Australian English

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Australian English

Post by Archived Topic » Fri Nov 26, 2004 12:54 pm

Ran across this article on Austalian English, which I thought might be instructive to some of us.
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Word Wizards of Oz by Keith Hall, in ‘Vocabula Review,’ December 2004

Having an Australian accent is a mixed blessing. It sounds reassuringly normal in Australia, but can be a liability in the rest of the world. Some people love it, most people hate it, but few are unmoved by it. It always seems that no one knows what to do with Australian English. Australians often appear to be embarrassed by it; the English think it sounds like South African; South Africans think it sounds like New Zealandish; New Zealanders hate it; Americans are baffled by it; and Asians refuse to believe that it is English at all.

For a version of English that tries to take itself seriously, Australian English is often surprisingly funny and inventive. I was recently struck by an Australian T-shirt worn by an Asian girl in Singapore. Under the heading "Aussie English," it gave a list of useful Australianisms, starting with ‘barbie’(meal cooked outdoors), ‘bikkie’ (biscuit), and ‘brekkie’(first meal of the day). This walking dictionary highlighted one immediately noticeable characteristic of Australian English, its tendency to truncate words and add an ‘-ie’ ending.

You might expect these ‘-ie’ words to be used in casual speech only. No way. They find their way into newspaper headlines like "Prevaricating pollies fiddle while taxes burn us," "Staffer chucked a sickie," and "Anzac biccie does its bit." In partial explanation of these mysterious headlines, ‘pollies’ are politicians, a ‘sickie’ is a day taken off work under the pretense of being sick, and ‘biccies’ (also spelled ‘bikkies,’ as on the Aussie English T-shirt) are biscuits — or cookies if you happen to be American. In the same way, football is ‘footie,’ Christmas is ‘Chrissie,’ a swimsuit is a cossie (from swimming costume), relatives are ‘rellies,’ and sunglasses are ‘sunnies.’

But these '-ie' words are only one aspect of Australian English. There is also a family of '-o' words. These show up in headlines like "Compo case rejected," where the term ‘Compo’ means compensation for work-related injuries. Other common '-o' words include ‘arvo’ for afternoon, ‘alco’ for an alcoholic, and ‘ambo’ for ambulance. Place names get the same treatment, with Fremantle becoming ‘Freo,’ and Rottnest Island becoming ‘Rotto.’

Interestingly, the name John gets "shortened" to ‘Johnno.’ So these ‘-ie’ and ‘-o’ words are not just lazy shortenings, they have a deliberately amusing and affectionate overtone. But there is a big mystery here. Who decides whether these words will take an ‘-ie’ or ‘-o’ ending? All Australians know that a can of beer is a ‘tinnie,’ while a member of the Salvation Army is a ‘Salvo.’ No one would think of referring to a ‘tinno’ or ‘Salvie.’ But don't bother asking who decided the ending, or what rule is used to choose the ending. At best, you will be entertained by speculation about secret government departments who surreptitiously control the Australian language. At worst, you will be viewed with pity or suspicion.

As you may have guessed by now, we Australians have a manic-depressive relationship with our language. We are simultaneously proud of its distinctiveness and worried that it isn't quite proper English. The Australian dialect is known by a variety of names. Academics call it Australian English; baby boomers call it ‘Strine’; people from generations X and Y refer to it as ‘Ocker.’ With the Australian tendency to swallow leading vowels, it is universally described as 'Stralian.’ And the country and the language are often reduced to the convenient abbreviation ‘Oz.’ Apparently Dorothy's journey over the rainbow took her to the Southern Hemisphere.

Australia has many inherently amusing place names. Where else could you find towns with names like Woy Woy, Wagga Wagga, Woolongong, Gingin, Indooroopilly, Wooloomooloo, and Maloolaba? With so many names beginning with 'W' and having doubled sounds, it is no surprise that Australians have invented the mythical place name ‘Woop Woop’ to describe unspecified but remote locations. This name has also been adapted into the eye-catching ‘Wwwoopwoop’ for a holiday information website.

