When Suresh first moved to Melbourne, he often wondered if Aussies had a language of their own. He knew his English was on par with native speakers. But he began to question his ability to understand the language after one week in the Land Down Under. “You have to be attentive when you come to Australia because an entirely new word is created by abbreviating or lengthening it,” added Suresh.
Originally from India, he describes a funny incident while waiting for a friend at his university’s library lawn. An Aussie student, Harry, who walked past the library, spotted Suresh, and asked, “How ya going?”
Surprised that his friend was concerned about how he would make his way into town, Suresh answered, “I am walking there.” Puzzled, Harry just smiled awkwardly and walked away. However, Suresh wondered why Harry asked about his mode of transport. After all, he had no intention of driving him into town. Then, days later Suresh told another friend about his encounter with Harry and finally realised what Harry really meant to say was “How are you?”
Like Suresh and Arj, many of us have our own funny “Australian slang word” anecdotes. Read some memorable stories about words like “Bogan” or “Thongs” or “Whoop Whoop” below.
Derly, 13 years in Australia, from Colombia
I was with some friends at a pub and wanted to know the meaning of the word “bogan”. The pub was very noisy so I asked my friends very loudly, “What is a bogan?” I got death stares from people around me. My friend immediately shushed me, with a promise to explain later. “At that time, I had no idea what I did wrong but I realised later how tactless it was for me to ask that question in a pub!”
- Bogan: Australian slang for a person whose speech, clothing, attitude and behaviour are unrefined or unsophisticated.
- Hundreds and thousands
Hundreds and thousands
Ratna, 1 year in Australia, from India
When one of my colleagues made bread for National Fairy Bread Day. She used white bread and those colourful sprinkles on them. So, I asked how she made it and she explained: “Use white bread, apply butter and hundreds and thousands.” The instructions were fairly simple to follow but had one question. I asked, “Hundreds and thousands of what?” This sent everybody into fits of laughter!
- Hundreds and thousands: Nonpareils, a decorative confectionery of tiny balls made with sugar and starch, traditionally an opaque white but now available in many colours.
Jenna, 10 months in Australia, from the USA
Someone once said to me, “Have a nice arvo.” And all I could think was, “I’m not planning on eating an avocado today and even if I was how would they know that?” So, do you know what “arvo” means?
- Arvo: Afternoon
Josephine, 5 years in Australia, from the Philippines.
Years ago, I back-packed around Europe. And, I stayed for a few days at a youth hostel. I opted to share a room and ended up with two students from Australia as roommates. The toilets are communal. So, my new Aussie friend asked if she could borrow my thongs to shower. I kept silent for a few seconds as I could not comprehend why she would want to use my thong (I assumed she meant underwear) and furthermore, why in the shower? She understood my reaction and quickly explained what “thongs” meant! Phew!
- Thongs: flip-flops
- Sweet as!
Raj, 4 years in Australia, from Malaysia
When my colleague described the food served at lunch as “sweet as.” And, I found myself wondering “Sweet as what…?”. Since no explanation came my way, I realised it was one of those unique Australian slang terms that I needed time to get my head around.
- Sweet as: awesome or good, is used to intensify the phrase. Though sweet as is the most common, any adjective can replace before the “as” – such as lucky as, dark as, creative as and beautiful as.
- Woop woop
Neena, 4 years in Australia, from Malaysia
Now, I actually thought Woop Woop was a real town. I heard it in many conversations. And, I always wondered why so many people lived there, especially since everyone implied it was so far away from everywhere. For example, many people often remarked, “John won’t join us for sure, he lives out in Woop Woop!” I actually “Googled” the location but was directed to a gift shop. My mum set me straight months later when I asked her about this mysterious town.
- Woop Woop: isolated place, a name for any small town located far away.
- Goon bag
Chin Wei, 3 years in Australia, from Singapore
I found the Aussie slang unique and hard to understand. And, some words and phrases left me totally baffled. As a result, I literally had no idea what most people were saying to me. One day, at a social dorm event, a local student suggested that we all chip in to get a goon bag. I politely declined and said, “No thank you, I don’t think I need a new bag. What kind of bag is it anyway?” Everyone who heard what I said just burst out laughing! I eventually found out why they thought it was funny.
- Goon bag: Wine, usually cheap, sold in a cask.
- Carry on like a pork chop
Carry on like a pork chop
Maran, 4 years in Australia, from India
My personal trainer at the gym pushes me hard. As a result, he makes sure that I stick to my fitness goals. “Just one more rep! You’re already in pain, work for it!”, he usually says. Then, one day after a long session, I was exhausted. And, I gave up while ranting about how hard he is on me. He said, “Oh come on, stop carrying on like a pork chop.”
I was offended because I thought that he was pointing out that I was overweight. And that I looked for an excuse to not finish my workout. Now, I understand that he meant well and wanted me to be healthy. But, I certainly didn’t appreciate him saying something unpleasant about my body size. So, I told him off. However, I felt dumb as a doornail when he explained what the expression really meant. We laughed it off but I was so embarrassed.
- Carry on like a pork chop: To behave foolishly, to make a fuss, to complain, or to rant.
American comedian, Arj Baker, is no stranger to Australia. As far back as 1998, Arj was part of the Australian comedy scene. And, every year he makes his way to our shores to enjoy the warm weather and take pleasure in our sense of sarcasm and unique Aussie expressions. For example, he joins this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
He believes that in Australia, you can make up a word and get away with it. Arj tested this theory by chucking a made-up word into a conversation. How? He went into five furniture stores. Every time the shopkeeper came up to him and said, “Can I help you find anything today sir?”, he would answer “No thanks, I am just having a little squidjerididge.” Five out of five shopkeepers did not even blink and just said, “No problem mate, let me know if you need anything.”
Okay, maybe we’re a bit biased but Australia is an amazing country. We’ve got bubbling and exciting major cities, picturesque landscapes, pristine beaches, and a fantastic climate. In terms of culture fun activities, have a look at what Adelaide in South Australia has to offer. Or read why Melbourne is the most livable city in the world.
If you’re coming to Australia, there are a few things you should know. We have a lot of information available from moving to Australia, living in Australia, or studying here.