SOME months ago, I wrote about how the city of Melbourne pulsates with diversity and multiculturalism by virtue of its dwellers, hailed as Melburnians, speaking 251 languages.
Now, let’s widen the scope and look at Australia as a whole.
The identity of this vast continent is evident not only in symbols like the iconic Opera House or the Harbour Bridge in Sydney, cuddly marsupials like the koala and the kangaroo, aboriginal artefacts such as the boomerang and the didgeridoo, a relentless passion for cricket or the striking green and gold-colours proudly worn at sports events.
When someone starts a conversation with the salutation “G’day (good day) mate!”, there is very little doubt that the person is from Australia. If they cement this with the subsequent phrase, “How you’re goin’ (going)?”, put those doubts to rest and come to the realisation that the bloke is undeniably and proudly Australian.
Australian women use the term “mate” too, to address their Australian male friends.
In contrast, the generic term used by most Aussie blokes to address a woman is “sheila”.
To quote a phrase that often accompanies some ogling, “There goes a hot sheila, mate.”
If your name is indeed Sheila, there’s bound to be some good-natured ribbing among friends!
Now the first time I heard this expression, “I’m crook,” I figured there was an “a” missing somewhere or rather, why on earth is this person admitting to this?
The expression actually refers to the individual feeling unwell and there may be a need to hurl (throw up)!
Another expression I did a double-take to was “I was involved in a ‘prang’,” which refers to an accident, being a collision between vehicles and not an onomatopoeia.
The first invitation I received to a get-together involving a meal went like this, “Come over on Saturday evening and bring a plate”.
With my over-active imagination, I figured maybe the hosts were short of plates which required me bringing my own.
Then again, paper plates were cheap and easily available at the $2 shop.
What I eventually learnt was that it meant you were encouraged to bring a cooked dish of some sort to share.
During warmer months, Australians are fond of firing up the “barbie” (short for barbecue) and throwing some “snags” (sausages) on the hot plate.
The “snags” can be lamb, beef or “chook” (chicken).
These events go on for hours during which copious amounts of beer and bourbon are consumed and you may even swat some “mozzies” (mosquitoes).
When you get invited for a “cuppa”, it is usually to enjoy a cup of tea with a “bickie” (biscuit), Tim Tam being the Aussie favourite to be dunked in the beverage.
If it is a breakfast meeting, then you meet up for “brekkie”.
If it’s your “shout” when out drinking, don’t go to the bartender and shout for it simply means your treat!
If you’re asked what you’re having for tea, chances are the individual is enquiring about your dinner.
Owing to cultural diversity, distinction has now been made between morning tea, afternoon tea or tea (dinner).
Around the home, most Australians are able to carry out some sort of handy work and the blokes store their assorted tools in a shed which often works out as a “man cave”.
However, if you need a handyman to come to your home, you get a tradesperson or “tradie” on a “call out”.
For electrical faults, an electrician is referred to as a “sparkie”.
When problems are encountered with air-conditioning, you ring up a “fridgie”.
If there’s hard work involved, it is “hard yakka”.
While shopping, you may come across terms like “dinkum” referring to a fair deal, “fair go” meaning equal opportunity, “doona” for quilt or “jumbuk” wool, “jumbuk” referring to sheep.
Incidentally, “cocky” refers to a farmer or a cockatoo.
The words “dinky-di” refers to the item being genuine.
If you’re short-changed, you can “spit the dummy” (throw a tantrum) or just say “no worries”, another common Aussie term and get on with the day.
> Geetha is a former StarMetro journalist now based in Melbourne, Australia, having previously resided in Adelaide. Always up to the challenge of mastering a new language, she knows Aussie lingo is in a league of its own and is keenly experimenting with it - at times with hilarious consequences.