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G’Day, Mate!: Understanding Australian English

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Australian English has an interesting history. The language began to become one of its own around 1788, after the foundation of the colony of New South Wales. This was a British penal colony where they sent convicts, like Cockneys from London and lower-class people from other large English cities. Settlement by others soon followed. About 25% of the convicts and settlers then came from Ireland, and many others were non-English speaking, such as from Wales and Scotland. Because of this, original development of the language had a large Cockney, Gaelic and Welsh influence.

After the the foundation of Australia as a penal colony, another wave of immigration went down under during the 1850s. Australian English thus went through a period of “Americanization,” taking on many American spellings of words and adaptations of certain slang phrases. In the nineteenth century, further Americanization had continued to expand, due to expansion of American media. Words like “freeway” and “truck” have become naturalized in Australian spoken word. There are some British words still used, such as “mobile” instead of “cell phone.”

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There are then many unique phrases used only in Australia, not reflected by British or American English. For instance, in Australia and New Zealand, people will say “different to” instead of “different from.” You will hardly ever hear the word “friend”; Australians use the word “mate.” They also use some Irish words, such as “tucker” for food.

The three major subdivisions of Australian English are Broad, General and Cultivated. Most Australians speak General Australian; Cultivated Australian English is similar to British English.

Here is a dictionary of some Australian English slang words:

Ace!: Excellent!

Arvo: Afternoon

Avos: Avocados

Back of Bourke: Very far in distance

Barrack: To encourage

Bikkie: Biscuit

Billy: Teapot

Bities: Bugs that bite

Bloke: Guy, dude

Bludger: Slacker

Blue: Fight

Boozer: Pub

Bottle shop: Liquor store

Bush: The Outback; place where nobody resides

Bush telly: Campfire

Cactus: Dead

Cark it: To die

Chokkie: Chocolate

Chunder: Puke

Click: Kilometer

Cockie: Cockroach

Cozzie: Swimsuit

Cut lunch: Sandwiches

Daks: Trousers

Dill: Idiot

Docket: Receipt

Drongo: Idiot

Durry: Cigarette

Exy: Pricey

Feral: Hippie

Fossisk: Search, rummage

Full: Drunk

G’Day: Hello!

Galah: Fool

Greenie: Environmentalist

Hooroo: Goodbye

Jumbuck: Sheep

Knock: To criticize

Lippy: Lipstick

Lollies: Candy

Mate: Friend

Mickey Mouse: Very good

Milko: Milkman

Mozzie: Mosquito

Mystery bag: sausage

Not the full quid: Stupid

Oldies: Parents

Oz: Australia

Piss: Beer

Plonk: Bad wine

Polly: Politician

Rage: Party

Reffo: Refugee

Rellie: Someone in your family

Rubbish: To criticize

Sanger: Sandwich

Servo: Gasoline station

Spewin’: Angry

Strides: Trousers

Sunnies: Sunglasses

Tinny: Can of beer

Hit the turps: To get drunk

Ugh: Ugly (like the boots)

Unit: Apartment

Vejjo: Vegetarian

Whinge: Complain

Wog: Flu

Yakka: Work

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