‘Johnno’ isn't the only Australianized personal name. Barry becomes ‘Bazza,’ Garry becomes ‘Gazza,’ and Sharon becomes ‘Shazza.’ Don't ask why these ‘-ar-‘ words undergo such an unlikely transformation into ‘-azza’ words. No one knows; it's another Australian mystery. If your family name is Kelly, you will probably find that people call you Ned. That one is no mystery; Ned Kelly was a legendary outlaw in nineteenth-century Australia. In a typically Australian reversal of social convention, he is considered to be more of a good guy than the police were. The same perversity leads to people with red hair being traditionally called ‘Blue’ or ‘Bluey,’ tall people being called ‘Shorty,’ and people with very straight hair — or no hair at all — being called ‘Curley.’

Australians also excel at inventing funny names for groups of people. Residents of the tropical state of Queensland are called ‘banana benders,’ people from sandy Perth are ‘sand gropers,’ South Australians are ‘crow eaters,’ and New Zealanders are ‘Kiwis.’ English people are ‘Poms’ or ‘Pommies,’ which may come from "Prisoner of Her Majesty," reflecting Australia's origins as a penal settlement. Americans are ‘Seppos,’ which is another one of those ‘-o’ words. It comes from the rhyming slang term ‘septic tank,’ meaning Yank. Of course all these terms can be acceptingly inclusive or aggressively insulting, depending on the tone and context in which they are used.

Use of rhyming slang is traditionally considered to be an English Cockney characteristic, but it has found a new home in Australia. In a pub or lunch bar, you may hear someone ask for "dog's eye and dead horse." Don't faint, this is not an exotic Middle Eastern dish. It is rhyming slang for "meat pie and tomato sauce." Likewise, a ‘blood blister’ is a sister, ‘billy lids’ are kids, to be on your ‘Pat Malone’ is to be alone, a ‘rubbity-dub’ is a pub (public hotel/bar), and to be ‘Adrian Quist’ is to be inebriated. For some unimaginable reason, Australian English is also very rich in terms relating to alcohol and drunkenness. Wine is ‘plonk;’ chardonnay is ‘shardie’ or ‘sharders;’ cabernet sauvignon is ‘cab sav’ or ‘savvy’; and an alcoholic is an ‘alco,’ ‘alkie,’ ‘wino, ‘ 'plonko,’ or ‘derro’ (short for derelict). And vomiting from too much food or drink is variously described as ‘spewing,’ ‘ chundering,’ ‘ yodelling,’ ‘ chucking up,’ or ‘having a technicolour yawn.’

One further aspect of Australian English that confuses visitors is the tendency to shorten sentences by ignoring the gaps between words. So "have a good weekend" becomes ‘avagoodweegend’; "good on you" (a term of encouragement shouted to sportsmen) is ‘goo donya’; "good day, how are you?" is “g'day owarya.” In much the same way, the cities Melbourne and Sydney are always pronounced as “Melb’n” and ‘Sinny’ — and the Sydney suburbs of Seven Hills and Pendle Hills are ‘Sever Nills’ and ‘Pender Lills.’ Since Sydney is Australia's most fun-loving, in your face, and bohemian city, ‘Sinny’ is viewed by non-Sydneysiders as an amusingly apt name.

For a country that prides itself on its rugged individualism, Australia has produced some striking expressions to describe groups of people or other items. At sale time, it is common to describe the crowds of shoppers in the stores as ‘heaps of people,’ ‘ stacks of shoppers,’ ‘ loads of customers,’ or ‘tons of people.’ You can even stress the accuracy of your description by insisting that there were ‘literally heaps of people.’ Or further exaggerate by saying that ‘the whole population of Sydney must have been there.’ No one will challenge you. The more you exaggerate the better.

