Do ye ken? Pardon? What? Eh? Got the gist? Understanding the lingo

When the recently deposed South Australian Premier referred to our Federal politicians as ‘knuckle draggers’ and an electricity generator as having ‘shat itself’ on television a few weeks ago, I thought it maybe worth a look at our own Australian version of English.

The Australian vernacular is peppered with some peculiar expressions. When a nation is forged from the meeting of the world’s oldest surviving culture with a bunch of convict outcasts from an over-populated society, well things can only get interesting. Throw in two centuries of refugees and opportunists from another hundred or so countries and you’ll find not only Cockney rhyming slang mixed with Dreamtime but poetry sitting side by side with curses. In no particular order here are a few that spring to mind:

Knuckle Dragger – Neanderthal

Rat’s Coffins, Dog’s Eye and Dead Horse – Sausage Rolls, Meat Pie and Tomato Sauce

Stone the Crows – Well I’ll be buggered!

Well I’ll be buggered – I’m surprised

I’ll be buttered on both sides – I’m surprised

Strewth – expression of surprise a shortened version of ‘God’s truth’. Pretty much the same as Bloody Hell!

Geez – expression of surprise, shortened form of ‘Jesus’.

Flake and Chips – Fish and Chips Victorian style, always shark

Flake – cooked shark

Scallops – in the southern states a shellfish, in the northern states a battered slice of potato (always cause for much hilarity when distant families get together)

Barra – Barramundi, a particularly good northern fish

Parma or Parmie or Schnitz (the name changes as you go north or west) – Parmagiana (a flattened and crumbed piece of chook smothered in a tomato sauce, topped with a slice of ham and melted cheese. Basically an Aussie corruption of an Italian veal classic.

Chook – chicken

Sangas – sandwiches

Sambos – sandwiches

Lambo sambo – cold lamb sandwich (no, I’m not being politically incorrect)

Thongs – flip flops, jandals (NZ)

Cozzie – bathing suit in some states

Swimmers – bathing suit in other states

Bathers – bathing suit in Victoria

Ports – suitcases in NSW, a corruption of the French portmanteau.

Ratbag – a bit of a character and sometimes a little rough around the edges, although quite a few politicians are called ratbags

Larrikin – also a bit of a character

Bastard – for most blokes this is a term of endearment. “You’re a funny bastard” which probably means “Geez, I love ya mate”.

Bloke – Man

Sheila – Woman

Missus – Wife, stems from Cockney ‘Cheese and Kisses’ = Missus

Derro – as in derelict, homeless person

Whiz Bang – Small motorhome with a sliding door that makes a whizzzzz bang! sound in the middle of the night

Now you’re cooking with gas – when someone finally gets something right. From an ad campaign for natural gas

Possie – position, as in ‘oh, we’ve got a good possie’.

Utes – utility or pick up truck, popular with young blokes

Not Happy Jan – disappointed, in fact bloody annoyed, stems from a TV commercial

(it’s a ) Joke Joyce – originates from a TV skit

Not the full quid, kangaroo short in the top paddock, sausage short on the barbie – someone seemingly with a mental deficiency. As in “Geez, he’s a sausage short on the barbie, that one”.

Barbie – BBQ

Thunderbox – outside unsewered toilet

Dunny – toilet

Full as a goog – drunk as a skunk

Dagging around – messing around.

Dag – is a small ball of poo on a sheep’s bum. The reason why sheep need to have their bum’s shorn (crutched) regularly in this country, a little inconvenience is better than a fly blown bum (Eeww). Hence ‘dag’ is a good humoured expression. A cheerful wag is a bit of a dag. “Blimey, he’s a dag”

Wag – a funny character

Blimey – expression of surprise, eg: blimey, that was a close shave.

Ripper – great!

It’s only words

23 thoughts on “Do ye ken? Pardon? What? Eh? Got the gist? Understanding the lingo

  1. A lot of these we in the UK recognise as deriving from our own vernacular and much of the rest we got from watching Neighbours and Home and Away, my husband always found the ‘few sausages short of a barbie’ type hilarious (though he would never admit to having seen either of those programmes 😄) Scallops is an interesting one for me, I’ve never heard anyone else refer to deep-fried potato as scallops – basically the same as chips but the shape of a scallop fish. I’m a northerner, and guessed it was the poor man’s equivalent. You made me laugh 😄


    1. Glad it gave you a laugh. The more I think about it I’d say that the scallop thing is because they live in the cooler waters of South Australia, Victoria & Tasmania, certainly best tasting in Tassie. And oh so much better than a slice of spud.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ps we have friends who emigrated to Oz after uni and their daughters used to send letter tapes to us and our children when they were young ( long before texts and emails). Then they began visiting us. They often referred to someone as a ‘dag’, but I never got the impression they were being complimentary.


  3. Loved this post and it made me smile, especially the “whizz bang” I can still see the horror on regular caravan peoples faces when we pulled in next to them in our old whizz bang Matilda….


  4. You forgot one of the most important ones – tucker. I love the Aussie slang, and sadly that one seems to be dying out a bit. I try and use it whenever I can to try and keep it alive. Great post, by the way. A good laugh.


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