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Sunday, January 26, 2014

An Immigrant's Guide to Australian Slang

Way back in 1947 my paternal grandparents arrived in Australia with their three young sons as ‘Ten Pound Poms’ which I suppose makes me a first generation Australian, on one side of the family anyway.

This is a newspaper from 1947. My grandmother is front row third on the right.

Thank God my grandparents made the decision to emigrate using the assisted passage scheme along with over a million others between 1945 and 1972 or I’d never have been born and that would have been a particularly disappointing outcome (for me anyway).

Excluding our First Australians, our Indigenous population (roughly 690 000 people), we’re all immigrants to Australia or the descendants of immigrants really, aren’t we?

It doesn’t mean any of us aren’t Australians... whether we arrived last year or with the First Fleet back in 1788.

I’ve never felt more Australian than the times I’ve travelled overseas.

Travelling around Ireland with five kids under eleven years of age and my then husband, was one time my antipodean identity was truly brought home to me.

* Mind you, Britain is our antipodes when you think about it.

I recall my five ravenous kids noisily spilling out of our ‘people mover’ in order to infiltrate a fish and chip shop somewhere in rural County Fiddle-ee-dee in 2000.

The patrons and staff fell silent, staring at us as if we’d just landed a flying saucer and emerged in lizard suits; especially as soon as the kids opened their mouths to speak.

“Or’ll have fish ‘n chips with termarda sauce, Mum!” they drawled in their Australian accents, scuffing their rubber thongs or bare feet on the floor of the shop. I examined the tanned faces and sun streaked hair of my tiny Aussies; a result of hours spent in our backyard pool and realised how alien we must all have looked and sounded.

When we finally touched down in Cairns after a month in Europe, the pilot announced our arrival in a typical Aussie twang but as we hadn’t heard it for a month it sounded as if he was taking the mickey.

“Why does he sound so Australian, Mum?” asked a puzzled nine year old Jonah.

A teacher once told me the Australian accent developed because there were so many flies and the English and Irish had to learn to speak without opening their mouths and letting the flies in. 

Try to speak in an English accent without opening your mouth very much… see!

It must be confusing for new Aussies to understand our accents let alone some of the words and sayings we have, so I’ve made a list of translations.

Dickhead: Anyone who cuts you off in traffic, burns off ahead of you at the traffic light in a souped up Commodore with a Chevvy badge or drives a Ute and has red P plates. On Australia Day they can be spotted with yellow and green zinc creamed faces wearing only a pair of budgie smugglers and a flag.

Bloody Dickhead: Same as above but gets really drunk and starts yelling at anyone who looks vaguely ethnic about how they should go back to their own country.

Bastard: Someone you can’t stand because they’ve slighted you in some diabolical way in the past.

Bloody Bastard: Someone you love because they’re a rascally rogue eg; “How are you, ya bloody bastard?”

Sanger: A sandwich usually containing corned beef and pickles or curried egg.

Sausage Sanger: A cheap form of food consisting of one piece of bread rolled around a sausage and can be bought outside a hardware shop on Saturday mornings. Found in abundance on Australia Day.

A Stephen Bradbury: When you win something by default. For example; when you’re playing Monopoly on Australia Day and everyone else loses interest and leaves the game to sleep off their sausage sangers and you’re the only one left.

Togs: Lycra sausage casings you squeeze into and attempt to hide behind a towel until the last possible second before you’re able to conceal your over-inflated torso in the swimming pool.

Are there bones in that?: What you say to someone who is choking on the coconut on their Lamington.

Pavlova: An ultra-sweet dessert used to throw at people on Australia Day when they cheat at Monopoly or do cannonballs in the swimming pool splashing chlorinated water in your plastic cup of Chardonnay.

Happy Australia Day you bloody bastards!