Strewth, mate: How to speak Aussie

What did you say? Aussie sheilas at a beach in Sydney.
What did you say? Aussie sheilas at a beach in Sydney. Photo: Quentin Jones

When visiting Australia, it's good to be aware of some of the weird and wonderful phrases tourists might hear.

Although Kiwis, Britons and Aussies all speak English, the Aussies have some unique turns of phrase. 

Here is a quick guide to translating some of the Strine or Strayan (pronounced pretty much the same) you'll encounter in the vast island continent.

Stone the flamin' crows

An Australian classic made famous by Alf Stewart (played by Ray Meagher) on Home and Away, it is apparently an exclamation of incredulity or annoyance. However, don't expect every Australian you come across to express their dismay in this way, as it is more of a cult following.

Strewth/Struth

Another Alf Stewartism you would be more likely to hear on the streets of Sydney than someone stoning their crows. This one was originally a British contraction of the phrase "God's truth", but the Australian's have made it their own. It goes very well alongside the other popular Aussie exclamation of surprise "Crikey!".

Sheila

A woman. The late great Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, used to love to exclaim "look at the size of that sheila" when looking upon a large female croc.

Fair dinkum

Australians like to be straight up and honest with you and feel the need to tell you that they are being honest by putting fair dinkum in front of said honesty. If you get called a "fair dinkum decent bloke/sheila", take it as one of the highest compliments you can possibly be paid. To claim something is fair dinkum is to say it is true.

Drongo

Drongo was the name of a promising Australian racehorse of the early 1920s who, although finishing midfield in a Melbourne Cup, failed to win a race in 37 starts.

Subsequently the drongo became synonymous with a competitor who was continually being narrowly beaten, but became an epithet for any horse or person who was disappointing, slow or clumsy - a no-hoper.

It is not as commonly used today as it was a few generations ago but you might get some Aussie geriatric calling you a drongo if you do anything stupid or clumsy.

Esky

It's what the Aussies call a chilly bin. They are so lacking in imagination that instead of coming up with a unique name for their portable coolers, they named them after the dominant brand.

Even the brands which aren't Eskys are still referred to as Eskys. A remarkable marketing coup by maker Nylex.

Snicko, Reno, Chicko Roll

Australians will basically stick an 'o' on any self explanatory person, place or thing. Snicko is a piece of cricketing technology used to show "nicks" off the bat. Reno is a renovation. A chicko roll, you guessed it, was originally called a chicken roll. If your name can conceivably end in an 'o', then expect to be called that.

Name changes

Further to putting 'o' on the end of anything, Australians love to change people's names by shortening them, extending them or giving someone a nickname. Watch an Australian cricket match and you'll hear it soon enough. The commentary team is a litany of changed names.

There is Slats (Michael Slater), Tubby (Mark Taylor), Heals (Ian Healy), Chappelli (Ian Chappell), Warney (Shane Warne), JB (James Brayshaw), Gilly (Adam Gilchrist) and Huss (Mike Hussey, aka Mr Cricket).

Hard Yakka

It basically means hard work. Yakka originates in Aboriginal language and comes from yaga, meaning work, in the Yagara indigenous language of the Brisbane region.

Thongs, flip-flops

No it's not a skimpy piece of woman's underwear, it's a type of footwear. 

Australian footwear maker Dunlop used the word "thong" when it began mass production in 1959. So celebrated they are across the ditch popstar Kylie Minogue once rode a giant thong into the 2000 Sydney Olympics closing ceremony.

The Kiwis, however, call it jandals (derived from "Japanese sandal"). 

Ocker 

An ocker is equivalent to a bogan. The term is used both as a noun and adjective for an Australian who speaks and acts in an uncultured manner.

The typical ocker is usually found in a blue singlet and rubber thongs with a beer in his hand propping up a bar. Sounds very much like a bogan.

Floater

It's not a buoyant bowel movement or a dead body in Sydney harbour water - it's actually a staple late night food outside the Adelaide Casino, a meat pie served in a pool of thick gravy with mushy peas.

What's your Aussie word or saying? Leave a comment below.

Stuff.co.nz

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