farmhouse architecture Australia
Australia

Australian Slang – Lost in Translation, Mate

Sometimes, Australian Slang causes problems. Every Aussie uses it. When you’re born here, the meaning of those strange, shortened words are absorbed by osmosis. We are hardly even cognizant we’re saying them. We assume everyone understands what we mean.

australia meme
Photo Credit: Facebook

However, being so different to standard English words, the Australian Vernacular makes it difficult for non-native English speakers to understand, especially for those whose exposure to English has only been within the classroom, or via TV sit-coms. The full meaning of slang is often lost.

Mail Order Brides in Australia

Before the days of Tinder and dating agencies becoming mainstream, older single or widowed Aussie men might meet a prospective wife via a newspaper ad and through letters from The Philippines. Mail Order Brides wasn’t a nice social practice, but this story is not so much about that issue, as it is about the language barrier where slang is concerned.

The Moth’s (Man of the House), elderly Aunt had been divorced from her husband, Bob for some time, even though he still attended family gatherings. As Bob aged, he longed for company, so no one was particularly surprised when a delightful older lady, named Mary, accepted his offer to leave the Philippines, marry him and live in Australia.

country farm australia

Australia Day Family Barbeque

One Australia Day, Mary and Bob attended a family barbeque not far from their new home. Most of the farmers in the area were also extended family members, so Bob introduced his new wife to the family and also to country hospitality: ie barbeque food: meat, sausages, pavlova and loads of Beer. Very traditional, if you are Australian.

A few hours later, it was clear to all that Mary’s new husband had consumed far too many beers to drive either of them home.

Lost in Translation

As Mary was impatient to leave, she started walking home along the long, dusty road, herself. As she went to leave, an approaching car pulled over. Leaning out the car window, a neighbouring farmer shouted:

“Where ya headed, luv?”

“I go home,” Mary answered, eyes a little downcast. Guessing she was the newcomer who lived at least a half hour’s walk away, the old farmer flashed a big grin and said:

“Come with me, luv. I’ll run you over.”

Terrified, with eyes as big as saucers, Mary turned around and dashed back to her husband’s side, crying,

“I not want to die. He kill me.”

Aghast and confused, Bob stuttered, “Steady on, luvie ….Whad, whadya mean?

Pointing to the farmer’s car, Mary said:

“I not want to die. He said, He’d run me over!”

That’s ‘Straya,’ mate!

34 thoughts on “Australian Slang – Lost in Translation, Mate”

    1. I know we all had a bit of a laugh at ourselves and how we assume everyone knows what we mean. It was a good lesson Mary taught us. To be more careful with our jargon.

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  1. Funny!
    I used to travel to Sydney to meet with clients. One VIP client was an ‘exuberant’ Aussie who often fell in slang especially after some drinks. One night he was ripping into someone calling him a wanker and a bunch of other things. I turned to my Aussie counterpart and asked him “What’s a wanker?” Whereupon this towering 6′ man turned beetroot red and refused to tell me. I had to go home and look it up πŸ™‚

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    1. Did he now? Hah! You caught him out being a little unprofessional. That is another term that we assume everyone knows. Like wog…. and both not really suited to a workplace, but highly likely to be heard in a pub after work. Paul Hogan (of Crocodile Dundee fame) kind of made that saying famous in the seventies. Here is a clip if you want to acquaint himself. (lots of canned laughter)

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    1. I haven’t heard of Rolf Harris mentioned for years since his true self emerged in the press, David. Nor have I heard that piece of rhyming slang, so thanks for introducing me. There is always something new to learn, especially from other bloggers. How are things in your neck of the woods?

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        1. He is a kind of persona non grata now, I think. A housemate of mine stated he was quite a lecherous sort when my friend went out to dinner with him in the early eighties. Apparently he was acting quite inappropriately towards the ladies.

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  2. ‘Straya? Made a note of it.
    Not surprised. A few years ago in Penang, we had dinner with a Straights Chinese friend of mine. Close to her home. After dinner, we tried to call Uber. No dice. She said in her very posh English (she probably spens more time in the UK than in Penang): “I can send you home.” We thought: “send”? She said it twice, adding “I have my car, I can send you home.” Then we understood. She did “drive” us home. 10-15 minutes away by car.

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    1. Such a simple action that has many different jargon variants and affectations. ‘Send you home,’ sounds very Georgian!
      I am glad you got home.
      Btw, it is Australia or Straya day, today. A public holiday to commemorate the establishment of a White colony here in 1788. The indigenous population is unimpressed calling it invasion day. The are some moves to change it, of latter years.
      No doubt everyone will want to maintain the day as a public holiday though.

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      1. Starya Day now. I can imagine mixed feelings among parts of the population. Tricky business always. It seems to me for afar that Australians have made amends. Maybe it is time to forget and forgive?
        I was raised in Africa. The little white boy in Africa. After Independance. In every country we were posted. Whenever I hear Africans bitching about what the French did or did not do, I always reply: “don’t look at me Man. I didn’t do it…”
        Anyway. Touchy grounds…
        Happy National Day.

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              1. As a student of many cultures I have noted that some cultures refuse to admit mistakes. It blows up their whole identity. And that of course blows up the entire learning process. How can you learn, if you don’t acknowledged you screwed up? You can’t correct and improve.
                Now the Narcissist culture that is slowly developing worldwide is a major threat. Narcissists are never wrong. Therefore repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Think politicos…

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              2. Think politicos, but also plenty in the mainstream too. Entitled kids sometimes grow up into obnoxious, selfish adults. A charmed life doesn’t always give them a balanced life view. Children are very much wanted these days and just like neglected children, they may be affected by excesses, or a lack, of parental attention. Far too much attention might lead to indulged, petulant children, whereas not enough attention to angry, sullen teens. These are generalizations, I admit, but they also seem to be a growing trend around me. (both extremes).

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              3. Absolutely. The ex-moron on Pennsylvania avenue is a perfect example. Fortunately I retired a little while back, but I was already getting a few young obnoxious clients. Can’t imagine what it’s like now.
                I was lucky, I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth (for which my parents worked hard) but my mother who came from a totally blue-collar background would have no nonsense from us children… Very grateful for that. And I always reminded my daughters that one of my grandfathers was a railroad man, and that the lifestyle they enjoyed was due to all our ancestors breaking their backs working hard…
                (Did I just ramble?) πŸ˜‰

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              4. Rambling is good and very welcome here. It means I learn things. It sounds like you had s very well balanced upbringing thanks to your Mum, and no doubt contributing to your egalitarian views.

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  3. The map forgot to list the wide range of poisonous arachnids and platypus – the only poisonous mammal on Earth – that populate Australia. Otherwise, I’d say it’s pretty accurate. I’m sharing on Facebook! LOL!

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    1. It came from facebook so belongs back there Alejandro. But you are quite right about the poisonous spiders and the spur on the platypus. Mind you, the platypus are very secretive and I have never seen one in the wild myself, so I doubt the spur is a problem unless you are handling captured ones. Spiders – I have survived til now. We don’t have funnelweb spiders up here though….

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