Everyone is familiar with the concept of “Throwing a Shrimp on the Barbie,” but not everyone fully understands what it means. The phrase has become so warped in the public sphere that many Australians attribute it to cultural cringe. It’s sad to say this, but that isn’t the only phrase to originate from Australia that has been misrepresented. Australia can be viewed as the world’s biggest island or its smallest continent. Either way, there’s no mistaking the rich culture and exotic environment.
Australia has become a popular tourist destination over the years, giving people the opportunity to behold its architectural wonders, juxta-positioned with the wild out-backs. With travelers flocking in by the hundreds, people must be able to communicate with the locals effectively.
The language barrier can be a key hindrance to travel. Fortunately, many Australians are English fluent, thanks to earlier British settlement. But as with all parts of the world, Australia has lingo and expressions unique to her people. What can make these even more confusing is that many of the phrases are peppered with just enough English to leave you wondering if you heard right.
Beyond going on vacation, you might have that one Australian friend that you’ve been meaning to get to know better. Understanding the vocabulary is one way to forge a solid and lasting bond.
Now that we’ve established how awesome it would be for you to immerse yourself in the world of Aussie Lingo, why don’t we get right down to business? Here’s a couple of words and phrases that are sure to score you extra brownie points with your close Aussie friends.
- Fair Go, Mate. (Fair Suck of the Sauce Bottle): This particular phrase attained popularity because of its political use by the former prime minister, Kevin Rudd. It generally means that one would like to be treated fairly. “Fair Suck of the Sauce Bottle” owes its origin to struggling Australian families; At moments where they would share a meat-based dinner and flavor said meal with tomato sauce out of a bottle.
- Dog’s Breakfast: This phrase doesn’t refer to food, contrary to what the name would suggest. It is mainly used by parents when describing their kids’ lives. It means their lives are chaotic, messy, in shambles, thoughtless, and so on.
- Tell Him He’s Dreaming: A phrase used in business deals. It means that the other party isn’t offering a fair deal.
- No Worries, Mate. She’ll Be Right: A comment on existentialism. It typically refers to life as a ‘she’ and reflects the optimism that everything will be just fine.
- A Few Stubbies Short of a Six-Pack: This particular expression should speak for itself. Beer is usually sold in packs of six. Anything less is considered incomplete. So, when this expression is used, it typically means that a person is quite dumb.
- Ripsnorter: Sports terminologies are bound to creep their way into any lingo. Aussie slang is no exception. When a person or a team has Ripsnorter of a game, it usually means that they are playing very well.
- Dog’s Eye: This is a particularly interesting one. There’s often some speculation on what goes into a meat pie. When you’re having one and it kind of looks like it’s staring back at you, it could be a dog’s eye. It could be anything, really, but people love their rhymes.
- Ocker, Yobbo: We all have that one friend that particularly enjoys the sound of his voice. A person who talks a lot is often referred to as a “Yobbo.” Now, when said person has a distinct Australian twang to his accent, he is referred to as an “Ocker.”
- Bastards: No, not a child born out of wedlock. This term is typically used to refer to the British. Unsurprising, given the history of both sides. It can also mean a person that refuses to play fair.
- Shark Biscuit: This refers to children at the beach. You have the appreciate the humor, dark as it is.
- What’s the John-Dorry?: This is a pretty cool way of asking for an update on the situation. Even more remarkable than “What’s the 411?” John-Dorry is a type of fish found around the Sydney harbor, and it also happens to rhyme with ‘Story.’ Very convenient.
- Put a Sock in It: Used when you would like someone to stop talking.
- Do The Harry: This refers to the former prime minister, Harold Holt, who disappeared off the coast of Portsea, Victoria, while swimming. When you have to leave, you’re doing the Harry.
- Blokes and Sheilah’s: An endearing term for men and women.
- Not Pissing on Someone When They’re on Fire: This phrase is used to express a deep-seated hatred. It means that you hate a person so much that you wouldn’t even consider pissing on them to put them out if they were on fire.
- Crickey! Blimey!: Two words often used to express shock.
- Oi for Drongos and Galahs: This repeated three times is a part of what has to be one of the craziest national cries I have ever heard. Used on its own, however, it expresses one’s disagreement with another’s actions, especially when you think they are doing something stupid.
