What you perceive to be an insult is probably someone being super friendly. Just smile!
If you have been following my Australia travel blog, you will know that I love Oz and its people. My next piece is slightly different for you today. It’s about the Australian language. Everyone knows that they speak English. Furthermore, they speak the same English all over the nation – the regional dialects do not differ too much and there is a mild variation in each State. Australians understand one another very easily – just as they understand any person from any other country in the world who speaks English.
So why could it be that when someone who speaks English and is a visitor in this amazing country, we have a difficulty understanding Australians – even after we have had a few days to tune ourselves into the blending of words that they use and the native ‘twang’.
We were at a celebratory ‘barbie’ in the backyard of my relatives, when I realised that it was all very confusing! There were ‘the boys’ talking about sport and ‘pokies’ and the single ones chatting about the ‘chicks they wanna root’ and the girls (chicks) were ‘chewing the rag’. I was asked to throw some more ‘snags’ and ‘chook’ on the ‘barbie’.
The ‘mozzies’ and ‘blowies’ were weaving in and out of the smoke, divebombing our untanned limbs and taking a ‘feed’. Apparently Poms are ‘good on the chew’!
There were a few ‘eskies’ stuffed with ‘stubbies’ for the ‘arvo’ and whenever someone dipped into it, they shouted “better have one of these bu**ers before the trouble starts, eh!”
I found it fascinating, as well as confusing as heck! It was also a source of entertainment for our family and friends whenever a confused expression crossed our faces…
“Hey, blue. How are the ‘billies’ doing? Did you speak to them this ‘arvo’?” I was asked. Blue? Billies? OMG, what should I say?
Helped by my brother in law, this sentence was translated. Blue is a trusted friend (can also mean argument, or a colour, or mistake, or fed up or even an adult movie – but on this occasion was directed at me as ‘trusted friend’). Billies are children, and arvo is the afternoon.
I was able to respond that, due to the ten hour time difference, the facetime calls to the kids (I say kids, they range between 22 and 28) back home in England would be made later that evening. ‘Ripper!’ was the reply. I assumed that meant ‘good’
It clearly became aware to me that I needed to learn all of these ‘fair dinkum’ Australian words if I was going to be able to communicate properly. We Brits are not used to and quite simply are unfamiliar with any penchant for inventing colloquialisms for each and every particular aspect of life. The spoken Australian word was quite astonishing!
Some words had more than one meaning, and each one very different to the other. (As you can see from the word ‘blue’ above). They particularly like to use the word sh*t for many many different meanings. When someone said that “..it made me crack the sh*ts” I thought that he had an upset tummy and needed the bathroom immediately. But, no. This phrase means that they made him ‘lose his temper’.
If something is sh*t house, it means that it is rubbish. If something is sh*t hot, it means its brilliant / great. A sh*t heap usually refers to a rubbish car. A sh*t kicker is someone who does menial tasks, not worth a pinch of goat sh*t – just means its not worth it. If something is difficult you may hear “it’s like pushing sh*t up a hill with a sharp stick”, and if someone is talking a load of rubbish then you may hear “if bullsh*t was music, you would be a big brass band on your own!”
There are many, many more uses for this word, in fact I could dedicate the whole blog to it, however you have probably had enough of this word by now.
Another thing that Aussies do, is to take delight in the art of giving praise in a backhanded manner. A lot of what could be misconstrued as unkind or spiteful is actually to be taken in fun and expect friends on the receiving end of such phrases to ‘cop it sweet’ when they say things like:
‘Stupid old bas**rd’ or ‘Look what the cat dragged in!’
Both are meant to be friendly and taken well. What you perceive to be an insult is probably someone being super friendly. Just smile!
Many Aussies don’t swear (apparently..) but so much of the Australian English is punctuated by crude words. Aussie English has very little regard for conforming to conventionally accepted standards, preferring down to earth, direct and colourful. This is what I LOVE about Aussies!
Many words, phrases and indeed people’s names are shortened. For example ‘bullsh*t’ will be ‘bull’. Daniel, Brett, Michael, will all be shortened to Danno, Bretto and Micko. And if they are referring to the man next door, the friend around the corner, the man who they passed in the street and greeted with a G’day, infact any man who isn’t there at the time of this particular ‘convo’ he will be known as Ol’ Mate. For a woman, from the aforesaid, she will be known as Ol’ Love.
If ‘Danno’ is from New Zealand, for instance, he will be referred to as ‘Kiwi Danno’, if he likes football, he is ‘Soccer Danno’ etc. I think you get my drift.
And…then there’s the word “p*ss”.
To us Brits, it is simply a slang term for ‘needing to take a pee’. But in Australia it has other meanings, of one which I shall mention. We were at a pub in Denham at Shark Bay and as we walked towards it, I saw a large blackboard and chalked upon it were the words, very boldly
“WE SERVE COLD P*SS” OMG, really??
I almost gagged! Upon questioning the sign at the bar, I was then told that this is a word that every ‘Aussie bloke’ uses for “COLD BEER!” Who would have known?! Haha.
There is a game that the Aussies like to play, as they enjoy a bet. It is called two-up. Basically it is heads and tails. A huge gathering form a circle around someone who is holding two coins. Bets (and side bets) are made as to whether they will land heads or tails or one head one tail. They are tossed in the air from a small wooden paddle (they have to go very high and land in the circle of play) That’s it. It is very popular and lots of money exchanges hands. The only drawback is that it is deemed to be illegal to play unless it is Anzac day, or you are in Broken Hill. Oh, and it can not be played until after mid-day!
We were there on Anzac day and were able to participate in the game. It actually is a lot of fun. There was a huge buzz around the participants and it wore off onto everyone playing. Hundreds of dollars were being wafted around, but I stuck to my $5 bets. When I was $50 down I decided to ‘chuck my anchors’ and just spectate.
I hope you enjoyed this piece, and will leave you on the note that even car cleaning products can not escape the brilliance that it Aussie humour. I have included photos for your enjoyment. They are fair dinkum.