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Popular Australian sayings and what they mean

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

Learn these popular Australian sayings and what they mean from Down Under

Learn these popular Australian sayings and what they mean from Down Under

The rumor is that people in the United States, most of Canada, the UK and Australia all speak the same language. Silly rumor! If you’ve ever traveled outside of your own “English-speaking” country, you know that even a simple exchange can leave you wondering how it can possibly be called a common language!

People from North America with a trip to Australia or a visit with friends or family from Down Under in their plans are going to need some help figuring out the local slang if they want to eat, get directions, or even understand when they’ve just been insulted. So to get you started, here’s a quick guide to some of the popular Australian sayings and what they mean. 


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Ordering Australian food (or trying to figure out what’s sitting in front of you on the plate) can be a challenge if you’re not linguistically prepared. If it’s morning, look for Brekkie (breakfast), where you might be served a mystery bag or banger (sausage), bum nuts (eggs),  a cuppa (tea) and a Murphy (potatoes.) But if you oversleep into the arvo (afternoon), your main (entree) might be some greasies (fish and chips) picked up from a snatch and grab (take away restaurant) or a counter meal (pub lunch) of a cut meal (sandwich) at a hotel (pub). 

Later in the day, you’ll want to make sure you find a good place for tea (supper). If you’re not too hungry, a dodger might do (bread and sausage). But with ocean all around, the seafood is especially nice, so it might be a good time to head out for some Balmain bugs (harbour crayfish), lobbies (lobster) or some barra ( any type of local freshwater fish). You can always grab a little something later on at the milk bar (convenience store), too. 

Just don’t say you’re full for that Pavlova (dessert). It means drunk in Aussie speak!


Making friends? 

It’s always nice to know if that friendly, laughing local at the pub is welcoming you or insulting you.

And Austrialians are particularly colorful in their insults. Some of the popular Australian labels you don’t want to hear include drongo (stupid person), hoon (unclutivated) or lair (a showoff). And if someone mumbles something about your having kangaroos in the top paddock, well. it may be time to find a different boozer (pub or bar). 

On the other hand, a cobber or mate is a true friend, and if you’re lucky, they just might share a mates rate (friend and family discount) on the grog (liquor) you’re drinking. And if you’re “game as Ned Kelly”, well treat them to a tallie (750 ml beer) because they just said you were very brave!

Shopping can be fun too!

So you forgot your bathing suit? Or it went on walkabout after you got here? (went missing?) In Australia, you’re looking for a cozzie, bathers or budgie smugglers. If it gets a bit chilly at night, you might need a warmer pair of daks or strides (pants) and a jumper (sweater). Runners (sneakers) are a good idea if you’re going to do a lot of walking. 

If money’s tight, you can always look for an Op Shop (thrift store) — they’re popular among the kids at uni (college students) and sheilas with ankle bitters (women with small children). 

And some other goodies, too

Here are a few more to keep you out of trouble. Oldies aren’t classic rock…they’re parents. The whole family is the lations or the rellie. Good things to know if someone takes you home for baked dinner (Sunday dinner at home).

And just so you know, I swear that everything I wrote was fair dinkum (absolute truth or something that’s the genuine article) . 

I’d love to stay and share some more with you, but I need to shoot through (leave) and go pick up my own ankle biter. It’s not Beyond the Black Stump (way out of town or far away), but the traffic can be heavy and I don’t want to chuck a wobbly (go off) if I’m running late. 

So hooroo (goodbye) to you all! See you in Oz


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