English, Australian-style: impressions from Down Under

Ruth Webber, a friend and generous source of marketing wisdom, moved from Scotland to Australia earlier this year. So a new city and country to discover, and a new variant of English to explore. Here are Ruth’s first impressions of English, Australian-style.

English as she is spoke in Sydney.

Having been in Sydney all of two months, I can reliably report that we do speak the same language, but there are some colourful variations. You will have heard some of these but hopefully others will be novel:

Larrikin (slang) — young hoodlum or hooligan. The origin is unknown but the term was popularised in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The term was applied to the large numbers of sporadically employed teenagers and young adults who banded together in gangs or “pushes”.

Rort — a financial impropriety, particularly relating to a government programme.

Tinny, stubby, schooner — can, bottle and 3/4 pint glass of the nation’s favourite drink. Apparently David Cameron is in favour of introducing the schooner to British pubs.

Brumby — horse, stallion

Flat white — there is probably a whole new vocabulary for different styles of coffee, but this is the one I prefer.

Dunny — toilet (especially an outhouse)

Bottle shop — you have to buy alcohol here, as supermarkets don’t sell it (except Woolworths, which has a separate arm for alcohol).

Hotel — very often on a street corner, it’s more like a pub and often doesn’t offer accommodation.

Pokies (poker machine) — what we in the UK would call slot machines. There are moves to reform licensing laws to reduce addiction, as it’s becoming a huge problem.

Aussies love abbrevs:

Salvos — Salvation Army
Arvo — afternoon and “sarvo”, short for “this arvo” e.g. meet you after the game, sarvo.
Balco — balcony

My favourite of these is “rort ” — I can think of so many examples! Has anyone else got examples of  “familiar yet foreign” varieties of English? Share them in the comments — we’d love to hear them!

Author biography

Ruth Webber at the beach Having spent 23 years running my own marketing consultancy, I’m keen to take up a new challenge in Australia. The kind of thing which interests me is social research or corporate forensic research (my niece is doing this in British Virgin isles), but, as in the UK, it’s hard to enter a new area of business if you don’t have at least three years’ experience.

I will be happy if I find a part time job working as part of a team, doing something interesting and worthwhile — whatever that turns out to be.

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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  1. Some wonderful expressions here…
    All I could share would be the standard American ones, although perhaps the best I encountered when living there was the time someone admired my “vest”. Not underwear there, but my (admittedly colourful) waistcoat…

    1. Thanks Heather. An American fashion article I read recently on “androgynous” style (plain white shirts, brogues or loafers, boyfriend jackets etc) advised accessorising with suspenders… aka braces (what a let-down!).

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