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Culture, and Customs

Australian language, culture, and custom

In major cities of Australia, life and language is as cosmopolitan, homogenous and metrosexual as in New York or London. However, over the mountains and across the plains is the "real" Australia: an ancient, untamed land of hazard and mystery, and of exotic cultures and dialects that remain remarkably well-preserved, despite the resident population's access to literature and modern-day telecommunications.

aggy (n., agg-ee) A person from a rural or agricultural background, particularly if they adopt the image, lifestyle, and symbols that are stereotypically-unique to rural life in Australia. The brands "R.M. Williams", "Drizabone", "Akubra", and "Holden" are predominant. Females of the type wear smoothed bob haircuts, fob-chain necklaces, and their shirt collars ludicrously turned up at the back. anythink or anyfink (n., enny-thing-k; enny-fing-k) Accepted pronunciation of the English word "anything", meaning: "nothing" or "whatever".

Aussie (n., ozz-ee) Anyone who calls, or still calls, Australia " home".

Australia (n., oss-trayl-yah) The great southern land, terra australis, the world's largest island continent (right), parked just below South-East Asia, in the region of Oceania, separating the Pacific and Indian Oceans. To say that Australia has stations (ranches, farms) the size of Texas is no joke. Australia's land mass is only slightly smaller than the USA mainland, or all of Europe, for example, however as the world's flattest, lowest, and driest land mass (except for Antarctica) overall, it can sustain only a relatively tiny population. On the plus side, there are seemingly infinite miles of fabulous beaches, coral reefs, rainforests, deserts, mountains, even alps. The more populated regions, particularly the eastern seaboard, appear fertile and green, but away from coastal hinterlands, the land gradually becomes flatter and drier. The major cities compare in size and sophistication to those anywhere in the world, but on the plains and in the outback, the basic culture and lifestyle have changed little over the last century. Just off the eastern coast of Australia is a pristine ski resort and environmental theme park known as "New Zealand" (right: two elongated islands coloured hot pink).

average (adj., av-rij) Below par; not quite good enough, as in: "that was a pretty average effort, mate", meaning: "you could have done a lot better than that".



bewdy (n., biew-dee) A good thing, as in the common expression: "you little bewdy", meaning: "you good thing". Derived from the English word beauty.

bickie (n., bick-ee) An abbreviation of the English word biscuit. Australians tend to abbreviate nouns or short phrases, then add an "ee" sound at the end. There are numerous other examples, including "sickie" (sick leave, or taking a day off from work), and "cozzie" (swimming costume).

billy (n., bil-lee) 1. A tin container with wire handle; used for boiling water over a campfire, usually for the infusion of tea leaves known as "billy tea". 2. A bong or water-pipe.

blimey (n., bly-mee) Expletive, thought to have been abbreviated from: "blind me!"

bloke (n., blow-k) Very common term for an adult male Australian, can be used with affection and respect ["he's a good bloke"], to emphasise masculinity ["he's a real bloke"], or as an excuse ["he's just a bloke"].

bugger (n., bugg-ah) 1. Codger ["you old bugger"]. 2. Non-blasphemous expletive ["oh, bugger"]. 3. (v.) to break, damage, corrupt or ruin ["bugger up"].

bugger me (expl., bugg-ah-mee) Exclamation similar in meaning to: "well, I'll be...". This term, when uttered in a social setting, should never be interpreted as a literal invitation.

buggery (n., bugg-ah-ree) Mildly unpleasant metaphorical place to send someone to, as in "go to buggery", meaning: "get lost".

bunyip (n., bun-yip) Towering, dangerous bush creature. Do not approach or acknowledge a bunyip in the wild. The bunyip is responsible for the disappearance of many visitors to the bush, particularly attractive females, some of whom find their mumbling, dribbling, flatulence and bad attitude strangely compelling.

bush (n., boosh-ee) 1. Australian forest, ranging from dense to scrubby. Some vast bush areas are virgin and protected by legislation. Most are regularly logged, and clearing for development is rampant in some regions. 2. Thatch of female pubic hair.

