Words by Tess Astle Art by Joanna Leucuta
Owning an Australian passport is one thing, but understanding Australian slang is a whole new level of citizenship.
Understandably, one could think that Australians speak English, but this turns out to be an exaggeration. Alas, Australians are not speaking the same English as darling royals Will and Kate. Instead of tea and crumpets in Buckingham we opt for a couple of cold ones at the local. Australian is sometimes confusing to fellow English-speakers with many people begging the question; ‘What the heck are those people ‘on about?’ Aussie lingo is the beautiful art of shortening everything and adding an ‘o,’ ‘a’ or an ‘ie’ to the end of words. This unique way with words turns ‘afternoon’ into ‘arvo’, ‘sandwich into ‘sanga’ and ‘politician’ into ‘pollie’.
There will be moments where you will need a translator, so please let me help. I’ll leave you to figure out some of the easier stuff like ‘uni’ and ‘kiddos’ but allow me to help you navigate the minefield that is the tougher Aussie slang. So to avoid becoming a drongo listen to a fair-dinkum Aussie like me and by the end you’ll be grinning like a shot fox.
Battler: Someone working hard and only just making a living
Bottle-o: Liquor shop
Cactus: Dead, not functioning (“this bloody washing machine is cactus”)
Cuppa: A cup of tea
Fair-dinkum: True, real, honest
Give it a burl: Try it, have a go
Goon: Cheap wine in a bag (it’s as classy as it sounds)
Grinning like a shot fox: Chuffed, happy, pleased
Lizard drinking, flat out like a: Flat out, busy
Play it by ear: Decide as you go
Servo: Petrol station
Show pony: Someone who tries hard, by his dress or behaviour, to impress those around him
She’ll be right: It will be fine
Sickie: Day off sick from work (chuck a sickie = take the day off sick from work when you’re perfectly healthy)
Tell him he’s dreaming: Just watch cult classic The Castle and all will be revealed
Trackie daks: Tracksuit pants
Vee dub: Volkswagen
Wag: To skip class
Walkabout: It’s gone, it’s lost, can’t be found
Woop Woop: Invented name for any small unimportant town (“he lives in Woop Woop”)
Yewy: U-turn in traffic (“chuck a yewy at the next traffic lights”)
Finally, on behalf of all Australians I feel it’s my duty to tell you that no Australian ever has said or will say; ‘Slip a shrimp on the barbie’. In this country we call shrimp ‘prawns’. Just remember that, maybe write it down.