Migrants to Australia naturally have difficulty mastering the language if they are non-English speakers, but even those who are, can have a problem with the way Australians speak due to the colloquial nature of our language, especially in places where people adopt slang as a big part of their communication. Vice-versa, we can encounter the same issue when visiting America, Canada and the UK, and closer to home in New Zealand, or dare I say other parts of Australia itself. Some slang has survived for so long that we don’t even recognise it as such — take the word cop, for example, which derives from the abbreviation of Constable On Patrol. In my youth, you would refer to a person who was nonchalant and at ease with life as cool. Now, youth say someone or something is sick, which is about opposite in meaning to the word’s intended meaning of ill or nauseous. They also say wicked and bad in a similar way. We can describe a physically attractive person as hot, saucy, or sexy. Money has been described in so many ways — dosh, dough, slices, pesos, etc.
Some of my favourite colloquial expressions come from the people of rural and outback areas. I had a friend who spoke of farmers as dirt doctors, but there are many terms that have become as famous as the Aussie meat pie. Here’s just a sample:
If we think someone is stupid, we might describe them as a few stubbies short of a six-pack, a few sandwiches short of a picnic, or having kangaroos up the top paddock. The ‘stubbies’ are small bottles of beer, and the ‘top paddock’ refers to the brain. You might also call them drongos and galahs after two of our native birds. I don’t know how the poor drongo was given that slight, but I have witnessed how the galah, which is a type of parrot, will fly off a road from approaching traffic only to fly back across in front of the cars and be killed.
Rhyming slang also has its place in Australia as well as back in the ‘motherland’ England. We say we are going to hit the frog and toad to mean that we are about to get in our car and drive on the road. Another example is Oxford Scholar for ‘dollar’.
Let’s look at some English slang terms:
Chin wag: To have a chat with someone
Spend a penny: Go to the toilet
Up the Duff: pregnant
And some American slang to finish it off:
Trash: To destroy
Put up your dukes: Fight with your fists
Shoot the breeze: To have a chat with someone
John Hancock: Signature
Monday morning quarterback: Criticise from a position of hindsight.
This is just a sample of the slang that people use. It can create headaches for newcomers who simply don’t understand, as the words are contrary to their original meanings or used in a way that disguises the meaning. But it does add to the ‘colour’ or a region’s culture. I ‘bet’ you will know a few slang terms yourself. Why not cast a few this way and share.