Saturday, 16 January 2016

Aussie Lingo

The Australian Accent

Americans love our Aussie accent, they tell us all the time. Not that they can always understand us, sometimes it's the accent, sometimes it's just what we say, and we all have a big laugh.

So where does our accent come from?

The Aussie accent is quite unlike anything else in the world. New Zealanders and South Africans sound similar but slightly different. Even I need them to say a few sentences before I can ascertain which country they are from. It’s our vowels that stand out, like a kind of irritable vowel syndrome.

In Australian TV shows a few decades ago, they used to embellish their Australian accent as they didn’t think they had one. On the other hand we have many Aussie actors in Hollywood who seem to be able to perfect the perfect American accent, so that even the Americans can’t pick them.

Then there’s the way we play with words and cut them short. In the movie "my life in ruins", the Greek tourist guide says “the Australians are really nice but you can’t understand a thing they say”. It's not the accent they can't understand it's the phrases and the words we use. So where does this all come from?

Convicts, Officers and their families from Britain arrived on our shores about 60,000 years after our aboriginals, just over 227 years ago. America had closed its doors to taking convicts after the Boston tea party incident, so England had to find somewhere else to dump them. Why not down under? It was pretty easy to become a convict in those days; poverty was everywhere and laws were strict. They were a mixed mob of English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish. Even though they all spoke English, they all had different dialects, different accents and different words for the same thing – think of Eliza Doolittle practicing her vowels. People rarely travelled outside of their town, so they had never heard these differences. To make themselves more understood in this new land they had to make small changes to the way they spoke – more slowly and clearly with more careful enunciation. They rounded off the rough edges. Then their children and their children moulded the language even more. They say it takes about 50 years, two generations to create a new accent. Most people started out in Sydney, so a uniform accent spread across the country. In contrast Americans settled in their own separate distinct groups, so created their own local accents. There are three categories of Australian accent – broad, general and cultivated. Most of us speak with the general accent, what I would call “normal”. Cultivated would be a plumb in your mouth and broad would be what we would call “ocker”, which is harder to understand.

A broad accent would be Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee. A general one would be Russell Crowe in anything as he doesn’t seem to do accents. Yes, I know he’s a Kiwi, but he’s spent enough time in Australia to speak like us. Cultivated – that’s a hard one, probably Malcolm Fraser.

We shorten words, it's called hypocoristics, usually putting ie or o on the end of a shortened version of the word - Brekkie (breakfast), Arvo (afternoon), Ute (utility truck), Bookie (bookmaker), Postie (postman), Berko (berserk), Smoko (cigarette break), Carbie (carburetor), Cardie (cardigan), Chewie (chewing gum), Blowie (blow fly), Cab Sav (cabernet sauvignon), Sav Blanc (sauvignon blanc), Spag Bol (spaghetti bolognese)

Aussie Slang

Here are some Aussie slang words and phrases, most likely concocted from our heritage.

A Wog - a cold

Arvo - afternoon

Aussie -Australian

Barbie - a barbecue

Beaut - great, fantastic

Billy - bush kettle

Blood oath! - that's certainly true

Blotto - inebriated

Blue, they had a - argument

Bonzer - great, ripper

Bottler - something excellent

Brumbies - wild horses

Buckley's chance (you've got) - no chance

Bull dust - rubbish, not true

Bushwalking - hiking

Bush Week – “what do you think this is, bush week” – fat chance

Bushed - tired

Cactus, it’s - dead, broken

Cark it - to die, stop working

Chocka, chokas - full up

Chook - chicken

Cleaned out - everything was stolen

Come good, it will - turn out ok

Cooee, not within - figuratively a long way away

Cost big bikkies - expensive

Creek - small stream

Croak - die

Damper - bush bread

Deadset - true / the truth

Dickhead - idot

Digger - Australian soldier, usually WWI & II

Dinkum / fair dinkum - true, real, genuine

Dinky-di - the real thing, genuine

Docket - a bill, receipt

Doco - documentary

Dodgy - not kosher, not right, illegal

Dud - something that doesn’t work – it’s a dud

Exy - expensive

Fair dinkum - true, genuine

Fair go - a chance / break

Fossick - to look for something

Furphy - rumour

G'Day - hello!

Give it a burl - try it, have a go

Good onya - well done

Gully - narrow valley

Heaps - a lot

Iffy - see dodgy

Kick the bucket - to die

Knock back - refuse

Mate's discount - cheaper than usual for a friend

Mate's rate - cheaper than usual for a friend

Mob - group

Muggy - humid

No worries! - no problem / its okay

Nong - idiot

Pig's arse! - I don't agree

Plate, bring a - Instruction to bring a plate of food to a party

Pozzy - position, usually a seat, a spot

Quid, to make a - earn a living

Rack off - get lost! get out of here!

Ratbag - rascal, a person creating havoc

Reckon, I - for sure

Ridgy-didge, that’s - original, genuine

Right - okay

Ripper - Great

Rooted, it’s - ruined, broken

Rug up - put on a coat or warm clothes

She'll be apples - It'll be all right

She'll be right - it'll be okay

Spit the dummy or throw a wobbly – tantrum (a dummy is a baby’s pacifier)

Strewth - exclamation

Stuffed, I'll be - expression of surprise or

Stuffed, I’m - exhausted

Swag - combination of a tent and a sleeping bag for sleeping in out in the bush

To Bolt – to run away

To go bush - to escape your life, disappear

To potter - constructively wasting time

To rubbish someone is to insult them

Too right - definitely

Up the road – could mean 400 kms away

Whinge - complain

Yabby - a miniature fresh water crayfish

Yakka - hard work

Yarn - a story, a tale


  1. Must be time to crack one open

  2. Yep, it's beer o'clock somewhere in the world