I speak Australian


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If asked what my native language is I’d automatically respond – English. Lately I’ve realised that’s not entirely true. I speak Australian English. Yes there is such a thing and despite attending university in the UK and also working in several major American corporations over almost 20 years it seems you can take the Aussie out of Australia but maybe you just can’t shift the Aussie lingo (here I go already.. that means language to all you non Australian readers).

Do you speak Australian

I go out of my way to avoid certain cliches of Aussie speech – e.g. G’day Mate but still, the “Aussie” remains.

G'day mate - dumb and dumber
Image credit -memecrunch

Earlier this week I described a situation to one of my clients as being “under the pump”. They are so polite they never bat an eyelid but I quickly realised that was an Australian expression. It means very busy. Sigh. Over the past few months I’ve introduced my new English friends and colleagues to quite a few phrases which I am sure they find baffling.

Some of my favourite Aussie expressions

“Do you think it’s ok to bush bash here?” – can we venture off the garden path onto grass

“I think we can get through this without any argey bargey” – I think we can resolve this without an argument

“Have a good one” – enjoy your day

“You don’t need to blow smoke up their arse” – it is not necessary to flatter them

Straight to the point

Another aspect of Australian speech that the Brits have some difficulty with is our famed directness. I mean, why beat about the bush (see..) when you can get straight to the point is the manner I’ve always found works best for me. It is really quite funny to watch people twitch when you tell them something they may not be used to hearing in a direct manner.

My favourite experience was giving feedback to a potential supplier that I was really disappointed with his proposal as it indicated he had not listened to our requirements. A typical English way of dealing with this scenario is to generate some polite rebuff or just completely fail to give feedback. The look on this person’s face was priceless accompanied by a spluttering apology.

beautiful Cape Otway
Non cliche pic of Australia – beautiful Cape Otway

That’s not to say I can’t learn something from the Brits – after all they invented the basis of our language. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to be a little more subtle in my approach at times and pare back my feedback to be less confronting. Meanwhile, my children and nephew who have all spent most of their lives in the UK are developing strong english accents (and hopefully a little of the tactful approach). I’m finding this quite disturbing but don’t worry they still say “mate”, “bickie” and “vegemite”.

For further inspiration and reading on the Australian vernacular, look to the master himself, former Prime Minister Paul Keating who I sorely miss. Some of his greatest lines can be heard here.

What’s your favourite Australian expression?

10 thoughts on “I speak Australian

  1. Cristin @ Between Roots and Wings says:

    Wow, I’ve lived in Australia almost 6 years now, and there are some in here I’ve never heard. “Bush bash” is great. I love Aussie expressions – they’re just so descriptive! My favorites are “it’s a dog’s breakfast” and “budgie smugglers.”
    Completely agree about the Aussie directness, though. That was one of the hardest thing for me to adjust to. We Yanks try to put a positive spin on everything, but Aussies just say it like it is.

    • Katy says:

      I am still learning too Cristin ? Having worked mainly for American companies it’s always been fun to watch the reactions when brutal Aussie honesty is unleashed. But I also learnt a lot about the strategic art of diplomacy

  2. Ersatz Expat says:

    There are definitely differences between different English languages, even in the same country. When I met my husband I found my inlaws’ accent and local idiom very hard to understand. I am now very used to it but I remember my Father in Law used to laugh to hear me use local vernacular in my very different accent. I love learning different idiomatic sayings, it really does colour language in such a fantastic way.

    Our children have wildly different accents our Son is a sort of neutral English tending towards Eastern Europe while our daughter has quite an American twang.

    • Katy says:

      Wow. That’s so interesting that your kids have different accents. Why do you think that is? Mine are developing proper little Peppa Pig twangs. Occasionally they say something very Australian and I love it. I make sure to teach them both English and Australian words for the same thing when they differ. Somehow they know I say rice bubbles and at nursery it’s rice crispies. They are only 2.5 and language is developing rapidly

  3. Sonja says:

    Love this!!! I have the same thing being a Kiwi, but I’ve lost a lot of it from living in a few different places. Some things I swear I’ll never lose though… like jandals and togs!

    • Katy says:

      Hee hee.. Jandals! Love that one Sonja. I also like how Aussies and Kiwis broadly respect (though joke about) each other’s vernacular ?

  4. Trekking with Becky says:

    I speak Canadian English, and it’s maddening how people think it’s American and that they’re the same. I picked up some Australian English from Australian co-workers in Japan, but you just taught me a whole lot more! 😀

    Thanks so much for linking this up for #ExpatTuesday! 😀

    • Katy says:

      I can usually pick Canadian’s by the way they say ‘o’ and ‘ou’ sounds. Out sounds like ‘oot’ to me when said by a Canadian. New Zealanders have a similar reaction when accused of being Australian but in that case you watch for the ‘i’ sounds.

  5. Russell says:

    Great read, Katy!

    I think the one I was most recently questioned about was “deadset”, I called someone a “deadset legend” when he helped me out with something.

    Also, another one I still like using despite being asked to repeat myself is “how’s it going?”. I’ll ask and some people will say “where am I going?” ?

    • Katy says:

      Thanks Russell. The struggle is real! The funny thing about the Brits is they just nod along a lot of the time so you don’t realise they haven’t a clue what you are saying ???

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