Notes on Australian Slang



The slang that Australia is famous for, i.e., “throw another shrimp on the barbie” or calling a woman a sheila, I’ve never actually heard an Australian person say (unironically, anyway). Half of the ‘Guides to Aussie Slang’ sound just plain made up, or like an old timey country song.

The Aussies do have a certain, unique way with language – it’s one of the things I will miss most about Australia when I leave. Their language reflects the Australian way of life: easy going, unhurried, and always up for a laugh. It’s great except for when it’s not. For instance, when I was waiting for my job to start in Western Australia, (W.A. or, as it’s colloquially known: “Wait Around because we’re a World Away”) for weeks I got nothing but “she’ll be right, we’ll get ya out there soon, just call back next week.” But otherwise, the Aussie attitude is happily contagious. I’ve noticed that I’ve taken on a little bit of the Australian attitude when it comes to their ubiquitous dangerous creatures. Like most Aussies, I reckon if it won’t kill ya, I won’t get too fussed about it.

Much of Aussie slang appears to reflect the desire to do as little work as possible, i.e., abbreviating words and adding an “o” to the end. The bottle shop (liquor store) becomes the bottle-o, the service station (petrol/gas station) is the servo and the afternoon is the arvo.

There is also the very strong influence of English/U.K. slang (Australia has a far stronger linguistic and cultural tie to England than Canada does, for whatever reason), such that dinner is tea; the parking lot is a car park; the trunk of a car is the boot.

A short list of Aussie slang that I’ve actually heard:

I reckon: in my opinion, or as I understand it

Copped it: died; broke down; took a beating

Bogan: person of working or lower class origin

Root: to have sex

Pash: to make out with someone (Victoria/Melbourne specific)

On the piss: drinking heavily (as in: “After I knock off work this arvo, we’ll get on the piss”)

Taking the piss: making fun of, or (less commonly) taking advantage of

No dramas: see, “no worries”

Strewth: contracted mash-up of “ain’t that the truth” (as far as I understood it)

Fair Dinkum: I thought this one was another antiquated, long forgotten phrase, but I heard it, once, from a man who had lived out bush for twenty years. He was the one who told me that the outback was like a mirror, that it would show me myself (and he was right). We were swapping stories one night after work, and as I finished one of mine, he said, in the casual and laconic way that Aussie blokes in the outback do, “Fair dinkum”. I took it to mean something along the lines of, “you don’t say”, or “interesting story”.

Catcha: talk to you later


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