Big Question Marks

Thursday, October 29, 2009

20 Australian-isms we miss (and a few we don't)

The other day, I was flipping through my thesaurus-- not that I flip through my thesaurus as a pastime or anything, that would be nerdy!-- for another word for "grow" and, well, I stumbled upon "grouse". "Growwwwwse!" A little voice in my head chimes, with an Aussie accent. Unfortunately, my thesaurus didn't list the Aussie slang meaning of "grouse", which we only ever heard in Melbourne and was a favourite word of ours while living over there. While "grouse" here in Canada refers to a funny-looking bird, or can mean 'to complain'; in Melbourne, it meant "excellent". Here are some other Aussie-isms we're sad to have left behind (but still secretly use at home):

Heaps: Meaning 'lots', or 'very'. As in, "There were heaps of people at the game." Or "Yeah, it's heaps good."

Bogan: Another one we heard lots (heaps) of times in Melbourne, describing an 'unsophisticated person', sort of the Aussie equivalent to 'trailer trash'. "That style is really bogan."

Top shelf: The best. Like, "Megan is top shelf."

Fair dinkum: This was once defined to us by a teenage girl working at the IGA, home of 'Fair Dinkum Prices' as, "It's like saying, 'bloody oath'." [insert blank looks from grocery-shopping Canadians.] "Or like, 'True', or 'For real'. Uhhh, only old people say this." Maybe that's why it's so much fun to say.

Stickybeak: Nosy person. "My, that Bessie is a stickybeak!"

Good on ya!: A great way to say "Well done!" We still use this one a lot.

Champers: Champagne (though not the true-blue French kind, more like sparkling wine). As in, "I can't wait to have champers at the Melbourne Cup!"

On the piss: Drunk. As in, "I got on the piss last night."

Belly full of piss: Hung over. While we first worked in Port Douglas as housekeepers, we were appalled to learn this was a perfectly good excuse not to come into work on a Saturday. "Where's Amy?" the boss asked. "Oh, she's got a belly full of piss," said Amy's partner-in-crime, Anneliese. "Ahhhh," said the boss. "So hopefully she'll be in tomorrow then?"

Taking the piss: Making fun of someone (or 'ripping on someone'). i.e . 'Andy fell down the stairs on the way into the pub last night, and everyone spent the entire night taking the piss out of him.'

Bottle shop: The place where you buy booze. Also sometimes just called 'the Bottle-O', though this is the name of one of the many bottle shop chains around. It's so confusing to get back to the highly specific--and separate-- Beer Store and LCBO. Not that we ever really grasped the drive-thru bottle shop concept (what's so wrong with just shutting off the car and walking into a shop?).

Furphy: A rumour. As in, "That bloke's telling a furphy!" Here's a funny little bit of history on the furphy.

The Bush: The countryside, or anywhere outside the city. As in, "He had a house in the bush."

Dunny: Outhouse, outdoor toilet. We were privileged to have one of our own for a few weeks-- complete with gargantuan spiders inside-- while living "in the bush".

Bunyip: 'Mythical bush spirit' is how our Lonely Planet defines it. We were always hoping to meet one.

Flat out: Very busy or fast. To quote one of our managers at the bank: "I was flat out like a lizard drinking!" Hint: It has absolutely nothing to do with lizards being kind of low to the ground.

Hoon: A hooligan, a punk; or more specifically, someone who makes a sport out of street racing. I was tickled pink whenever one of my news stories received a headline like "Local hoons out in full force Saturday night" when writing for the Port Douglas newspaper. Also can be used as a verb to describe cruising in a vehicle: "I'm bored. Let's go for a hoon." Street racing is actually getting to be a huge problem in Oz, and governments are implementing 'Anti-hoon legislation' as we speak. Too bad the word is so much fun!

Ute: A vehicle that's half pick-up truck, half car. Short for 'utility vehicle', the ute is everywhere in rural Australia (including in the hands of hoons), unfortunately minus the kitsch factor its American cousin, the El Camino, has.

Knackered: Tired. As in, "What a long list. I sure am knackered from writing this blog."


And then there's a few words we don't miss:

Bundy: Short for Bundaberg rum, a specialty of Bundaberg, Queensland. Its polar bear logo (come on, polar bears? In Australia?) was everywhere in Oz, including on numerous men who felt the need to wear Bundy gear from head to toe, and on bumper stickers. As in, "Get me a Bundy and Coke!"

Vego: Short for vegetarian. Even more annoying is "vegie" for vegetable (where did the other "g" go?)

Tomato sauce: What the Aussies call ketchup. Talk about a confusing first grocery store experience!

Rubbish bin, or 'bin': We call it a garbage can. It made for plenty of hilariously confusing "Who's on first?" kind of moments in the offices we worked in when we would ask if we should just file this or that document into one of plastic bins on someone's desk. "Trays, these are trays!" we would get. ¡Ay ay ay!

Thongs: The Kiwis (New Zealanders) call them 'jandals'; us North Americans call them flip-flops. No matter how long we had stayed in Oz, we could never, ever get used to calling our poor shoes by this name!

If you're craving a bit more Aussie, be sure to watch Australia (the movie with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman). We just watched it again for nostalgia's sake-- the first time we watched it was in an open-air cinema in tropical Broome, WA, right near where the movie took place-- and it was just as awesome as our first viewing, though without any planes flying overhead or geckoes on the screen this time around. -D.


Megan said...

Megan is SO top shelf. <3 and miss you guys, like, heaps xx

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Anonymous said...

I am an aussie queenslander passing through. Sort of interesting reading your collection of responses to our aussie slang. Fair dinkum is more an unbelievable response to something. "Fair Dinkum!!" like "Seriously? Thats unbelievable!!" much the same meaning for "Bloody Oath!" which more than likely originates from the convict settlers days. You have to say both like you just learnt pink and green hippos are responsible for stealing your left socks. :) "True?!" and " For real?!" is more of a rhetorical response to something you think is mildly unbelievable such as "The governments answer to saving the milk farmers is to hike milk prices with a 10cent levy." "For real?!"....maybe followed by "Fair dinkum"..... :)

Glad you found some aussie charm amongst the politically incorrect slang we seem to love so much :)

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