Understanding Australian Slang
Here in Australia we do speak “The Queen’s English”. However over time, we have also developed our own unique dialect which can be both amusing and frustrating to visitors. Understanding the “Aussie Lingo” must be downright confusing for tourists.
While not all Aussies will speak full on “Strine” we all have sprinklings of the vernacular in our day to day conversations (or convos).
Not only do we tend to shorten every word and then put either an “O” or an “ie” on the end. We are also very fond of nicknames, and some odd words and phrases have crept into the Aussie dialect over the years.
Oh, and we also run our words together such as...”G’daymate Owzitgoin?”
Below I’ve taken a lighthearted look at some of the common words and phrases you will hear socially in Australia, together with a few local customs that may help you to avoid “making a right galah of yourself” when visiting “Down Under”.
Food: (Also known as tucker or grub)
Bangers Sausages, usually served with mash – mashed potato
Esky: You will take one if these portable ice boxes to a barbie to keep the drinks cold
Grubs up dinner is served
Nibblies Pre dinner snack – chips, cheese and bikkies or dip, nuts.
Parmy chicken parmiagana
Schnitty chicken schnitzel
Smoko tea break
Cultural notes: If invited to a barbie, they are usually “BYO” meaning you are required to bring either a bottle of wine, or a six pack of beer. You should also “bring a plate”. This doesn’t mean your hostess is short of crockery. It means you need to bring either a dessert, salad or some “nibblies”. Something from the Woolies Fridge is fine.
Bundy Bundaberg rum
Cab Sav Cabernet Sauvignon wine
Coldie cold beer
Cuppa cup of tea or coffee
Middie a small glass of beer
Sav Blanc Sauvignon blanc wine
Schoonera large glass of beer
Shandy Nanna’s drink lemonade with a dash of beer (or vice versa)
Six pack A package of beer
Slab A case of beer.
Stubby small bottle of beer* see double meanings below
Tinnie can of beer * see double meanings below
Alcoholic beverages are called grog, booze, turps or plonk. If you have too much you will become legless, or smashed
Cultural note: If you are drinking with a group be prepared to “shout”. This is an Australian custom whereby you take it in turns to buy a round of drinks for the rest of the table. If you habitually fail to participate you will get the label “wouldn’t shout if a shark bit him”, which isn’t a good thing.
Cossies Swimsuit – depending on state
Budgie smugglers – Mens speedos (bathing costume) DON’T. Just don’t. They are only culturally acceptable worn under boardies.
Boardies: Shorts worn for swimming
Hoodie: Tracksuit top with a hood
Stubbies Work shorts *see double meanings
Swimmers Swimsuit – depending on state
Thongs Flip flops to the rest of the world
TogsSwimsuit – depending on state
Trackie dacks Tracksuit pants
Cultural notes: See “Budgie Smugglers”. Aussies are very laid back when it comes to dress except for these.
Maccas Macdonalds hamburger chain
Bowlo The local bowling club
Servo The local services club * see double meanings
Bottlo: Take away alcohol shop
Cop shop Police station
Woolies Woolworths supermarket
Cultural notes: Our local Bowling, sporting and services clubs are usually the hub of local social activity. They have a bar, a bistro where you can get some “good Aussie Tucker” and a range of entertainment.
The Ode. If you are at a local Services Club, it is a memorial to our war veterans. At sunset (or usually around 5pm) all the lights will go out, and you will be required immediately stand still for one minute’s silence as a sign of respect while “The Ode”, a poem of remembrance is read. There are few things ruder you can do in Australia than fail to stand silently for The Ode.
At the clubs or pubs you may well play the “pokies” – poker machines.
Chook raffle– yes we do have regular raffles or lotteries at the pub or “the Bowlo” for trays of meat, chickens and in the run up to Christmas, hams and turkeys.
Like any language, in Australia words have multiple meanings depending on context. Some common ones you will hear are:
Bird Winged creature, female or an obscene gesture
Galah A bird or an idiot
Servo: The petrol station or the local Services Club
Stubbies: Either a pack of small beer bottles or a pair of work shorts
Tinnie: Either a can of beer or a small boat
Australians abbreviate everything, including place names which must become very confusing for visitors asking directions. You need to be very specific. Also with distances. “Down the road” could be 100 kilometres away.
