Australian Slang: 25 Essential Words and Phrases
I previously wrote about the unique pronunciation of Australians. Today I’m going to take a look at words or phrases that will confuse the hell out of you.
1. fairdinkum. I’m not kidding, this is a word. It means ‘authentic’. For example, “was $3.49 really the price of that mango?” “Fairdinkum!”
2. far out. This is not only said by surfers but middle-aged people, too. (Actually those two categories are not mutually exclusive, but you get the point.) This phrase has nothing to do with swimming or life-saving, as in, “did you get to that surfer before the shark?” “no, he was too far out” = incorrect. “Far Out” is said when you really can’t believe something.
3. shocking. This is not usually a good thing. It is something that disgusts you.
4. shits me to tears. *Slightly* on the vulgar side, this is a literal term which you can probably work out for yourself…but maybe only use it amongst friends.
5. cracker. This is not a racial slur on white people in Australia as it is elsewhere. ‘Down under’ this refers to a good joke that made you ‘crack up’.
6. nice as. I once tried to reprimand a student for saying this as I thought he was swearing, but no…this is a phrase that probably comes form “good as gold”, except it’s been short-formed like most Australian terms! Now you can say “good as” “nice as” “fair as” “true as”…go ahead, try it!
7. came good. This means something went well, and yes, it is ungrammatical but don’t be a snob.
8. how’r’ya’going. This is not an inquiry as to your method of travel. It is synonymous with North American “how are you doin’”.
9. fine. Rarely used for anything other than a ‘description’ (!) of the weather, this vague term is widely accepted and means that it is not going to rain, and hence the weather will be fine. Slightly comforting, don’t get your knickers in twist, mate.
10. how are you travelling. Also not necessarily used for transportation purposes.
11. mateship. Has nothing to do with sailboats or yacht crews. It is the Australian term for ‘friendship’ (a word they almost never use).
12. tosser. Actually this is a bit of a tricky one. Don’t use it around children. IT really does refer to the sexual habit of masturbation (*sigh) but it is usually used to describe yuppies…*ouch.
13. wagging. Has nothing to do with tails or dogs in fact. It means to ‘skip class’ or ‘play hooky’. If you use any other term you will be stared at with cross eyes.
14. pigeon hole. This is a teacher’s mailbox in a staff room. If you use anything other than ‘pigeon hole’ you will be stared at and ignored, or told off.
15. bin. Avoid the use of the word garbage at all costs especially if you are trying to get children to throw something out, as you are giving them good reason to ignore you. You throw ‘rubbish’ out in the ‘bin’ in Australia.
16. rubber. Much *safer* (tee-hee) than its usual school yard definition in Canada, this refers to an eraser
17. textas. Technically this should be spelt ‘texters’ but hey, you’ll never hear an ‘r’ pronounced in Australia so what’s the point. These are ‘markers’.
18. satday. Correct the children when they say this. They mean the same day as the one that comes after Friday, they are just forgetting the middle syllable.
19. nought. ‘zero’, I’m not a ‘maths’ teacher (they will correct you if you say ‘math’ but apparently ‘zero’ is not in fashion or correct.
20. ‘tea’. This is the equivalent of dinner in Canada. It is a full meal usually of ‘meat and three veg’, but more informal…you invite your friends around to ‘tea’ (it’s kind of like ‘country talk’) but you invite your guests to dinner.
21. ‘supper’ will leave you hungry. It is not a full meal, usually just wine and stand-around snacks (the kind of thing you have after you have had a quick dinner earlier in the night somewhere else).
22. ‘plate’. Hoo-hoo…tricky, very tricky. Ok, if someone invites you around and tells you to ‘bring a plate’, much the chagrin of many a Canuck this does not mean show up with a piece of china. It means bring a dish full of food as the nightly meal is going to be a potluck affair.
23. ‘mate.’ I put this in here because ‘yes, you’ve heard it’, but you really must understand how much to use it and how to use it. This is not as easy as it looks. Canadians usually come over tacking it on to “G’day” and they think they are ‘in the know’ but they look like ‘tossers’ (see #12). This is a term very close to Australians’ hearts. It means “friend”, “man” and “best buddy” all at once. So maybe just hold off until you ‘cotton on’ (a.k.a. ‘catch on’) to that one.
24. ‘footy’. If you are in Melbourne, this means AFL (Australian Football League–a.k.a. “Aussie Rules” to those who do not watch it…so watch your use of this because not watching footy is something you do not want to admit in a Victorian’s company. If you are in NSW, this could refer to rugby. And if you are elsewhere it could even refer to ‘football’ or ‘soccer’. It’s very contentious, but just go with ‘footy’ if you are talking about AFL and ‘soccer’ if you are talking about ‘football’ and if anyone tries to ‘hang shit’ on you (i.e. ‘make fun’ of you) tell them you are for Melbourne, ‘barrack’ for The Saints and they can ‘get stuffed’.
25. ‘Take the piss out of…’. To make fun of something.
PS. Do NOT use the word “root” or wear any “Roots” clothing. It is slang for having casual sex. That is, you do not “root” for a football club, or you are sleeping with all of their players. You ‘barrack’ for a football club. I’d avoid “cheer”, too, because you sound like a ‘wanker’ (another term to avoid around kids—see #12). (It’s insane but just see how much you use ‘root’ when you are having your first football conversation and trying to be polite (=opposite effect!)!
PPS. The most effective ‘maths’ teachers in Melbourne will ‘do sums’ revolving around footy scores with their students on Monday morning—because all of the kids will have spent the weekend watching the games!
PPPS. Get a scarf, get a football club and move to Melbourne!