After living in Scotland, I thought I had any slang of the English language down pat. In fact, when I returned to the States, I rather pissed my mom off by answering her requests with phrases like “I can’t be arsed” (meaning, frankly I’m just too lazy), which let me tell you did not go over well.
I’ve made quite a few Aussie friends from my travels (no one gets around quite like my pals from Down Under), meaning I was pretty used to their vernacular (I thought so at least). So when I got to Australia, I was down with the talk of “thongs” (meaning flip-flops) and “G-strings” (meaning bikinis). I wasn’t going to make an ass out of myself by calling “trousers” “pants” (meaning underwear). But apparently, when they’re on the road, they feel the need to mute things a bit, as so the rest of the world can understand. Because walking around in Brisbane? I might as well have been living back in Holland, for as little as I understood.
If you’re new here (or just visiting via the Bloggies site), you probably don’t know how anal retentive I am when it comes to the English language. I rather love how Jane Austen novels flow so lyrically and absolutely detest how my generation feels the need to make themselves sound even stupider with shortening every word under the sun (some particular annoyances include “def,” “adorbs,” “obvi,” “totes”). Well, little did I know, the Aussies are “totes” to blame for this; turns out, they’ve been “abbreving” everything for decades (e.g. “backy”=tobacco; “cossies”=”swim costumes”=bathing suits; “durries”=”ciggies”=cigarettes; right, glad we got that all straight).
So when Kylie, our Queensland tourism rep, would start speaking in a whirlwind of Aussie slang, I felt like she was talking to me in Swahili. Those “wingey poms” (whiny Brits) best not be “pashing” (snogging) those “bogans” (rednecks) in their “DICKTOGS” (my absolute favorite Aussie word ever, meaning Speedos, ha!); oh no, they did-unt. It’s like Australia has its own special code language, and I loved it (um, except for the abbreviation part, obviously). The only thing I didn’t love was feeling like the outsider who was not given the proper key to understand it. It reminded me of when while living in Denmark, Danish pal Helle and I traveled through France for several weeks on assignment. She was accustomed to traveling with her fellow Danes and thus speaking in the language of Hot Potato, which only a mere five million worldwide speak (meaning she could pretty much be traveling in any foreign country, talk in Danish and guarantee that no one within a 100-mile radius would understand). Therefore, she taught me some basic phrases as means for us to converse in mixed company (“no I don’t want to do that;” “what do you think;” “you are poisoning my life”). Little did I know then, if only we had spoken “Aussie,” we probably would have been fine!
Kylie and Me, hashing things out at the farewell dinner
Lori and I were enthralled about this revelation: We couldn’t stop pinging Kylie with the meaning of various words, and when it turned out to be similar to the American term, we’d turn to each other, disappointed, shrug and say “same” (bonus points to those of you who know what movie we were unintentionally acting out!).
Before I left Oz, Kylie gave me a dictionary of Aussie Slang as a parting gift (um, that might have come in handy the first day!). Here are some of my favorites:
Stick Beak…a nosy person
Banana Bender…a Queensland native
Camp as a Row of Tents…a term for a homosexual person
Christmas on a Stick…thinking you’re more special than you are
Come a Clanger…make an embarrassing mistake
Couldn’t Fart in a Bottle…utterly useless
Couldn’t Organize a Fart in a Bean Factory…stupid
Dead Horse…tomato sauce
Full as a Fat Woman’s Underwear…drunk
Hell for Leather…very fast
Holus-Bolus…all of it
Jerkin’ the Gherkin…um, I think you can probably decipher this one on your own
Like a Pickpocket at a Nudists’ Camp…uncomfortable
Packing Polenta…to be extremely scared
Uncle Chester…child molester
Do you have any favorite Aussie phrases you care to add to the mix?