As an Anglo-American and a linguist, I have been long aware of the gulf that separates English English from American English, but I was totally unprepared for the chasm separating those two English forms from Australian (Oz) English (strine) as revealed by my recent seven-week stint in the antipodes.
I am an American (Seppo = septic tank = Yank), which in itself is OK in Oz, but I sound like a Brit (Pom), which is not! I learned more “strine” for idiot than I care to remember or indeed recall in a family magazine, but “drongo,” “nong,” “raw prawn,” “drop-kick,” and “buttoned up the pack” are just a few.
Maybe I should not have answered, “Sorry, I didn’t realize it was still a requirement” to the Oz immigration officer’s question, “Do you have a criminal record?”
My delightful niece invited me to a 3D something party. “Beware,” she said, “of the two people there.”
One was her best friend, a real “drink-on-a-stick,” (beauty), but a terrible “two-pot screamer,” (easy drunk), resulting in the inevitable “Technicolor yawn” (throwing up) and its resultant “pavement pizza,” no translation necessary.
The other was her who had a tendency to wear “budgie smugglers” (brief swimming trunks to pool parties).
My brother and I took a trip into the black stump (boonies) to the gold-mining town of Kalgoorlie. There, in a bar, I met an “ocker,” almost untranslatable, but a cross between a redneck, miner and hobo. He was watching Lady Gaga on TV, and it struck me that the two more extremes of the human spectrum could hardly be imagined.
Yes, he had been a miner of his youth, and he had worked “flat-out like a lizard drinking” (very hard) all his life.
Although he was always “ready as a drover’s dog” for hard work, it was sometimes hard to come by – “scarcer than rocking-horse manure.” So he was often forced to go “walkabout” (travel, not necessarily walking) and had “waltzed his Matilda (rambled) as far as Queensland and New South Wales, including all over northern territories and South Australia.
“It was generally OK, but he didn’t care for “banana benders” (Queenslanders) who he regarded as “useful as a chocolate kettle.”
In the good old days, you could hitch a ride on the planes, which flew from mining camp to mining camp, transporting equipment and miners, usually a Fokker F-27. But the worst words a rambling ocker could hear was that here was no room: “Sorry, ocker, the Fokker’s Chokker.” He was relieved and couldn’t bring himself to leave Kalgoorlie, so he would stay until he cashed in his “superannuation,” (i.e., until he passed on).
Strine possesses some terminology that can be well adopted by other forms of English. For example, I read the headline: “14-year-old hoon arrested in Joondalup; father also charged.” A hoon is a person, usually young, who performs any dangerous maneuver with a car, including wheelies, speeding, road racing, use of horn, etc.
Another headline: “Secretary dobs on boss over call-girl rorts” revealed the use of “dob in,” meaning to inform on, but usually in a positive way as in a whistle blower and “rort” a commonly used term for misuse of fraud or other forms of cheating.
So if you intend to go to Oz, be prepared to strine. Be nice to the Qantas’ “trolley dolly,” (flight attendant) and the Woolworth’s “check out chick.” Get your “Aussie salute” (brushing away flies motion) ready. Perth, in western Australia, is a great place to live – 10 million flies can’t be wrong.
Get ready to use diminutives and abbreviations. “Stubbie” = bottle of beer, “tinnie” = can of beer, “Barbie” = barbecue, etc. Call all redheads “bluie,” brush up on the only two regular greetings “G’day,” and “She’ll be all right, cobber,” and your trip will be “bonzer” and “shape up a beaut.”
Editor’s note: Paul Thomas is a Largo retiree who recently visited his brother and family in Australia.