Forget everything you think you know about Australians and the way they speak. Forget the Crocodile Hunter (never seen it), Outback Steakhouse (never been there) and especially forget everything to do with Russell Crowe (he’s actually from New Zealand). Tired of the looks of terror from unsuspecting FM compers when I attempt to insert apparently nonsensical Aussie idioms into their stories, weary of the mirth which greets my distinctive idiom during editors’ meetings, and most of all, utterly fatigued from people asking me if Fosters really is Australian for beer (um, no), the time has come for a comprehensive guide to genuine Australian slang with an Amelia-centric twang.
Aggro: aggravated, usually used in an accusatory sense (e.g., Don’t get aggro with me!).
Bludger: A malingering, insolent or otherwise lazy person who shirks their duties. Can also be used as an adjective in an academic context similar to “gut” (e.g., Justice is such a bludge).
Capsicum: Bell peppers.
Dodgy: This is an essential word. There is no equivalent in American English. The closest translation would be “sketchy,” but “dodgy” does not have the same lascivious undertones. Can be used to describe anything which is seedy/of poor quality/ambiguous in some way.
Esky: A cooler.
Full-on: Intense. Usually used in the construction Wow, that’s full-on.
Good onya: A tough idiom for the novice to master. Can be used as a genuine congratulatory expression, but is also occasionally used in a snide or sarcastic way in response to someone or something particularly foolish or irritating, abbreviated with a “yeah” (You spilled red wine all over my white shirt? Yeah, good onya, mate.).
Heaps: An affirmation for emphasis (e.g., I love you heaps and heaps; I have heaps of work).
Icy-pole: Ice cream or popsicle.
Jumper: Sweater—but can be both knit or jersey.
Keen: An expression denoting expertise, experience, talent (e.g., He’s a keen mathematician).
Mobile: Shortened from “mobile phone.” Can be directly substituted for “cell phone,” surprisingly enough an item equally annoying in Australia as it is across the Pacific.
Naff: A particularly good label for shooting down story ideas that seem impractical, contrived or generally silly. Can also be used to describe questionable fashion choices (implying a slightly ’80s/generally dated aesthetic). May also be used to describe OTT people if you’re feeling mean.
Ordinary: Actively terrible, but in a typically Australian vernacular quirk, the term is usually accompanied by a moderator which should not be in any way regarded as diminishing the insult (e.g., That’s a bit ordinary, isn’t it?). Note also in this example the very Australian transformation of an adamant statement into a rhetorical question.
Prawn: Shrimp. Hence, no Australian has ever actually said “Throw another shrimp on the Barbie,” because we use the term “prawn” for all like-minded shellfish, regardless of size or color.
Quokka: My favorite Australian cuddly critter. Some dub it a cuter, smaller kangaroo; the cruel observer might describe it as a knee-high giant rat.
Ratbag: A corrupt, unethical, devious person. Most commonly used in Australia to describe politicians, generally held in contempt. Sometimes implies a leaning towards rabid conservatism, but that could just be my politics.
Shout: An essential Australian custom. Generally means a “round” of alcoholic beverages that is paid for by a single member of the drinking party. If you ever find yourself in an Australian pub, you must offer to “shout” all your new-found mates a drink—it’s considered very bad form to buy a drink just for yourself. Of course, such a system of communal purchasing tends to encourage heavy drinking, but who’s complaining?
Try-hard: A very harsh adjective to describe someone who, literally, tries just a little too hard, to the point of being irritating in their eagerness to please. Boys and girls, don’t try this at home: reserve for only the very worst of first dates.
Uni: Short for “university,” and the Australian substitute for “college.”
Veggo: Vegetarian. Yes, Australians love shortening things.
Whinge: To complain, incessantly. Can also be used as a noun, as in, she’s such a whinger.
X: Interestingly, Australians don’t “check” boxes, they “tick” them.
Yob: Variation is “yobbo.” Someone who is very unkempt in appearance who favors “trakky-daks” (sweatpants) and “thongs” (flip-flops).
Z: It’s pronounced Zed.