If you are booking an Australian holiday, bear in mind that we were originally very unoriginal with our place names. There can be towns with the same name in a number of states so make sure you specify. For example you don’t want to attempt to check into your accommodation in Burwood, Sydney to find you actually booked in Burwood Melbourne.
If we are in proximity to anywhere with the suffix “Bay” (eg Bateman’s Bay our nearest large shopping complex) it will be known as “The Bay”. Similarly, Mount anything will be known as “The Mount” and anywhere with the prefix Port will be referred to as “Port”
Condo is not short for a smart modern townhouse, but the central western outback town of Condobolin.
Locally we abbreviate Bermagui to “Bermi”, Wollongong is known as “The Gong” and Coffs Harbour is known as “Coffs”. The list is as endless as the number of Aussie towns.
The names “Woop Woop” and “Backa Bourke” are also given to any remote town or place. In the city it can also refer to outlying suburbs (“the burbs”)
“Up the Creek” is not a place you want to be, particularly if you are “without a paddle” as this means you are in a spot of bother.
Aussies call everyone by their nickname and they can sometimes be very confusing. Peter Smith will likely be known as “Smithy” and Robert Jones “Jonesy”. However, you will also come across names such as “Chook” or “Ranga” that make absolutely no sense. Some common tags we give our relatives and acquaintances are:
Better half Spouse
Old man/girl spouse
Rellos Relatives in general
Yobbo Uncouth person
Mate Friend or new acquaintance.
Cultural note: “Mate” may be for either “you are my friend” or “I don’t know your name but I want to be friendly”. Depending on context it can also be a warning.
When showing a German visitor around Bermi, a jetskiing yobbo started doing burnouts at the marina. Meaning he was driving very fast, causing giant waves to bump multi million dollar yachts against the dockside.
The response from one of the yacht owners on shore went along the lines of “Oy, Mate!”, “Listen here Mate!” “Pull yer ‘ead in Mate”, “I’m warning you Mate”…..in this context the term “mate” did not mean they wanted to have a friendly conversation. Make sure you listen for the context.
Names based on location
Aussies also name people based upon their location. The most common of these are:
Banana bender Queenslander
Cockie : farmer
Crow eater: South Australia
Sandgroper West Australian
Kiwi New Zealander
G’day owyagoin Hello, how are you today.
Hoo Roo Goodbye, see you soon
Ta Thank you
She’s good No thank you
Seeya See you later
Joe Blake Snake
Flattie Flathead (fish)
Note: We’ve all seen the cutesy pics of our soft and cuddly wildlife. If you want to pat a roo or a koala, stick to a wildlife sanctuary. In the wild the can be extremely unfriendly.
General words and phrases
A few roos loose in the top paddock/A few sangers short of a picnic/ A few stubbies short of a six pack/ not the full quid: Not very bright
Ants pants The very best
Beat around the bush Get to the point
Beats me I don’t know
Bewdi Beautiful, very good
Bonza Really good
Bludge do nothing
Blue to have a fight
Buckleys No chance, not very likely
Bung on To make a scene, exaggerate or overact
Charge like a wounded bull Very expensive, overpriced
Chock a block Full
Chuck a wobbly Have a tantrum or complain vocally
Cactus Not good, broken
Crikey See strewth
Crook Sick or not good
Dinki Di Genuine
Do your block To yell, or get angry
Duck’s guts see Ants Pants
Dunno I don’t know
Durrie see ciggie
Fair dinkum Really, or truly, depending upon context
Fodoty Either Rugby League (league) or AFL football.
Jack of it Had enough, fed up
Knackered Very tired
Knock of Finish for the day, or steal, depending on context
Mates Rates Discount price
Prang Road accident
Put a sock in it Be quiet
Semi Semi articulated truck
Strewth Oh dear
Ute Utility/ pick up truck
You Beaut Very good
Hope you have enjoyed learning a little “Aussie Lingo”. Don’t be afraid to say G’day mate next time you duck into the bowlo for a schooner.