Bushfaery (n., boosh-fayr-ee) Comedic, self-proclaimed 'high-priestess' of Australiana. The Bushfaery ("Bush") character is styled by 'serious' academic and creative director, Melanie Williamson. Ms Williamson became something of an icon as the tutu-wearing accordion player in the legendary Bushwackers band during their 1990's resurgence. "I couldn't live down my old band image," she said, "so I put it to good use."
bushie or bushy (n.) A person from the bush, or at home in it.

cockatoo (n., cock-or-two) 1. Native Australian bird; large, flighted. Cockatoos come in many colour combinations, the most iconic being white or black with a sulphur-coloured crest. Their powerful beaks can shred a pine cone in seconds. Cockatoos mate for life, and are commonly kept as pets because of their amusing antics and ability to mimic human language, as in: "Hello, Cocky!". 2. Person who demonstrates attention-seeking behaviours.

cocky (n., cock-ee) 1. Abbr. for "cockatoo". 2. Land-owning farmer (left), many of whom remain eligible for marriage due to their remote and rugged lifestyles, however interested females should be warned that the strong-looking man's man of the faraway eyes and few words may transpose into a distant, controlling, self-absorbed, and homosocial partner.

crikey (n., cry-kee) Inoffensive expletive, as in "Oh, crikey!" (crikey golly, exaggerated form). Thought to have developed as a cover-up for having started to utter a blasphemous expletive, as in: "Oh, Chri(st)...key!"

dag (n., da-ag) 1. Piece of wool hanging from a sheep's arse around which excrement has dried to create a dangling, bead-like effect. 2. Affectionate term for someone who is not contriving in any way to make a good impression. 3. Casual in attire and/or attitude. (daggy adj., dagging v., also dag v. as in "to dag around the house")
dinky di (n./adj., ding-kee-doy) Stereotypically Australian, thought to be a derivative of "fair dinkum" (see below).

drop bear (n., drop bair) Ferocious, teddy bear-like native Australian creature. Some are close to human in size. They await human prey by hiding in the low branches of gum trees, then drop unexpectedly and cuddle their victims to death.

drought-proofing (v., drow-ut prew-fing) For a cocky (see above), the act of marrying a nurse or teacher, or someone who is prepared to become either in marriage, so as to provide reliable off-farm income in times of drought, which is almost all the time.

fair dinkum (n./adj., f-ayr ding-k'm) Stereotypically Australian in nature, quality, tone, behaviour or character, ie: simple, honest, straight-forward.

fair few (pron., f-ayr f-iew) Variable but precise number quoted between cockies (see above) when counting sheep onto a truck, as in Cocky #1: "How many you got up there now, Len?"; Cocky #2: "A fair few, Len."; meaning 138 in the Bogan River region, and differing specific amounts elsewhere.

feral (n., f-ayr-roo-l) 1. Introduced species such as the fox, pig, cat, and cane toad that run amok in the bush and provide country folk with plenty of things to bait, trap and shoot at. 2. Derogatory or dismissive term used by folk in smaller country towns for people who would be considered "alternative" or "contemporary" in an urban setting, such as those featuring any/all of the following indicators: piercings, tattoos, dreadlocks, wearing of sarongs of other 'hippy'-like clothing, vegetarianism, university education in philosophical subjects, social conscience, no bra (females), partaking of cannabis in a social setting, living in non-wedlock relationships, lack of attendance to a house of Christian worship on Sundays, and/or the wearing of a backpack.

