Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Adrians, Al Capone, and the Aussie salute

Aussiespeak needs an understanding of the Australian language, its idioms, terms, words, phrases...
Let's say you’re an American male on a visit to Australia and you meet this dinki-di Aussie sheila. You click, and she wonders if you can meet her later, say at 5pm, near the lifts by the chemist’s on the first floor of the Oz Building.
"No worries, mate," you say, having already picked up that Aussie expression. And, yes, you know that lifts are elevators and the chemist’s is the pharmacy or drugstore.
A really good start to what could develop into something great.
And so at 5 o’clock...
Before it’s 5pm you rush into the Oz Building, which you discover to be a shopping centre. You had a map and it was easy to find.
The elevators are there all right but there’s no drugstore. Well, even a true blue Aussie sheila can get her bearings wrong.
So you wait by the elevators, and the minutes tick by.
By 6pm you just know you’ve been stood up...
But what about her?
Well, she was there before 5pm. She was waiting near the lifts by the chemist’s on the first floor but when you didn’t arrive by 6pm, she just knew she’d been stood up.
Unfortunately, the American knows the ground floor of a building as the first floor. Any Australian knows that the first floor of a building is the first floor up from the ground floor, or what the American would know as the second floor.
The moral of this little story is: Know a little bit of the local language.

So I’ve been thinking about Australian slang lately. I know we speak the same language—well, more or less. However, as with any foreign language, we are going to have to learn a new vocabulary. Aussie (there’s your first “Aussie” slang word) slang is so much more colorful than American slang!

It seems that the Aussies have a penchant for shortening every word they possibly can. Such as ambo (ambulance), bikkie (biscuit, which I think means what we call a cookie), doco (documentary), and of course, Oz (Australia). I’ll leave you to figure out reffo and rego and gone troppo. They also create some off-the-wall (is that American slang?) words like yobbo and whinge and whiteant (which is a verb, by the way). One of my favorites is aerial ping-pong (Aussie Rules Football). Another is shark-biscuit. You can probably guess the meaning of THAT one! There are several places on the internet where you can go to translate Aussie slang. Most are just lists of words (,,, and

But there are other more interesting places like this one from the Australian government no less that gives you a history of some of their slang. Even most Americans have heard of song “Waltzing Matilda” but I’d venture that very few have any idea what the words mean. If you want to “celebrate[s] the things that make Australia unique,” go to this site.

I’d bet there are lots of things we Americans say that have the Aussies scratching their heads about!

I’m also trying to read some books that will give me a feel for Australia. Although we won’t be in Australia for long (but we’re going to try to come home from there using a pass on United Airlines so we may be there longer than we plan! <g>) we will be spending a lot of time with a lot of Australians and I’d like to be able to carry on intelligent conversations with them about their country. Or at least semi-intelligent conversations! Randy & I are also REALLY looking forward to being out of the US during some of the election cycle. And to hear from people outside the US about what they think about our politics and politicians! Or maybe I DON’T want to hear what they have to think about our politics and politicians.

One book I’m reading now is We of the Never-Never. Another I want to re-read is Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes. I’m open to suggestions for other books about Australia.

Probably I’ll hear from some Aussies if I’ve screwed up any of their slang! If any Australians want translations of OUR slang try,, and

So what about Adrians, Al Capone, and the Aussie salute? You'll have to look it up.


  1. Great fun and an interesting intro to a new language.

  2. Excellent blog entry Pam - I really enjoyed reading it on Australia Day. Might see you in a fortnight?? Not really - a bit longer than that! I know that we have to learn to pronounce the letter "r" in a word - have heard comments that we leave it out when it should be there & we put it in when it's not - Australiar!

  3. New Yorkers leave out the "r" in words ("e.g. "New Yorkah") and add it to words that don't have it (e.g. "sofer" for "sofa" or "soder" for "soda") and we understand them! Most of the time, anyway!