I went on CIS Abroad’s Semester on the Gold Coast program in Spring 2019. I assumed that since Australians spoke English (the only language I speak), the Australian culture would be pretty similar to American culture. Therefore, it would be easy for me to assimilate into their culture. Boy was I wrong! Australia has its own unique culture and traditions like every other country.
One of the fantastic things about Australians is the way they speak English. They have an entire sublanguage of slang that could confuse any American in a heartbeat. Seriously, I always had to use a dictionary to understand what they were saying. The most basic rule of Australian slang is that everything is shortened, meaning they (usually) cut off the last half of the word.
Here is a quick lesson in Australian English:
Barbie: barbeque (note: “shrimp on the barbie” is NOT a thing)
Bottle-o: liquor store
Chewy: chewing gum
Chips: fries or actual chips
Coldie: a beer
Docket: bill, receipt
Down Under: Australia, New Zealand
Dunny: outside bathroom
Durry: cigarette (tobacco)
Off one’s Face: drunk
Fair go: a chance
Fairy Floss: cotton candy
Fish and Chips: a classic Australian meal of fish and fries
Footy: Australian rules football
Hostel: a cheap place to stay the night in a room shared (often) with strangers
Hotel: often just a pub
Joey: baby kangaroo
Knock: to criticize
Lollies: sweets, candies
Mate: buddy, friend
Mob: herd of kangaroos
Muddy: mud crab
No worries: expression of forgiveness or reassurance
Outback: interior of Australia
Pash: a long, passionate kiss
Pokies: poker machines, gambling machines
Prezzy: present, gift
Rego: vehicle registration
Rellie or relo: relatives
Rollie: self-rolled cigarette
Root: to have intercourse
Rubbish: commonly used word for trash
Sausage Sanga: basically a hot dog with a folded piece of bread in place of a hot dog bun
Seppo: an American
Servo: service (gas) station
Shout: turn to buy a round of drinks
Sickie: day off sick from work
Smoko: smoke or coffee break
Spag bol: spaghetti Bolognese
Stubby: bottle of beer
Tim-Tams: the absolute best store-bought cookies to exist
Trakie daks: tracksuit pants
Truckie: truck driver
Unit: flat, apartment
Ute: utility vehicle, pickup truck
Vegemite: a uniquely Australian vegetable spread
I have heard most of those words used on multiple occasions during my time in Australia. Understanding the slang was challenging at first, but by the end, I got more comfortable with it and even started using some phrases (“Macca’s” will stay in my vocabulary forever). I did not even realize some of the terms entered my vocabulary until my American friends pointed it out in a video call.
Every language is beautiful in its own way. Different words, sounds, grammar rules, and other characteristics make each language unique. Even though some countries share similar languages, their local dialects and slang set each culture apart.
I find Australia’s use of English incredible and convenient, and learning to speak it gave me lots of opportunities to laugh. (mostly because its newness could sometimes surprise me).
I hope that everyone enjoys the Australian language as much as I do!
Read other blog posts about Language!