has a hilarious name. Especially when, as in the last Federal election, politicians attempt to be dignified there.)
The very nature of Australian slang means that a new slang term is probably being made daily. American comedian Arj Barker, as an experiment, went into five different Australian furniture stores and pottered about until someone came up to him to ask him, "Can I help you, sir?" to which he would respond, "I'm just having a squidgy didge." Five out of five people did not question this. This is because it's quite similar to the commonly used slang word "Squiz," which means, "a look at," as well as "Ridgy-didge," which means, "authentic or genuine." Australians often correlate two similar sounding slang words in meaning, especially if one is a "longform" or "shortform" of the other.
Aunty also maintains a massive database Aussie slang broken down by region. Important for things like correctly using your golden drinking ticket (depending on the state/pub/bartender, a glass of beer can be a schooner, a middy, a pony, a -ah, bugger it, just look it up [dead link]) and finding out what on earth a deadly treadly is before it kills you.