So if you are heading Down Under sometime, remember to take your ‘cossie’ and ‘sunnies.’ Don't be surprised if there are ‘literally heaps’ of people at the beach. Plan to have a ‘barbie’ with a ‘tinnie’ or plenty of ‘savvy’ while you are there. But aim to avoid becoming ‘Adrian Quist’ and ‘chundering.’ And you certainly won't want to become a ‘plonko.’ ‘Avagoodoliday!’

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Ken G – December 27, 2004
Submitted by Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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Australian English

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Nov 26, 2004 1:07 pm

.. and Ken just as it should be .. *proud smile* .. I could give many local examples of the /ie/ and /o/ endings and have no idea who decides which form is taken .. it just happens .. it defies any simple rule governed by length or syllables or distribution of vowels, accented or otherwise .. for example "Freemantle" >> Freeo while "Newcastle" >> Newie .. but then "alcoholic" >> either "alco" or "alkie" .. when you want to have a drink with your mates you go to the bowlo (Bowling Club) or to the leaguie (Leagues Club) .. does anybody care ?? .. no-one except maybe for academics and PhD linguistic thesis writers .. and the Government department referred to does exist as in "a Style Council meets annually for discussion of language matters, convened by Macquarie University's Dictionary Research Centre, with financial support from Language Australia and the continuing involvement of The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd." (from the Foreword of the Macquarie Dictionary 3rd Ed) ..
.. if one wants to be more learned then we could quote from the above source that Australian English, is defined in the Macquarie dictionary as `the national dialect of the English language used in Australia, especially characterised by the pronunciation, lexis and idiom of many of those born and educated in Australia, often in contrast with other such national dialects, in particular, British English and American English'. .. and further that Australian English is the `foundation language of our education, training and employment systems...the common medium for communication and the exchange of ideas across a population of widely varying ethnic and racial backgrounds, contributing significantly to social cohesion and economic efficiency.' (The Language of Australia, 1990). .. but Ken I much prefer the article you have posted as it captures the larrikin nature and individualism of just how we Aussies choose to speak .. avagoodweegend mate and if ya neighbour gets up ya nose may his chooks turn into emus and kick his dunny down ..
WoZ of Aus 29/12/04
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Post by Archived Reply » Fri Nov 26, 2004 1:21 pm

Ken, out of interest Aussies also like to "drive the porcelain bus" and "park the tiger" when referring to the act of regurgitation.
Brian of Oz (bozo) 29/12/04
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Post by duckling » Fri Jan 07, 2005 5:34 pm

hey guys, you make us sound like such "ockers"! i don't mean to be so discouraging, but as a young (24) aussie myself, i find your description of our language a little over-exagerated. i am getting a little bit sick of young tourists (especially american youths)asking me "Do you really say "crikey" and "bloody 'ell" all the time?" because i don't and niether do most of the people i know. There are not many of us that are even slightly comparable to Steve Erwin's over-enthusiastic nature (from "the crocodile hunter" fame) but because of our great ability to poke fun at ourselves, we have been branded as being the "Dumb illiterate and isolated country" known as Australia! It doesn't take much reasearch to realise that we are actually a wonderful country with some of the most reputed scientists, doctors e.t.c in the world but when we are viewed in the more common eye, well..., have you ever seen the "simpsons" episode where they travel to Australia? we make Homer Simpson look intelligent! I really do appreciate your post and found it to be an amusing read but, c-mon, have you really ever said "Avagooday"???
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Wed Jan 12, 2005 12:38 pm

