Australians have a unique way of pronouncing things, not to mention some really fucked up city names (no offence, Koolyanobbing). I ruthlessly mangled (and continue to mangle) words on the reg. Some people find the American accent cute (why), but no one finds mispronouncing Melbourne to be anything but annoying. Now, these are off the top of my head, I may come back and add more as I think of them, but here are some useful pronunciations, everyday slang & expressions, and a brief lesson on spelling differences. Oh, and the metric system, because I didn’t know where else to put it.
Common mispronunciations to avoid
- Melbourne: That’s right, cats. It’s not mel-BURN or even mel-BORN. It’s MEL-bin. No R noises should be happening.
- Circular Quay: That big circular bay of water the Opera house sits on/ Quay, the popular brand. Both pronounced like key.
- Wollongong: My parents call it Woll-ON-GONG. Far too sharp emphasis on those syllables. It’s more like WOOL-on-gong.
- Geelong: Now, this is hard once we get into Gs and Js, I never know how to describe these letters… So it’s like J in juice. Juh-LONG.
- Cairns: Here’s a simple one. CANS. Done.
- Coogee: suburb and beach in Sydney, pronounced like cookie, but with a “j” sound like in jeans. So soft “oo”, not like “coo coo”. Coojie.
- Brisbane: Basically how everyone mispronounces my last name. BRIS-bin.
- Uluru: That big rock in the centre. OO-loo-roo.
- Paw paw: Papaya, makes the most unreal balm for everything from lips to elbows. I can’t actually say this word, or anything that rhymes with it (Mt. Baw Baw). I’m not even sure I can adequately describe how to say it… it’s like por-por, but with really subtle r’s and sort of a pawr sound as well? I am constantly made fun of for this, but I have yet to meet an American who can actually say it, and I ask everyone. I think our mouths do not make this noise. (Actually, I watched a video once that explained how people from different linguistic backgrounds actually develop anatomical differences in their speech muscles and vocal chords during their first few years of life, based on the sounds they learn to make, which explains why other languages have sounds that we will never be able to master as fully developed adults (i.e. mø). Fancy that.)
Learn the lingo
- Arvo: afternoon
- Full on: intense (e.g. my course is pretty full on)
- Bogan: redneck
- Pokies: slot machines
- Servo: petrol station (service station)
- Tradie: tradesman, like plumbers and electricians, etc.
- Sook: pout (e.g. sooking about not getting the job)
- Chemist: pharmacy
- Snag: sausage (e.g. throw a couple snags on the BBQ)
- Doona: comforter, like for the bed.
- Footy: AFL, Aussie rules football. Like Rugby, but better.
- Fringe: bangs, the ones on your head.
- Grid Iron: American football, NFL
- Whinge: whine, complaining (i.e. stop whinging, you idiot)
- Thongs: flip-flops
- Boot: trunk of the car
- Ute: pick-up truck
- Yous: ya’ll, and just as bogan (redneck) of a thing to say. (e.g. what are yous doing?)
- Ta: thank you
- Coriander: what we would call cilantro.
- Capsicum: pepper, as in red pepper, yellow pepper, green pepper
- Esky: cooler. Or in NZ: chilly bin (hehe)
Lingo for a night out
- Froth/froff: beers, to love something (i.e. “go to the pub and suck some froff”, or “I’m froffing this new bar”
- Root: have sex (e.g. rooting like rabbits)
- Macca’s: McDonald’s. It is big here. Like, really big.
- Loose: crazy (e.g. that chick is one loose unit)
- Cooked: fucked up (e.g. someone get me an ice pack, I’m cooked!)