Flying Doctor (p.n., f-loy-ing dock-tah) Aerial medical emergency service providing treatment and transport (right) for the sick or injured in remote, sparsely-populated areas of Australia (and that's most of the continent, actually).

gormley (n./adj., gawm-lee) Discriminatory term used by squatocracy (see below) in reference to people of lesser socio-economic standing, or otherwise regarded as inferior to themselves, for example an abandoned wife keeping her family together on welfare payments. Used as a noun: "he is such a gormley", and as an adjective: "they are a gormley family". (gormley slumley n./adj., more extreme form of the same thing).

gumboot (n., gum boot) Rubber boots commonly used in the wet on farms, similar to "wellingtons" or "galoshes". Their wide leg-openings allow farmers, particularly in New Zealand, to steady the rear legs of sheep while they access the animal's "business end".

homosocialism (n., hoe-moe-soe-show-lyzz-um) A preference for socialising with one's own gender, still extremely common at pubs, clubs and social gatherings in smaller country towns whereby 'the men' tell loud, funny-sounding stories to each other around the bar, or keg of beer; while 'the ladies' sit at tables, smiling wanly and discussing the health and progress of children and extended families, staying sober so as to drive their men-folk home.

jumper (n., jum-pah) 1. A knitted sweater, preferably made of pure Australian wool. Jenny Kee is famous for her Australiana-inspired jumpers. 2. Depressed person having leapt from The Gap, a towering, near-vertical ocean cliff-face representing the South Head of magnificent Sydney Harbour. The Gap is a popular and spectacularly scenic spot for suicide, and sometimes even murder! Visitors are strongly advised to stay within the guard-rails.

kangaroo (n., kang-gah-roo) Native Australian marsupial. An instantly-recognised national symbol, the kangaroo breeds superbly in the wild and its lean, delicate meat is finding acceptance on dining tables the world over. It is not true that kangaroos hop down the main streets of Sydney, but their numbers reach plague proportions in some rural regions. Culling is an agrinomic and ecological necessity that invokes emotional debate among ignorant do-gooders. Kangaroo meat has a light, game-like flavour and is best eaten rare as it toughens when overcooked. In a supermarket near you - enjoy some of this plentiful, low-fat, environmentally-friendly source of animal protein today.

King Brown (n., kih-ng brow-n) Native Australian snake, pseudechis australis, the King Brown or Mulga Snake. A ready biter with a fatal venom. Grows to 3m, commonly found in dry eucalypt forests, the bush. Australia has roughly 140 varieties of land snake, and around 32 different sea snakes, however of these 172 or so, just 100 are venomous, and only 12 of the venomous varieties are fatal to humans without timely medical intervention. Victims should lie completely still until help arrives.

koala (n., koh-ar-lah) Native Australian marsupial (right) that lives in certain gum trees. Not to be confused with the aggressive drop bear, koalas are cute and apparently "stoned" on eucalyptus. Koalas are a protected species and may not be kept in captivity.

Lake Eyre (n. layk air) A sea-sized salt lake in southern central Australia (left). On the once-in-a-blue-moon occasion that it fills with water, the 'dead heart' teams with wildlife and flora. Australia gasps in wonder at this miracle, as seen on the evening news. Learn more than most Australians know about their geo-science at www.ga.gov.au/education.


lagerphone (n., lah-gar-foe-n) Percussive instrument made from broomstick or similar, often with wooden cross-pieces, to which metal beer-bottle tops are loosely attached with nails. A strike of the stick on the ground, and/or with a beating-stick, makes a simultaneous banging and rattling sound. In the bush, the lagerphone substitutes for a drum kit. In Nova Scotia and other parts of Canada, similar 'instruments' have evolved to be called "ugly sticks".

lamington (n., lam-ing-tun) Cubes of sponge cake, rolled in chocolate then dipped in coconut. A vintage Australian treat, recently banned from school fund-raising drives thanks to a certain American doughnut chain.

larrikin (n./adj. layr-rah-kin) Indefinable Australian quality of playfulness and irreverence. City-dwelling Australians these days mostly confine themselves to larrikinism-on-the-inside, however overt larrikinism among males is still tolerated in rural areas.

Len (p.n. le-nnn) First name of all Australian farmers, except those with a different first name. Similarly, all Australian farmers' grown-up sons are called "Bruce", unless they're not; and their sons, in turn, are mostly called "Thomas".