Jasmin .. no-one here is suggesting that the way one speaks and the unique accent that makes me an "Aussie" somehow suggests that I lack intelligence .. the corollary of that is that if one speaks some wonderous kind of forced Received Pronunciation then one is naturally gifted and talented .. ooooops sorry !!! .. not even remotely true Jasmin .. I do run my words together and I do speak a form of strine and I am proud to be identified as an Aussie by the way I speak .. oh I can put on the dog when needed to appease the gods but it is not my "natural" way of speaking .. and I am not sure at all where you got this one from >> "Dumb illiterate and isolated country" known as Australia! .. Jasmin I think you are suffering from another of our national diseases which I had thought was pretty much being eradicated, especially amongst the young, and that is the well know Aussie cringe .. the mistaken belief that we are NOT as good as anybody else .. wrong again !! .. I have said in other places in these forums that it is a very sad fact that the younger generation of our wonderful country is trying more and more to sound like and imitate a foreign media driven culture that has little place here .. Jasmin be proud to sound like an Aussie, to use Aussie slang and phrases, to be indentifiable AS an Aussie and not some US clone .. our language is our heritage --- don't lose it or resign from it --- be proud and speak up as an Aussie .. oh and to quote the Simpsons I think pretty much kills the idea of any connection between intelligence and how one speaks .. if you watch that show I don't care how well you speak you are sus .. *laughing* .. anyway gottagetgoin and see how me mates are doin outha back ..
WoZ of Aus 12/01/05
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Post by duckling » Fri Jan 14, 2005 2:02 pm

Woz, in no way did i intend to suggest criticism towards you or any other fellow Aussie,and i appologise for not proofreading my post! On the contrary, I was merely pointing out the foreign assumption towards us as being culturally inept! I must admit, I did take slight offence to your comment suggesting that I (or commonly young Aussies)am akin to a "US clone" (particularly due to the fact that my understanding and pronunciation of English, if comparable to anything, is closer to being British than American) but i do agree with you wholeheartedly that the youth today are "Americanised" and are more commonly being swayed by foreign "popularity propaganda"! I am extremely proud of my language and my country and wouldnt change it for anything but i am becoming increasingly irritated with the foreign assumption that we walk around all day sprouting off words like "crikey" and "lets throw another(shrimp? another foreign misinterpretation)prawn on the barbie!" rather than "hi, how are you?". Once again, I am sorry and I meant no harm. you are obviously an intelligent bunch and I believe (without intending to sound introverted and big headed)as a new member, I will fit in nicely with like minded people! I hope to hear back from you regarding this subject, "time for a snooze"
Jas 15/01/05
Oh, by the way, I Loathe the Simpsons!!! Unfortunately my hubby loves the bloody show and for about 13 years i have had to put up with that horrible theme song :)
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Post by mongrowl » Fri Jan 14, 2005 9:52 pm

Unfortunately my hubby loves the bloody show and for about 13 years i have had to put up with that horrible theme song :)
So 24-13=11
Please reassure us that your hubby hasn't tortured you since you were eleven years old.!!
Lneil
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Post by duckling » Fri Jan 14, 2005 10:36 pm

Oh, God no! You see, I have never lived alone and so over the years, I have gone from two younger brothers, who loved the simpsons, to flat mates, also simpsons fans, to my current position. I just realised how ironic it is that I am now writing about the Simpsons here, in a completely unrelated forum and im sure every single one of you knows who the Simpsons are, no matter what age, race or religion! epidemic anyone?
Jas :)
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Post by mongrowl » Sat Jan 15, 2005 12:01 am

Well! That is a relief. I don't watch Simpson, as there is usually better stuff on but I am impressed with the level of humour, in that some times it is very penetrating. Sometimes that takes a form which is heavy handed. The thing that I like is when they show cartoons on the Simpson's TV, as that is funny exhibition of "Meta-Universe". I suggest you are a little sensitive about "Projection" in a psychological sense. Lneil
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Post by Bozo » Sat Jan 15, 2005 12:31 am

Duckling,
Firstly - 'Gidday mate, How they hanging?'[masculine] or more appropriately 'How ya going love?'[feminine].
Secondly - I have to concur that all younger Aussies are being "Americanised" with that great medium called Television, although I am dumbfounded that one could seriously be offended by the Simpson's portrayal that Australians have a bad case of 'genetic idiocy'. I am not about to defend 'the Simpsons'but wish to make this point - the show (love it or loathe it) has more social commentary and thus cultural worth than all the inane crap compiled together that comes out of the U.S. under the guise of 'comedy'. No doudt you must have shed a tear watching the last episode of 'Friends'.
The Simpson's satirical/piss take on American culture and its social injustices is very relevant and if you took the time to look past its purile level then you might be suprised (or horrified) with its deeper message. As clever writing goes, the simpsons is up there with the best.
catch you round like a rissole.
Bozo - Yeppoon Australia

