How to Speak Australian

Do you remember the Foster’s Beer ad campaign? I recently had my own lesson in how to speak Australian. During my recent trip to Singapore I roomed for four nights with a colleague from our Australian office. We became fast friends and enjoyed staying up late, swapping stories and laughing at cultural differences we encountered between Australians and Singaporeans, Americans and Singaporeans, and Australians and Americans. He didn’t know it at the time, but I was secretly recording into my phone the uniquely Australian phrases he used. I had to fight the urge to laugh when he said these things, not because I think they’re stupid in any way, but just because language is a funny thing. Every cultural has its own colloquialisms and euphemisms. Every cultural creates its own word pictures based on its history and context. This is one of the many things I love about English and why I’ll probably never tire of studying it.

So here you go. A mini lesson in how to speak Australian.

“That’s a bit claggy.” Translation: That’s backwoods. Or that’s hick or hillbilly.

“We gave it the flick.” Meaning, we got rid of it. As in, “Our office tried out that software too, but it kept crashing so we gave the flick.”

“Everyone’ll put their two bobs in, ya know?” Reminiscent of the American euphemism, “that’s just my two cents.”

“They go out for lunch and then kick on for drinks.” I just love this usage of “kick on.” I think I’ll start using this phrase here in Michigan and just see what people say.

“Andy, you’re dragging the chain!” Meaning, “stop walking so slow!”

“Are you as bright as a button this morning?”

“A big daggy.” I can’t remember what this one meant or how it’s different from claggy, but it made me chuckle.


7 thoughts on “How to Speak Australian

  1. Kate Motaung

    These are great! I expected some overlaps with South African lingo, but didn’t find any here. :-) Here’s a post I wrote with some S’African terminology (if you scroll past the halfway mark). Closer to British in many ways. :-) Thanks for sharing!

  2. sarah

    I traveled with some Aussies last spring for three weeks. When I was getting over a cold they said they hoped I would soon feel like “a box of birds”! There were many others over a three week period but this one still makes me say “hummmm…..?”

  3. Owen Salter

    I think you mean ‘a BIT daggy’. Daggy means odd, eccentric in an unfashionable kind of way. Usually affectionate and amusing — you might say to a friend, “Ya big dag!” if they did something odd or embarrassing, like wearing ankle socks with shorts and sandals.

    I’ve never heard of claggy or birds in a box — maybe the speakers were Queenslanders (the Deep North).

    1. Andy Rogers Post author

      Thanks, Owen! You’re right. It was a “bit” daggy as I recall. The speaker is from the Melbourne area. At least that’s where he works . . . where he’s actually from is unknown to me. :)


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