In 2014, Four ‘N Twenty Pies worried that Australian slang was dying out. They launched a campaign to rally Australians to create and use more slang. They needn’t have been concerned.
Nowadays, we don’t really talk like Alf Stewart (and you won’t hear any complaints from me about that), but Aussie slang is alive and well.
Many of our most-beloved and oft-used phrases come from our colonial past – fair dinkum; no worries, mate; g’day – or less benign, you flamin’ mongrel. Over time these have been blended with Aboriginal idioms like “cooee”, “going walkabout” – and my favourite, “simply deadly” – becoming today’s Aussie lingo.
Combining Aboriginal and colonial language like this shows our fierce desire to carve out our own identity. The evolution of our accent and the words we use also reflect the values we hope to instill in society and popular culture.
Here we celebrate a few typical characteristics of the Aussie language as homage to the slanguage page in the new Oz version of our books.
The ‘Strayan Strine
Our vernacular isn’t chic-sounding like French or tonally gymnastic like Mandarin, nor is it street-cred cool like Swahili.
Ocker pronunciation is never going to win any prizes for elocution. We extract syllables and sever suffixes like it’s a national sport.
But it’s ours and we’re keeping it.
Famed orator Winston Churchill wasn’t a fan though, describing our Aussie accent as: “The most brutal maltreatment ever inflicted upon the mother tongue of the great English-speaking nations.”
That might be a tad unfair. But there is some evidence that we’re allegedly as tricky to understand as our Irish, Scottish, and Americans friends.
Hollywood and American television haven’t exactly done us any favours either. We might not speak the Queen’s English, but we don’t certainly don’t sound like Meryl Streep in Evil Angels, or the Simpsons episode Bart vs. Australia either.
Fair dinkum phrases for everyday use
In daily life, we seem to revel in making things sound more casual or irreverent. Contractions and abbreviations abound. To be honest, it’s because we’re lazy. Or just very efficient with words.
Grab brekkie. Sip a flat white with your avo on toast. Make sure the kids have had their Weetbix.
When summer arrives, it’s time to put your trackie daks and Ugg boots away. Slip on your thongs, slap on some SPF 50+ and head to the beach. If you feel like a dip in the ocean, put on your budgie smugglers (for the gents) or cozzies (for the ladies).
Chuck a few snags, steaks or veggie burgers on the barbie. Dust off the esky and fill it up with your favourite wine or beer. Don’t drink too much or you’ll end up liquid laughing and having a hangover. Or, stay at home and take it easy. Watch the Ashes on the telly with the family and hope for a ripsnorter of a match.
We also have a knack for making something great sound downright disgusting. I love a vanilla slice, but I will never (ever) call it a snot block. Ugh.
We’re all in this together
As a country we don’t like class, or differences between the haves and the have-nots. And it shows in our slang.
Don’t even try to humble brag, let alone brashly brag. We don’t seem to like tall poppies or figjams. And we’ve got a million ways to take down people who consider themselves above others.
You can affectionately call your friend a drongo or dipstick. Your boss might be a stubbie short of a six-pack, a fruit loop, or a galah. Beers, breakfast cereals and native species are all up for being appropriated as synonyms for idiocy. Nothing is sacred.
Or maybe you know someone who’s got a few roos loose in the top paddock or is a sandwich short of a picnic.
And that’s not everything…
Of course, because this is a family-friendly blog, I had to omit about one-third of all Aussie slang. It might be potty mouthed but some of it is entertainingly colourful. Bloody oath might be as far as I can go without the editor giving me an earful.
If you’re curious to learn more about the why and wherefore of the origins of Aussie slang, check out the ANU’s fascinating compilation of idioms.
Have you got a favourite Aussie slang saying?