PS I will proceed the below joke with an 'apology'
Q: Where's Yeppoon?
A: Next to your knife and fork!
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Post by Bozo » Sat Jan 15, 2005 12:35 am

Oh on third last line 'proceed' should read 'precede'
My appologies [sic]
Bozo
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Sat Jan 15, 2005 6:53 am

.. ok Bozo and I also know where your bucaneers are too .. nice one mate .. and Jasmine the "cultural image" that is projected by advertisements or characters like the Croc Man are there to suck-in the overseas punters .. who for christs sake really drinks Fosters beer ?? .. a lot of poms do thanks to Bazza McKenzie and clever marketing .. and Hoges "threw a shrimp" on the barbie and the yanks loved it and came here in droves .. we know who we are and the the rest of the world can come here to find out .. *grin* .. and then go home of course .. one of an Aussies greatest attributes is the ability to laugh at himself and enjoy the joke .. we don't take ourselves too seriously ..
WoZ of Aus 15/01/05
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Post by trev_goodchild » Thu Jan 20, 2005 6:12 am

By krikey, what a bunch of dingoes you cobbers are. Wi't bits of slaggin tag all over, you wouldn't know if you where commin or goin.
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Post by Sakman » Thu Jan 27, 2005 2:36 pm

I have picked up some things that may be of interest. Firstly in the original article there was the piece on how certain words are shortened/lengthened or altered in a fashion which appears to make them peculiarly Australian.

I'm not certain if this practise occurs in all English speaking areas of the world but I was struck with the use of "ie" and "o"

This is something that was common practise in Liverpool(UK) and surrounding areas. Peoples names were often altered with the addition of an "o" such as "Johno", "Chriso" and "Timbo" (an additional "b" thrown in for effect!) Christmas was shortened to "Chrimbo" (again with the "b") but you could also get "Chrizzie" presents.

There is also plenty of "Bazzas", "Gazzas" and "Shazzas" and Terry becomes "Tezza".

The local Fish and Chip shop (take away) becomes the "Chippie", and the Chinese take away is the "Chinkie chew" or "Chinkie" for short(although I appreciate this word may have a different origin)

The words "biccie", "sickie", "footie" and "cossie" are all commonly used as well, in the same context.

Local naming of places follows a similar theme. People who live on the Wirral (the spit of land between Liverpool and North Wales) are called "Wooly-backs"

Pure speculation on my behalf but could there be a historical link in this? A lot of Liverpudlians/Irish (you might argue they are one in the same thing!!) were shipped off to Australia to the penal colonies and I was wondering if the practise went with them?

Great article.
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Mon Feb 21, 2005 9:25 am

Hypocoristic
Aussie English is hypocoristic. No, I'm not being insulting - I'm not talking about being a hypocrite, but being hypocoristic (an entirely different animal). Hypocoristic comes from a Greek source word and it means either "pet name" or "diminutive". Well, Aussie English appears to employ more diminutives than any other English on the planet. That's why you can drink a bottle of cab sav in the arvo, wearing a cardie, with your mates the ambo and firie while watching Warnie bowling at the Gabba. That is speaking hypocoristically. Overseas visitors are sometimes puzzled by this prolific verbal creativity, which can appear to some to suggest children's language. But to us this word play is a sign of indulgence and familiarity. Professor Roly Sussex and his research assistants have been collected Aussie diminutives for several years. So far they have a list of just over 4,000! That's a lot of hypocoristic name calling (in the nicest possible way, of course).

(Source: Kel Richards at ABC NewsRadio Wordwatch)
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