Words like ‘look’, ‘so’ and ‘yeah’ are all familiar territory to anybody who speaks English – but they’re VERY important in Australia. This doesn’t apply to absolutely everyone, but a fair proportion of them like to start sentences with a choice of the aforementioned words. And if it’s ‘yeah’ then that will be immediately followed by ‘nah’. ‘Yeah nah I had a great weekend’. Nobody quite knows what this means….the use of both words together make the sentence totally pointless, but that doesn’t stop them.
‘Yeah’ also forms half of the general acknowledgement ‘yeah right’ which they use to show genuine interest in what you’re telling them…as opposed to a sarcastic reaction of cynicism, which would be the normal British usage of ‘yeah right’.
It was my friend Laura who spotted how Australians often start sentences with the word ‘so’. I hadn’t heard it until she pointed it out, and of course I've heard it EVERYWHERE ever since. But she hadn’t realised my very first observation about Australians…their need to punctuate sentences with the word ‘look’.
So, look, that’s the way they use words the Brits are used to…but what about the words that are unique (as far as I know) to Australians?
Now when it comes to new words, I have started using some of them, because there are no better replacements and some of them sound amusing. My favourite FAVOURITE word of all is ‘bogan’. It’s the Aussie equivalent of ‘chav’…but they don’t have chavs over here. A bogan has been described to me as an uneducated, beer swilling Aussie. Perhaps similar to American ‘trailer trash’. I met a rather odd character while travelling alone and as I described him, my new housemates confirmed that I had, indeed, encountered a bogan. This one didn’t have a passport, had no desire to travel, worked in a meat factory, lived in a caravan, and had clearly never met any females before as he proceeded to text me for FIVE MONTHS without getting any replies. You don’t want to be unwittingly encouraging bogans, trust me.
Another word that has crept into my vocabulary, which I think is brilliant, is ‘rort’. It describes something akin to embezzlement, or taking advantage. For example, we have a few MPs over here who’ve claimed expenses to attend weddings. One could describe that as ‘rorting the system’.
Another word that I have only used in jest is ‘spruiking’. It means ‘talking up’.
And then there’s ‘stoush’. An absolute favourite of the media…it describes some sort of argument or row.
The Australians are fantastic at shortening words. The one that amuses me greatly, and it may just be a newsroom thing, but it seems to be far too much trouble to say the word ‘details’. Instead it is shortened to ‘deets’. ‘Please can I get some deets on this story’. Or ‘Deets to come’. I just do not get this. How did a seven letter word ever become too much trouble to say or write in full?!
But some of the shortened versions are quite endearing. My first ‘bushfire day’ was the day I learnt the word ‘firies’ to describe firefighters.
A news script would also say the bushfires are in ‘Sydney’s west’ as opposed to ‘the west end of Sydney’ or ‘to the west of the city’.
Oh by the way, Australians LOVE to ask you how you are. When me and Laura frst arrived we both described the use of this question by shop assistants in particular as making our blood boil! I soon realised a lot of Aussies don’t actually react to this in shops…they will simply launch into asking for what they need. It seems that ‘how are you’ is no more than a greeting. And the answer to this question, by the way, is ‘good thanks’. You wouldn’t hear anyone say ‘very well thank you’.
In fact, if you were really well or very pleased with something you might say it’s ‘heaps good’. Or something might be ‘heaps funny’. They’re a positive bunch, the Aussies, and if you were to show gratitude for their assistance on some matter they would probably reply ‘no dramas’ or ‘too easy’.
I saw this sign at Circular Quay in Sydney and thought of my ITV colleagues. It stands for 'Overseas Passenger Terminal' as opposed to meaning a split broadcast within a programme.....