Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How To Speak Australian

At the time I believed that first visit to Australia would also be my last.  Little did I know that events would conspire to bring me here permanently.  Still less did I know that within a few years I would be on my own in this country, making my own way. 

Life has a way or preparing us for what's coming next.  One thing I had to do when I came to Australia was learn a new language.  English ain't necessarily English, and the language I thought I knew fairly well would largely no longer apply. Here's how I described my experience at the time.

October 2001

How To Speak Australian

I don't know why I hadn't done it sooner.  Perhaps I thought some official from the Office of Officially Welcoming New People to Australia would show up at the door one day and brief me.  Or perhaps I expected them to mail me a packet containing the essentials of the Australian language on a fridge magnet.  But I finally realized I would have to take matters into my own hands and purchase an Australian Dictionary.

This dictionary has helped me finally understand what people have been talking about all this time.  Now, rather than having just a vague suspicion, I know for certain that people have been making fun of me.  But, due to their kind and generous natures, they did so only using the secret code of Australia so as not to hurt my feelings (right away).

It's a fascinating language, really.  If you come to "Bazzaland" (Australia) you'll find that out.  But for the rest of you, here's just a "squiz" (peek) at how a "ridgie-didge" "bloke" "down under" (real Australian person) might speak.

You can tell a lot about a culture from its language.  A (mostly debunked) urban legend tells us that Eskimos have 10,000 or some ridiculous number of words for snow.  Likewise, in addition to the ones we all know, "Ozzies" have a large vocabulary relating to alcoholic beverages ("liquid lunch," "ten-ounce sandwich," "plonk," "tinnies," "turps," "lunatic soup," "stubbies"), for the state of having consumed many such beverages ("with the pixies," "blind," "full as a boot," "full as a fat woman's sock," "out to it," "pissed as a parrot," "shickered," "shot full of holes," "stonkered," "stunned," "three parts gone," "under the affluence of inkahol," "tired and emotional"), the resulting necessary bodily functions ("drain the dragon," "point Percy at the porcelain," "splash the boots," "syphon the python," "water the horse") and the occasional undesirable side-effects ("liquid laugh," "laugh at the lawn," "bark at the lawn," "call Ralph," "a Technicolor yawn," "chunder," "drive the porcelain bus," "speak on the big white telephone," "throw your voice," "yodel").

Unless you're "a brick short of a load," "bright as a two-watt bulb," "got space to sell between the ears," "couldn't blow your hat off if your brains were dynamite," "not the full two-bob," "a sandwich short of a picnic," "three pots short of a shout," or "wouldn't know your arse from your elbow" then that last bit probably made you want to "choof off" (leave).  But stop your "whinging" (complaining) and don't be a "sook" (an ineffectual person) - there's a lot more still.  We'll be "flat out like a lizard drinking" (busy) for some time yet.

I won't say whether there was a great need for these next phrases prior to the arrival of tourists, but Ozzies seemed have at ready a large vocabulary to describe the ineffectual, idiotic, or insane.  Don't be too put out if they call you a "dag" or a "poon" (eccentric).  If they really mean to bring you down a notch you'll be a "cough drop," "dill," "drongo," "droob," "galah," "gink," "mopoke," "ningnong," or "wally."  They may describe you in terms of perceived inabilities, e.g. you couldn't "fart in a bottle," "give away cheese at a rat's picnic," "knock the skin off a rice pudding," "run a chook raffle in a country pub," "train a choko vine over a country dunny," or "win if you started the night before."  On the road, they may  say you "got your license out of a Cornflakes packet."  Or, you may be "so wet they could shoot ducks off you."  That's starting to get mean.  You know you've really made a bad start if they tell you to "go dip your eye in hot cocky cack!"  Now I don't really know what hot cocky cack is exactly, but I have an idea that it is not entirely positive and affirming.

If your failings are recognized as the pitiable result of insanity, they may say with a wink that you're "barmy as a bandicoot," "around the twist," "bent as a scrub tic," "berko," "gone to Gowings," "mad as a cut snake," "off your kadoova," or that you have "nits in the network," "kangaroos in the top paddock," or "white ants in the woodwork."

