Understanding the Aussie slang

by IELTS Australasia — March 14th, 2018

When Suresh first moved to Melbourne in 2002 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 was walking 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. Suresh, however, was left wondering why he was asked about his mode of transport when Harry had no intention of driving him into town. Days later Suresh told another friend about his encounter with Harry and finally realised what Harry really meant to say was “How are you?”

American comedian, Arj Baker, is no stranger to Australia as he has been part of the comedy scene as far back as 1998. 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.

He believes that in Australia, you can make up a word and get away with it. He tested this theory by chucking a made-up word into a conversation. 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.”

Like Suresh and Arj, many of us have our own funny “Australian slang word” anecdotes. Read some memorable stories below:

People from all over the world have given us the story about their favourite Aussie slang word. Click on each word to read the story.

Bogan
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 in the pub and was immediately shushed by my friends, 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 considered unrefined or unsophisticated.

Hundreds and thousands
Ratna, 1 year in Australia, from India

When one of my colleagues was making bread for National Fairy Bread Day she used white bread and those colourful sprinkles on them. I asked how she made it and she explained, “Use white bread, apply butter and hundreds and thousands.” I thought 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 colors.

Arvo
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?

Arvo: Afternoon

Thongs
Josephine, 5 years in Australia, from the Philippines.

Years ago, I back-packed around Europe and 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”, I found myself wondering “Sweet as what…?”. When a confused look and 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

I actually thought Woop Woop was a real town. Heard it being mentioned in many conversations and wondered why so many people lived there, especially since everyone implied it was so far away from everywhere. Many often remarked, for example, “John will not be joining 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.

Source: Wikipedia, The Sydney Morning Herald and YouTube