Today, January 26th, is Australia day, a day when Aussies celebrate the arrival in 1788 of the First Fleet of eleven convict ships from the UK. The day the British flag was raised and occupation of the eastern half of our continent began. England’s largest jail was born.
Now, whilst this may be a minor event on the planetary calendar, not coming close to the Superbowl or Macey’s Christmas Parade, I still think the world should pause, reflect and celebrate with the inhabitants of the world’s largest island.
If Disney’s reinterpretation of the Pirate genre can give birth to ‘Speak like a Pirate Day’ then surely something as monumental as Australia Day should garner a similar response. Therefore I think this holiday should be renamed, ‘speak like an Aussie day.’
To help you all get in the swing of it I shall endeavour to give you the heads up on the most useful Aussie expressions and pronunciations. Now any of you who watched that movie with Meryl Streep where she declared, “a dingo ate my baby” are at a disadvantage…we really don’t sound like that.
First things first, an Australian will tell you they come from Austraya, note the word has a silent L.
When meeting an Austrayan the native will greet you with, G’day mate, which is the universal acknowledgment of your existence and acceptance as friend rather than foe.
If he offers you a ‘snag’ do not be offended or concerned, he is merely offering you a sausage, usually from the barbie.
The average Austrayan will pepper his language with words that may appear profane to the uninitiated. For example if he calls you a bastard it is a usually a term of endearment, unless you happened to let slip some unfortunate information about your parentage. Oh bugger, denotes that something has clearly gone wrong. If an Aussie were to drive into the back of your vehicle with his Ute (a car with a tray on the back instead of rear passenger seats and a trunk) his first response would usually be ‘oh bugger.’
Austrayans have many affectionate terms for those they love, mate, cobber, and dag. Dag being reserved for the times when your mate is being stupid. If you spill beer down yourself and make an Aussie laugh he may well call you a dag. Should you hasten to Wikipedia for a translation you may be insulted to discover the word dag denotes a fly blown, shit encrusted piece of wool hanging below a sheeps butt, however, to an Australian it is an acknowledgment that you are just plain stupid.
Clothing here has it’s own names. At the beach, the male of the species can be seen wearing budgie smugglers, you may call them a banana hammock or perhaps swimming trunks. Dacks are pants and underdacks, are obviously underwear. Women have been known to wear frocks and men singlets rather than wife beaters. A skivvy is a roll neck jumper and thongs go on your feet.
As well as their being generic words recognized the country over, each state has its own nuances. For example should you meet an Austrayan who ends every sentence with ahy, thus turning every comment into a question, you can be assured you are in the company of a Queenslander. Should your tame Aussie keep telling you everything is grouse then you are the proud owner of a Victorian.
Having lived here for many years I have learned to understand and even mimic the Aussie so well that I have blended into my habitat. I grew up in the UK but became an Austrayan citizen as soon as time allowed, there is no where else in the world I would choose to call home, despite the drought, flooding and kookaburras who seem greatly amused by something in the trees outside my bedroom window at 5.30 in the morning. Although I do like Paris, maybe I could do Paris. Hmmm.