G’day. This arvo I’m going to write about a bonza part of Aussie life. Stralian slang. Or as we like to call it, English.
On this blog and when I interact with other people from around the world, I’m surprised how much slang I use without even realising it. I’m often explaining some of the words I use because while it looks and sounds like English, without the context I can come off a bit strange.
Unless you are Australian, know someone who speaks in Aussie slang or have travelled extensively around this sunburnt land, this post might just scramble your brain a little bit. So cobber, grab a snag, whack on some dead horse and pick up a tinnie. Or grab a cuppa and a bikkie and relax.
I have to censor myself when I write. Sometimes phrases like ‘chuck a yuey’ don’t mean anything to anyone else. It means to perform a U-turn. I also try and avoid doing what most Australians seem to do, which is to shorten everything and then put an O on the end. Stephen becomes Stevo; bottle shop becomes bottleo and the service station is the servo.
In my latest novel, the word ‘mate’ appears far too many times and I hardly ever use it in the same context. It can be aggressive – ‘Mate!” It can be affectionate – ‘Maaaatee.” And aurally it’s hard to mix the two up but when you are reading it, the situation has to be well defined. Also, if you’ve never heard someone use mate when expressing emotion, it can be difficult to understand.
To ‘chuck a sickie’ is also something I’ve written that’s caused some confusion. This means to call in to work sick, even though you aren’t. Maybe you had too many goon bags the night before and you chucked your guts up all over your mate Davo’s thongs. They were his good ones, double pluggers, his Sheila gave them to him for Chrissie. So you call into work and chuck a sickie.
Aussies are a pretty laid back lot on the whole. We even have multiple phrases for ‘everything will be alright.’
- She’ll be right
- She’ll be apples
- No worries – I use this one a lot.
We also have a tendency to shorten everything. If you really listen to how Australians say Australia. More often than not they say Straya.
Below I’ve added a short list of the words I hear most of the time – it’s by no means complete:
G’day – Hello
Ambo – Ambulance
Arvo – Afternoon
Oz – Australia
Bonza – Awesome
Barbie – Barbeque
Bikkie – Sweet Biscuit
Brizzie – Brisbane
Cozzie – Swimming costume
Cobber – Friend or mate
Hard yakka – Hard work and also a brand of workwear
Snag – Sausage
Prezzie – Present
Goonbags – Cask wine
Lippy – Lipstick
Journo – Journalist
Maccas – McDonalds
Smoko – Smoking break
Cockie – Cockroach or a cockatoo
Daks – Trousers
Woolies – Woolworths
Tinnie – Beer can or a small boat
Doona – Quilt
Thongs – Flip flops
Stubbies – Small beer bottle or a pair of very short men’s shorts
I think it’s less laziness, and more that it’s sometime just too hot to pronounce full words. Maybe. Alright, perhaps we’re just lazy. Look, you won’t find people walking around just talking in full sentences of slang. Unless they are trying to over characterise an Aussie. Also, no one in Australia says, ‘Throw another shrimp on the Barbie’ We would say ‘Chuck another prawn on the Barbie.’ Shrimps are tiny, in Oz we eat big, meaty prawns!
My books are set in Australia so while I’m not writing in paragraphs of slang, sometimes I pull back on certain slang because not everyone will understand unless the meaning is absolutely clear. So instead of having a character go to ‘Woolies to pick up some dog’s eyes and dead horse.’ I would have them go to ‘the supermarket to buy meat pies and tomato sauce.’
I think all time my favourite Aussie slang is to say, ‘I’m on my Pat Malone.’ Which means I’m alone.
Share some slang specific to where you’re from! If you’re an Aussie and I’ve missed one of your favourites, then share that too! Or if you’ve heard something and you don’t know what it is, I can translate it for you. Have some fun with it!