- Rig: body (e.g. she has a mad rig)
- Bottle-o: liquor store
- Dart: cigarette
- Bumbag: fanny pack. Don’t say fanny here, it’s slang for vag (more vag slang: minge, moot)
- Munted: fucked up (e.g. I was absolutely munted last night)
- Aggro: aggressive, mad
- Grouse: great
- Goon: wine in a bag, aka your new drink of choice. Usually Fruity Lexia, a “soft fruity white”, but comes in all varieties and costs about $10 for 4L. (Insert hilarious joke about liking my wine like I like my men: “soft, fruity & white”.)
Some Aussie expressions that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without
- Bloody oath/ fuckin’ oath: definitely (e.g. bloody oath, I’m going, mate!)
- Carrying on like a pork chop: blubbering on, making a scene
- Kangaroos loose in the top paddock: crazy, like “a few screws loose”
- Flat out like a lizard drinking: really busy (e.g. I’m absolutely flat out here)
- How ya goin’?: How are you, how’s it going? (e.g. hey mate, how ya goin’)
- She’ll be right: it’ll be ok, it’ll work out
- Sweet as: sweet. Aussies just add “as” to the end of words like “she’s hot as”, “that’s sick as”, “I’m drunk as”, “easy as”
- Can’t be fucked: can’t be bothered to do something. Also shortened to “cbf” or “ceebz”, as my boyfriend says (“Ceebz, mate.”)
- No dramas: Also “no worries” and “no wozza”. Sometimes like “don’t mention it” and sometimes like “no big deal”. (e.g. No dramas, mate, happy to help/ We can meet at 3, no worries)
- Off her face: fucked up, drunk, on drugs (e.g. that chick is totally off her face)
- Written off: You can “write off” a car when you total it, or you can “write yourself off” when you get crazy drunk
- As mad as a tree full of galahs: crazy
- Sweating like a bag of cats at a greyhound meet/sweating like a gypsy with a mortgage/ sweating like a one-armed brick-layer in Baghdad
A lesson in spelling and grammar
For the most part, Australia uses British English. Thankfully, the update
of Word now corrects almost all of these to the Australian spellings if your
computer is set up right, which is quite handy for seeming more in the know than you are. Who knows the rules here, but this is what I have observed happening on occasion:
- Z to S: Words we Americans might spell with a Z are usually spelled with an S here. Examples: realise, categorise, apologise, analyse.
- O to OU: I’m sure everyone is familiar with the classic British spellings like colour, harbour, labour, vapour, moustache, mould.
- E to AE: These ones can be really overwhelming at first, just because they make words look really different. Examples: orthopaedic, paediatrician, anaesthetist (Aus word for anesthesiologist), aesthetic.
- LL to L: There are a lot of single L’s floating around here. Examples: instalment, enrolment.
- L to LL: And then again, here’s some double LL’s. Examples: travelling, counsellor.
- I to E: Who knows why, but inquiry is “enquiry”.
- Just some random weird ones: manoeuvre, programme, aluminium (even pronounced differently), catalogue, cheque, tyre, gaol (yes, that’s “jail”…)
- ER to RE: It looks more glamourous this way anyway. Examples: theatre, centre, fibre, metre.
- S to C: In American English, we don’t use the word licence, only license. In Australian English, “licence” is a noun, as in your licence, and “license” is a verb, as in you are licensed. Similarly, the nouns defence, offence, and pretence.
- Enough boring spelling! Proper date syntax: Day Month Year. (i.e. 31/01/2017) Makes sense, right? Why do we do Month Day Year in the US!?
Metric System > Imperial System
- A 5k race is about 3ish miles, the highway speed limit ranges between 100-120km/h, and 1km is (gasp) 1000 metres.
- A ruler is 30cm
- A pound is 2.2kg, 500g of beef makes a dinner for 4
- In Celsius, 0 is freezing and 100 is boiling. The conversion is 1.8F + 32. A 20C day is warm enough to go to the beach, a 30C day is warm enough for a fan, and a 40C day is warm enough to make you consider drowning yourself.
- A “fifth” of vodka is 700mL, a can of beer is about 350mL, and 4L is a bit more than a gallon.