Australian Slang

This post was requested by @WanderinDreamr. My apologies for its crapness.

So, it turns out I really don’t have a lot to say about Australian slang. Or rather I don’t have anything to say that wouldn’t bore you. I did start writing this post and it rapidly turned into an old person cranky rant about how US slang is overtaking Australian slang. For example:

Why do Oz teenagers not know that “rooting for your team” is not something Aussies do because typically it’s not an activity that helps other people. I mean not unless they’re taking part, which, well, let’s not go there. Aussies “barrack” for their team. Except that I keep hearing Aussies under twenty-five using “root” in the US meaning of the word. AND IT FILLS MY HEART WITH DESPAIR. Why take on the language of the Yankee infidels? Why abandon your own rich and glorious venacular?! What is wrong with you?!

Which was only going to end with me waving my cane around and screaming at kids to get off my non-existent lawn. Not to mention fill me with shame because tedious adults were ranting about the exact same thing when I was a kid. And according to older friends of mine, not to mention my parents, they where hearing rants about insidious US English taking over the Australian vernacular from the 1940s onwards.

I so do not want to be that person. *shudder* I rejoice in the vibrant living, changing thing that is language.

Not to mention that some of our words are spreading out beyond our shores. “Bogan” for instance is now in the OED:

An unfashionable, uncouth, or unsophisticated person, esp. regarded as being of low social status

And apparently not only has “bogan” spread from Victoria to the rest of the country but it’s made the leap over the Tasman to New Zealand. Hey, Kiwis, are there old cranky people waving their canes and yelling at you lot not to start using Aussie slang? Or do they just rant against US slang too?

Though I would argue with that definition of “bogan.” While there’s definitely a class component to it. I don’t think it neatly fits with whether the person labelled thus is poor or not. I.e. of “low social status”. There are many people who would get called “bogan” who are very well off indeed. Though I guess the modification of “cashed up” takes care of that.

What are your favourite examples of Australian slang? Living or dead examples. I admit to loving “smoodge,” “drongo,” “as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike,” “zambuck,” “daggy,” “date,” and “bosker”. Some of which are so obsolete you probably won’t be able to google them and others of which I say on a daily basis. And, no, not giving you definitions. Research! It’s good for you.

In conclusion: GET OFF MY LAWN!!!


  1. Heath on #

    Dag is a fave for me.

    Phrase – flat out like a lizard drinking.

  2. Justine on #

    Heath: Dag is deeply dagalicious.

    I am also fond of “flat out like a lizard drinking.” It’s so evocative. You can instantly see the lizard at the edge of a creek tongue flickering in and out of the water. A truly perfect simile.

  3. Nicola on #

    I was once on a tour group in Europe and had an American chick ask me what another Aussie was talking about when she kept describing something as ‘feral as’!!

  4. Justine on #

    Nicola: Bizarre. I would have thought that was self-explanatory.

  5. Rebecca on #

    I love ‘ chuck a u-ey’ !

  6. Marrije on #

    About 95% of the Australian I know comes from my mis-spent youth watching Flying Doctors, and from reading your books. My favourite words are chooks (cute, fluffy word!) and chunder (v. apt descriptive word). Oh, and I like “barrack” too, though I have NO clue as to how it ever came about and have been too lazy to find out.

  7. Tim Keating on #

    Aussies might root for their team… if the team is rootable 🙂

  8. Jade on #

    I agree about “bogan” but I also love using “cashed up bogan.”

    Maybe I’m immature, but when I hear Americans using “root” in the supporting your team sense, I giggle.

  9. Da on #

    OK ‘ chuck a u-ey’ now means rapid and unexpected complete change of view/mind.
    Derivation is 1950s/60s car ‘hoon’ language. Attributed to Westies (bogans) driving ‘utes’ (Holden or Falcon utility vehicles which approximate to US Pick up). The phrase quite descriptively meant a spinning the steering wheel to do a 180° fast turn on the road.

  10. Justine on #

    Marrije: “Chook” is such an everyday word. It is weird to think of someone finding it in any way special.

    Jade: Did you know “cashed up” used that way dates back to at least 1930? Cool, huh?

    Da: Thanks for the historical context.

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