- Bushman’s Handkerchief: A bushman’s handkerchief refers to the bad habit of using our hands to wipe the snot from our noses. An elegant expression for an otherwise unelegant action.
- Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other: This is primarily used in a situation where the result of the outcome is uncertain. It means that there is a fifty percent chance that the choice you make could affect the situation’s outcome.
- Onya Bike!: A not so nice way of telling a person that you want nothing to hear of what they have to say, whether or not they have a good explanation for why they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Smoko, Garbo, Bowlo, Bottlo, Arvo: Words that have been shortened by adding an “o” to the ending. “Smoko” means you’re having a smoke. A “Gabro” is a garbage man. A local bowling community is a “Bowlo.” Even “Afternoon” has somehow been shortened to “Arvo.”
- Bogan: An uncultured individual.
- Have a Go, You Mug!: Yet another sporting term. It is yelled out by the fans watching live when they notice a team isn’t taking risks or being creative with their plays and goals.
- Gone Walkabout: A phrase that is used by Aussies that love to travel. When a person has gone on a long journey or is away, for the time being, they are usually said to have “Gone Walkabout.”
- One For The Road: There’s nothing quite like a relaxing evening down at the bar after a long week of work. And nothing hits harder than the last drink before calling it a night. This last drink is usually called ‘One For The Road.’
- Root: “When a man loves a woman very, very much….” I’m just kidding. Root does refer to sexual intercourse, but I don’t think the word will be handy when explaining the birds and the bees to your little one.
- Slab: You know what hits harder than a six-pack of beer? A twenty-four pack! But why ask for a twenty-four pack of beer down at the supermarket when you can just ask for a slab?
- Mozzie: Several unique creatures call the out-back home, none as common and annoying as the mosquito. Don’t be fooled by the adorable nickname. Those little blood-suckers are a force to be reckoned with.
- Roo: The adorable marsupials are a symbol of Australia’s fighting spirit. The boxing Kangaroo dates back to the late 1800s, and while they don’t actually don gloves to duke it out, the males do engage in a boxing-like ritual during mating season. Roo is a shorter, more endearing term for them.
- Have a Captain Cook: When a person wants you to take a look at something or someone.
- Rellie: Relatives; we all have them, some more loved than others.
- Thongs: No, not those kinds of thongs. If a dear friend asks you to put on a thong, he’s most likely asking you to wear some flip-flops.
- True Blue: A genuine Australian.
- Woop Woop: A funny way to talk about the middle of nowhere.
- Crook: This can mean one of two things. It could mean you’re angry or you’re ill.
- Dag: If you thought being called a nerd in class was bad, imagine being called a Dag in front of the girl you fancy. A Dag is a person who’s a bit of a bookworm.
- Booze Bus: This concept should be packed up and shipped to the west. A Booze Bus is a police vehicle used to catch drunk drivers.
- Accadacca: Rock fans may have heard this at one point or another. The Aussie way of calling out the rock band, AC/DC.
- Chockers: Something or someplace that is filled to the brim.
- Sickie: Nothing quite like taking a sick day from work or school. The rest feels terrific. It might be a hassle to type or write out the entire thing. “Sickie” will do just fine for your Australian friends.
As you probably noticed, I thoroughly explained these exquisite phrases while shining a light on their origins. Lingo such as this often has stories attached to them that go unnoticed. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with where all these phrases came from to understand them better and create new meanings for each word and phrase.
I hope you were able to learn something from this. Armed with this list, you’re sure to impress your close friends and maybe even the friendly tour guide you encounter during your journey through Australia. Best of luck on your trip, and here’s to learning something new every day. Cheers, Mate!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Do I need to understand Australian slang to travel there?
A: Not exactly. The point of learning what these phrases and words mean is to prepare you for the off-chance that you do encounter their use while in Australia. It could also help you make friends with the locals and ultimately enhance your visit. All that said, plain English will do just fine.
Q: Will using these phrases be considered offensive?
A: It depends on the context. As I said, various elements of Australian culture have been misrepresented in popular media. It is vital to understand what phrase or word you are using first and ensure that you are using them correctly. That’s the entire point of this list.
Q: Are Australian Slang Phrases another language?
A: Not really. Many of the words and phrases are built on the English language. While they may not hold the same meaning as the words they are based on; I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a new language.