Lympics (n. lim-pix) The Olympic Games - proudly, safely and successfully staged in Melbourne 1956, and Sydney 2000.
map o'Tassie (n., map-oh-taz-ee) Tasmania is a jewel of an island state off the south-east coast of Australia. The island's shape is vaguely similar to that of a human female pudenda (see continental map above), which is therefore commonly referred to by this polite Australian euphemism.
mate (n., may-t) Friend, pal, buddy, comrade, kindred spirit, fellow man.

Milo (n., my-loe) Ultra-delicious chocolate-flavoured energy food developed in Australia in 1934. Milo (right) is sold as crumbly powder, food bars, and ready-to-drink. The powdered version is added to cold or heated milk - depending on the season. Milo contains vitamins A, B1, B2, and C, plus the minerals Calcium, Iron and Potassium - but who cares about nutritional benefits when it's so yummy to eat straight out of the tin by the spoonful. Addicted former visitors and ex-patriots can order Milo, as well other Australian national or indigenous food products such as Vegemite (see below) or wattleseed, online through global retailers such as www.ausimports.com .

multiculturalism (n., mull-tee-kultch-ah-roo-lizm) The ideal of cultural tolerance and mutual respect in a nation of immigrants where to be a "real Australian" or "true blue" is a state of mind rather than origin.

Never Never (n., nevah-nevah) See "outback".

not so bad (adj.ph., naw-t-soh-ba-a-a-ad) Typical form of Australian understatement, as in: Q: "how are you going?", A: "not so bad"; meaning: "pretty good, really"; or as another example: Q: "how are you going?", A: "not that flash, mate"; meaning: "help me, please, I'm about to die".
Nymagee Triangle (n., nim-ah-jee troy-ang-gool) Triangular shaped region between the NSW outback towns of Cobar, Nyngan, and Condobolin; the hamlet of Nymagee (pop. 62) lying at its centre. The Nymagee Triangle is thought to be a distant cousin to the Bermuda Triangle. Whole busloads of sight-seers have gone missing from the area; and mysterious damp circles appear on local roadways at night.
ordinary (adj., oar-din-air-ee) See "average".

outback (n., owt-bak) The dry, flat, vastly unpopulated inland of Australia. All too often, naive visitors to the outback perish from dehydration and exposure after under-estimating the distances and harsh conditions (right). Finding water at all may mean dancing cheek-cheek with a crocodile. Very nasty indeed, travellers, so don't take signposted warnings out there lightly (below left) - let someone know where you're going and when you should be back.

poof (n., poof) 1. Homosexual male, not to be confused with the European footrest pouffe. 2. (adv.) to disappear inexplicably, as in "went poof and was gone".

redback (n., red-bak) Venomous Australian spider, commonly found under the toilet seats of 'out-houses' and public toilets, although not so much in urban areas. Of all the thousands of Australian spiders, arthropods and insects, only three have bites capable of causing death without timely medical intervention - the funnel-web spider (and related species), the red back spider and the paralysis tick. The bite of the white-tail spider causes necrosis (tissue death) that can require amputation of the effected area, but is not in itself life-threatening.

road-kill (n., roe-wd ki-ull) The dirt shoulders of country and outback roads are littered with carcasses in various states of putrefaction. The most common victims of cars, trucks, and tour buses are kangaroos, however sheep, wombats, goannas, snakes, and the vermin foxes and rabbits are often encountered. No good bushie would let fresh road-kill go to waste (the clever ones cook a meal of it on their engine manifold, whilst driving).

sheila (n., shee-lah) Very common term for an adult female Australian, can be used with affection and respect ["she's a good sheila"], to emphasise femininity ["she's a real sheila"], or as an excuse ["she's just a sheila"].

shout (n.v., sshh-ow-t) Custom observed between group of drinkers, each taking a turn at buying a round of drinks for the group. The rules of the shout are strict, numerous, and adhered to with near-religious obsession.