A real Australian would never just come right out and say 'eggs' when there's marvelous words like "hen fruit," "cackleberries," and "googy" to select from.  Who would?  The same goes for boring words like 'money' ("axlegrease," "big bickies," "dosh"), 'horse' ("alligator," "crocodile," "brumby," "moke," and "prad") or 'broken' ("buggered," "bung," "jiggered," "onkus," "stuffed," "up the pole," or "wonky").  Even words which you & I would love to be allowed to say in public, like "Kookaburra" (a native bird) are often replaced with more interesting alternatives ("breakfast bird," "bushman's clock," "ha-ha pigeon").

You may want to reconsider asking directions to any of the following locations: "Black Stump," "Mulga," "Never Never," "back of Bourke."  These places don't technically exist.  They are merely euphemisms for "way the heck out in the middle of friggin' nowhere," which describes 99% of the places in Australia.  So using one of the above terms doesn't necessarily narrow it down.

I hope you're getting the hang of it now, because I'm "knackered."  Plus, it's time for your final exam.  And I'd just like to say, this is not going to be fair.

Part 1:  Matching.  Match the Australian expression on the left with the best English equivalent on the right.

Aggro                        a day off work
bickies                      preschool for 2-4 yr. olds
Chrissy                   sandwich
coldie                    cloudburst
compo                     hot water bottle
cossie                    pregnant
crumblie                  cookies
cuppa                     someone who is ill
dishy                     mushroom
footy                     rubber boots
garbo                     swim attire
gundabluey        a mythical creature akin to Bigfoot
gurgler                   elderly parents
hottie                    cup of tea
kindy                     a relative
lippie                    can of beer
mossie                    sunglasses
mushie                    garbage collector
preggers                  a farm
rego                      drain
relly                     attractive (said of a female)
sammie                    mosquito
sickie                    workmen's compensation
sunnies                   Australian Rules Football
wellies                   automobile registration
yowie                     Christmas
                          small plate

Part 2: Translate the following expressions into ordinary English:

Like a mad woman's breakfast
All wool and a yard wide
The Great Australian Salute
Darwin's Pyjamas
Japanese Safety Shoes
Fly a Kite
Waltzing Matilda
Extra Grouse
Dole Bludger
Dingo's Breakfast
Underground Mutton

So, "How'dya Go?"  (how did you do?)  Here are the answers:

Aggro:  aggressive
bickie:  biscuit (American: cookie)
Chrissy:  Christmas
coldie:  can of beer (also: Stubbie, Tinnie)
compo:  workmen's compensation
cossie:  swim attire
crumblies:  elderly parents
cuppa:  cup of tea
dishy:  attractive (said of a female)
footy:  Australian Rules Football
garbo:  garbage collector
gundabluey:  cloudburst
gurgler: drain
hottie:  hot water bottle
kindy:  kindergarten, preschool for 2-4 yr. olds
lippie:  lipstick
mossie:  mosquito
mushie:  mushroom
preggers:  pregnant
rego: automobile registration
relly: a relative
sammie:  sandwich
sickie: a day off work on "medical" pretexts
sunnies:  sunglasses
wellies:  wellington boots (rubber boots)
yowie: a (hopefully) mythical creature akin to Bigfoot

Like a mad woman's breakfast:   in disarray, chaotic, disorganized and slightly kooky
All wool and a yard wide:    honest and dependable
The Great Australian Salute:   waving one's hand in front of one's face to fend off the flies
Banana-bender:   a resident of Queensland, who presumably have nothing important to do
Darwin's Pyjamas:    e.g. your "birthday suit," worn on important occasions or just in the shower
Japanese Safety Shoes:   rubber sandals, "thongs" or flip-flops
God-botherer:   a religious person
Fly a Kite:   write a bad check
QANTAS:    Queensland and Northern Territories Air Service
Waltzing Matilda:   carrying a bedroll or pack and traveling by foot; living rough in the bush
Extra Grouse:    excellent, very good
Dole Bludger:   living off the welfare system by choice
Dingo's Breakfast:    no breakfast at all; nothing
Underground Mutton:   rabbit as the fall-back food source

For more on the Amazing, Hilarious and Baffling Australian language, I recommend:

Americans' Survival Guide to Australia and Australian-American Dictionary


Idiom of Oz - Funny Authentic Australian Language & Top Secret Travel Survival Guide

And finally,

Macquarie Australian Slang Dictionary: Complete & Unabridged

No comments:

Post a Comment