How to speak Aussie

Before the courses at my university, the University of Technology Sydney, started, there was an orientation week. While this is a fairly common practice amongst universities to facilitate the transition of students between different cultures, I wasn’t prepared to be in a presentation where somebody taught me how to speak “Aussie”. Once more, my initial beliefs about Australia, namely that people would speak English, were questioned beyond my wildest imagination. However, while speaking like a “true blue” might not be achieved by non-Australian born people, there are a few easy rules to keep in mind when having a conversation with a local.
First, abbr., abbr., abbr.! This of course means: abbreviate, abbreviate, abbreviate! Considering the stunning shorelines of “Straya”, it’s no wonder that Aussies (please note that abbreviation for Australia for example) like to abbreviate everything in order to spend more time at the magnificent beaches. One of the most prominent examples is the greeting “G’day”. This term is one of the best examples of the craftsmanship the Aussies demonstrate when it comes to abbreviating words. Not only have the Australians managed to merge two words into one, they also got rid of half of the letters in the process! Even more astonishingly, they have accomplished to do this without sacrificing the easy understanding of the word. Even somebody coming to Australia the first time in their life will understand what is meant by that term. For students, one of the most important abbreviations is the term “BYO”. While this term might be familiar to a lot of people, BYO refers to a very specific policy in Australia that you have to bring your own beer or wine when eating out in restaurants, as they do not have an alcohol distribution permit.

Second, change, add or better yet, just skip letters at the end of words. Derived from the first rule, Aussies pride themselves in altering words beyond recognition. Afternoon, for example, simply becomes “arvo”. On the contrary, a cup of tea becomes a “cuppa”. Other examples include “bevvy” for beverage, “footy” for football, “bizzo” for business, “brekky” for breakfast and “choccy biccy” for a chocolate biscuit. Another example is the fairly popular fast food joint McDonalds, which is simply referred to as “Maccas”. Another wide us of this practice is the alteration of names. Robert becomes “Robbo”, David becomes “Davo” and Jonathan becomes “Jono”. The commitment to add an “o” even goes so far to call a person named Jack “Jacko”.

Third, Aussies use a lot of words that taught English speakers are not accustomed to. For example, instead of saying “a lot”, Aussies often use the term “heaps”. The same is true for the word “thongs”, which is not used to described a certain kind of underwear, but flip flops. Furthermore, instead of purchasing something, Aussies will often “cop” it. That friends and colleagues are referred to as “mates” probably even goes without saying. Another example of a typical Australian word is “goon”. Goon refers to boxed, mostly white, wine. This iconic drink is a favourite amongst students and is probably one of the first Australian words that a tourist, student or backpacker includes in his repertoire.

Funny enough, Microsoft Word does recognize Aussie language if you set the language to Australian English, proving that slang language is an existential part of this culture. While all these rules seem to be very easy to follow, one major theme that I have not touched on yet is the pronunciation. However, since this is a very complex topic and can’t probably be replicated by a Swiss in text format, I will leave this unique experience open to people who come and visit this magnificent country!

For further examples, please also see this handy guide:

Michael Schär

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