smoko (n., smoe-koe) 1. A break, the bloke's equivalent to morning or afternoon tea, traditionally enjoyed with a roll-your-own cigarette. 2. Cannabis, a herbal relaxant common in Australia since the 1970s (half the population may have smoked it at some stage, but of those now in public life, all say they never actually inhaled).

spunk (n., spung-k) Attractive male or female, as in "phwoar, what a spunk", meaning: "my, how attractive".
squatocracy (n., skwot-ock-ra-see) Families or individuals who have occupied their rural land for several generations and developed an un-Australian sense of social superiority, authority and entitlement.

strewth (n., strew-th) Expletive, thought to have been derived from: "god's truth!"

Strayian (p.n., strai-yun) Australian, as in: "Are you Strayian?". More contemporary form than 'Strine' (see below).

Strine (n., str-eye-n) Name for the Australian language or dialect, as loosely based on English [ab. Australian].

Sydney Tobart (p.n., sid-nee-toe-bart) One of the world's most dangerous and competitive ocean yacht races, the Sydney-to-Hobart fleet departs spectacularly from Sydney Harbour every Boxing Day (the day after Christmas Day) for Hobart in southern Tasmania.

thick (adj., thi-k) Stupid. When travelling overseas, Australians inadvertently proposition many cab drivers, waitpersons, and customs officers with the rhetorical question: "Are you thick, mate?"

tintookie (n., tin-took-ee) Australian bush fairy of the species tintookie terra australis, Celtic-Gypsy in ancestry, and a close spiritual relative of the Aboriginal bush sprite tintookie indigenous australis. According to Dreamtime legend, tintookies appear to help those who are lost in the bush (particularly children). Visitors to the outback should be warned that tintookies cannot be of assistance in dry, scrubby areas.

traditional owners (n., trah-dish-shon-ull oh-nah-s) Wry euphemism for Australia's indigenous population, used by some rural types who are either mindful or resentful of the Aboriginal people's successful reclamation of some sacred sites, traditional lands, and hunting grounds.

tree change (n., tree-chayn-j) Lifestyle change away from the city to the bush. Similar in effect to a sea change, but without the cockroaches, weekend traffic, and ridiculously expensive real estate.


ute (n., yoo-t) Utility vehicle with two-door cabin, resembling a sedan from the front but with rear open flat-top tray, gated or solid-sided area that is ideal for the transport of hay bales, trade tools and farm equipment. Ute models may be 4WD variants or manufactured on the drive-train and chassis of a normal sedan. Utes are a fashion statement and status symbol for many young rural folk, particularly males, who often adorn them with spotlights (for shooting pigs and 'roos), aerials (for two-way radio), huge bull bars (for stray livestock and wildlife), and stickers saying things like: "XXXX", "Tooheys", "Eat more beef", "I shoot and I vote", "Virgins wanted", and "No fat chicks". Rural Australia's deep love for the ute is typified by Lee Kernaghan's hit song : "She's My Ute" (written with Colin Buchanan).

wattle (n., wott-ull) The Golden Wattle, acacia pycnantha, is the floral emblem of Australia. It is a perennial, medium-sized bush with grey-green foliage and flower clusters of tiny, fluffy, golden balls, the air-borne pollen from which can cause a hayfever-type reaction in some people. There are 128 different species of acacia, all beautiful in bloom, and all unique to the Australian bush. National Wattle Day is 1st September.

wedgie (n., wedj-ee) An 'extra' beer, self-purchased in between rounds due in the course of a "shout" (see above).

yobbo (n., yobb-oe) Unmannered male; male of low apparent intelligence.

yobie (n., yoe-bee) An indefinite measurement meaning: "just exactly as much as one needs, and not a bit more". Not a common expression; mainly heard among sheep farmers living on the hard, unforgiving plains of Central Western New South Wales.

youse (n., yoo-z) Collective plural form of "you", as in two or more people: "what do youse reckon?".




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