AUSSIE SLANG.

A Kel Richards article maintains that “Aussie English remains resilient, vigorous and lively” despite incursions from America. There are references to all sorts of interesting usages (eg, “grouse” as a general term of approval, comparable to “cool” or “awesome,” which according to the superb Cassell Dictionary of Slang goes back to the ’20s or ’30s), and I’m sure he’s right about the robust health of slang Down Under; he is, however, seriously delusional if he believes this:

We might pick up some expressions from the Americans, but they also learn some from us. Americans seem to have picked up “no worries”, “aggro”, “bludge”, “U-ey” and other Aussie idioms.

It’s true that “U-ey” (or “U-ie”) is frequently used here for ‘U-turn’ (I hadn’t realized it was originally Australian, but Cassell says this as well); I’ve never heard any of the others from the lips of an American, and I have no idea what “bludge” means. But let’s check Cassell… aha: to bludge is to evade one’s responsibilities; loaf about, idle; cadge, scrounge. You learn something every day. (Via Taccuino di traduzione.)
Addendum. I’ve purchased The Australian Oxford Paperback Dictionary (Second Edition), which should help with these matters; for instance, below grouse ‘very good of its kind’ is:

Grout, Wally (Arthur Theodore Wallace) (1927-67), Australian test cricketer. °your Wally Grout colloq. your shout (i.e. your turn to pay for the next round of drinks).

Admirably informative.
Further addendum. I have recently discovered the Aussie equivalent of “screw,” the verb “to root”; this bit of dialog perfectly illustrates its place in the language:

“It’s *making love*, Steph.”
“‘Making love’ my hairy bum!”
Mum and Steph on ‘rooting’ vs ‘making love’, the eternal question.

(Via puzzling.org.)

Comments

  1. According to Australian Style (subscribe.stylewise@noie.gov.au) the distinctive features of Australian English (including a tendency to use past participles ending in -t rather than -ed to mark off transitive and intransitive endings) are more pronounced the younger the sample of speakers you investigate. So apart from the slightly exotic vocabulary for bluing there are real grammatical changes emerging as well.

  2. “Bludge” is indeed one of our better exports. Also used to great effect in “dolebludger” (ie. someone who receives welfare)

  3. Many of our exports tend to be picked up in the UK rather than the USA just as many of our most beloved expressions such as “fair dinkum” have surprisingly recent British origins (as opposed to, say, Chinese).
    > And the Americans seem to prefer longer, more
    > Latinate words (“elevator”, for instance) over
    > short Anglo-Saxon ones (“lift”).
    I’m not exactly certain of whether we have a preference for Anglo-Saxon versus Latinate words but certainly there is a preference for short versus long ones and I suppose that amounts to much the same thing.
    This point was made apparent to me one day when I suddenly had to stop and explain the meaning of the expression “spitting the dummy” to some Americian friends. “Spitting the dummy”, which is commonly used in Australia, means losing one’s temper in a juvenile fashion.
    “Spitting the pacifier” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

  4. “Aggro” is in use a lot, actually–mostly to describe a style of hard, fast, confrontational punk-type music, but I’ve heard it used in conversation for other aggressive stuff.
    “No worries” I’ve heard hereabouts, too, only mostly from notably affected people, so I wouldn’t count it as having been “picked up” in any meaningful sense. And I haven’t heard “bludge.” So myself, I’d give him two out of four, and the benefit of a little doubt.

  5. The interesting thing about this is that Australian slang becomes so much a part of our identity (both internally and externally). So you get atrocious parodies like the character in Mission Impossible 2 (played by Hugh Jackman from memory?) who does nothing but string broad accent and Aussie slang words together.
    Interesting to see the comment on “grouse”, at least in Melbourne that has a fairly “eighties” sound to it.

  6. I wonder how much influence Quidditch might have had on the adoption of bludge?

  7. > Interesting to see the comment on “grouse”, at least in Melbourne that has a fairly “eighties” sound to it.
    I would have dated it to the 1970s but then that was when I was in high school.

  8. er, meaning that it’s pretty much a kid’s word.

  9. So apart from the slightly exotic vocabulary for bluing there are real grammatical changes emerging as well.
    Bluing?

  10. blue
    adjective 1. dismal: I’m feeling blue. 2. obscene; pertaining to obscenity: a blue joke; blue movie. –noun 3. a fight; a dispute; a row. 4. an error. –verb 5. to fight, dispute or argue. 6. Obsolete to spend wastefully; squander: blued his cheque.
    Macquarie Dictionary Book of Slang (scroll down)

  11. I’m surprised the MDBS does not pick up the rich tradition of reversals in Australian English by noting ‘blue’ as meaning redhead or redheaded.

  12. i like rhyming slang – ie
    uey becomes spewy…
    “chuck a spewy”
    classy.

  13. Or everyone’s favourite example of rhyming slang -
    ‘septic tank’ = ‘Yank’
    often shortened to ‘seppo’

  14. Regarding the “U-ey”, do Aussies also “bang” them?
    For example, in Boston we might say “I missed my turn, so I banged a U-ey”.

  15. Where I come from you hand a u-ey.
    And it’s not an idiom I’ve ever heard, but in my family everyone would understand “Don’t go spit your binky, now”.

  16. The only real U-ey I ever experienced [we used it in Britain in the 80s, so it's been around for a while I suppose] was when someone driving a car I was in did a 180-degree turn on two wheels by applying the handbrake.
    Coward that I am, I never accepted a lift from him again. But surely Australians must have a wonderful crisp expression for “handbrake turn”?

  17. Where I come from you “chuck a U-ey” or (less frequently)”bung a U-ey”.
    The other thing about this debate that I like is the codification of the spelling of slang. I had never considered how one would spell U-ey.

  18. Oh, and the discussion of “no worries” just makes me think of the well-known phrase “no wuckin furries”

  19. American, have only heard ‘hang a U-ey’
    I’ve heard ‘aggro’ only for the music, and of course in The Classical

  20. U-ies get chucked or dropped rather than banged but ‘to bang a U-ie’ is not bad at all.

  21. To add to the fray, in Canada we pull a U-ey.

  22. I have heard “no worries” in the northeastern US, and I confess to using it as well. I don’t think I’m particularly affected, maybe just playful.
    Moving away from the matter at hand I’ve certainly heard “make a U-ey”, but who’s responsible for the alternative expression “flip a bitch?”

  23. I picked up “Good on ya, mate!” from some antipodeal e-friends and now use it to an annoying degree. The one phrase they used I never could figure out was “your blood should be bottled” (usually said in an admiring way). Was this specific to them, or does it mean something generally in Aussie slang? Anyone know?
    People say “No worries” all the time at my workplace (in Seattle — most of my coworkers are from the NWest). I regard it in the same jaundiced way as I do “No problemo.”

  24. The one phrase they used I never could figure out was “your blood should be bottled” (usually said in an admiring way). Was this specific to them, or does it mean something generally in Aussie slang? Anyone know?
    It’s a variant on “your blood’s worth bottling” and yes it’s common enough and is high praise indeed. It sounds like you must be worth your weight in cocky’s feathers.

  25. I’d say ‘chuck’ a u-ey, definitely. I well remember my introduction to the term ‘seppo’ at uni, where we have quite a few American exchange students from our ‘mother school’ if you like, Notre Dame. I still like ‘strewth’, though I confess it’s not one I genreally slip into everyday use.

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