Tuesday, 17 June 2014

"Aussie" slang? Do we really

talk "like that"?

With some amusement I read a list of Australian slang terms being provided by the organisers of an international conference in my home city.
Yes, some of the people coming will not speak English as their first language so perhaps these are necessary, or are they?
The list started with "G'day" and yes, some people use it but they are equally likely to say "hello". "G'day mate" is not likely to be used to be used except to a friend - and probably between men who work in trades. I don't know anyone who uses the term in a general way.
Then there was, "How ya goin?" - "How are you?" Mmm - some might use this but "How's things?" and "How's ya doin' " might also be used. All of them will be used by younger people. Most older people conference participants will mix with will ask, "How are you?"
Then there was "dunny" - the toilet, the bathroom (for Americans) or just "the loo". Any of the latter are more likely than the former.
Women are not usually referred to as "sheila" or "sheilas" and, although you might hear "he's a good sort of bloke" it is just as likely to be "he's a nice sort of chap" or a "good man".
Children are not usually referred to as "ankle biters" either - even toddlers - but it was on the list.
There was "Aussie salute" - for waving flies away. I have never heard that used although I have heard of it.
"Make a blue" is used to refer to making a mistake and yes, I do hear that occasionally.
"Bob's your uncle" is translated as "here you go" which is not how I would put it. I would suggest it was more "that's sorted out" in relation to action taken which is about to be taken.
"Dinkum" or "fair dinkum" - true. Yes, that is sometimes used but not as often as people think.
Then there is "dummy spit" or, more likely, "spit the dummy" - said to be when someone gets very upset - or perhaps when an adult behaves like a child having a tantrum.
We do talk about giving someone a "fair go" - a chance but it is an opportunity on reasonable terms.
"Have a lend" is translated as taking advantage of someone and there may be people who use it like that but I have heard it as meaning to borrow something (usually on unfair terms).
"Pull your head in" does mean "mind your own business". If said as "Pull your woolly head in" though it means "you haven't got the right idea so stop talking about it" - and it is usually meant in a joking sort of way.
"Shoot through" as in "I have to shoot through" means "leave" but it is not as common as it once was. "I have to go" is much more likely.
And then there was "ute" - a utility vehicle. The "ute" is mostly a farm vehicle with a cabin that seats two and an open tray at the back which can carry anything and everything from the dogs to farm equipment, a load of hay or a motorbike. Yes, that is used.
"Bring a plate" is also used. It means "bring a plate of food to share at a communal meal". This is a particularly common way of catering for an event in the country but it also occurs in the city.
"Smoko" is less common than it used to be. It is not widely used in the city but is still used in some places in "the bush". Smoko was once the cigarette break for shearers - at which they also ate morning or afternoon tea.
And, they were not on the list but yes "the bush" - that part of rural Australia which is not considered "the outback". The bush is more densely populated and there are more trees. There are farms rather than cattle or sheep stations or they will be areas of national park. There is a term sometimes used "no use beating about/around the bush" - which can mean persisting with something that is a waste of time.
And, something unique to this state - a "stobie pole" - the poles used to carry utility lines above ground. They are cement and steel structures designed by a man called "Stobie" to overcome the problem with white ants.
I suspect however that most of the terms on the list will not be used but the Americans who come will be more confused by what we refer to as the "boot" of the car  and they refer to as "the trunk" and the difference between "biscuit" (a scone here) and "cookie" (a biscuit here).
Little differences in language can be far more confusing than slang.


jeanfromcornwall said...

I have just formulated a theory that these slang words and phrases are often used in scripts for dramas - inserted to indicate that the particular character is Australian, without the need for any further back story.
Anyway, "stop beating about the bush" could just as well come about from English driven-game hunting.

Anonymous said...

I find that overseas visitors love hearing some of our slang, even if they don't know what it means. I can remember saying G'day to an English lady and barely survived the bear hug I got. I usually translate if I use a slang phrase if I get a questioning look from anybody, which can even include city people visiting country areas!