Aussie Spelling and Colloquialisms.
Australians love playing with words; twisting and rhyming in a never–ending search for something funny. As a result, we use a vast array of slang terms, with long words and names seen as pretentious. We usually shorten them in a humorous way if we can. Although, in the case of “budgie smugglers,” humour becomes paramount and preferable to the term “Speedos.” It originated from a time in Australia when people were hiding live birds in their clothing and smuggling them out of the country. People began asking Speedo wearing guys at the beach if that was a budgie they were trying to smuggle down there, the joke being that budgies are quite small. Hence, Speedos became budgie smugglers and everyone had a laugh.
Another classic Aussie saying is the term “G’day, mate.” “Good day to you, sir” or “Good day,” is far too formal for us. “G’day, mate,” simplifies everything and makes everyone instant friends, or mates. It also levels the playing field by bringing tall poppies down to everyone else’s level — we’re all just mates. Plus it’s an easy solution when you can’t remember someone’s name.
We use British English(BE) for spelling here, where as American English(AE) is used in the United States. Some of the main differences are with words like “surprise”(BE) and “surprize”(AE); “colour”(BE) and “color”(AE). Basically, we use an “s” instead a “z” and we keep the “u”. It’s surprising how many words this causes a world of confusion to. However, the English language has always been a mix of languages that continues to evolve to this very day.
Two general rules in story writing are don’t use colloquialisms, and change your spelling to suit the country in which it is sold. Today’s readers are much more sophisticated than they used to be. They’ve heard all the stories before and often know what’s going to happen. And technology is never far away. Any unknown word or phrase is easily looked up on Google, or can be checked using the pre–installed dictionaries in eReaders.
To me, leaving out colloquialisms and standardising spelling creates boring stories. They lack colour, vigour and flavour. Can you imagine that happening to Urban Hunters? “Good day to you, sir,” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “G’day, mate.”
I'll be adding to this glossary as the series progresses so drop back for updates.
Arse is your butt, or your bottom. The thing you sit on and fart out of, incase you weren’t getting the picture. And don’t ask me what a fart is because I know you know — I can smell you from here. ;)
Billabong is created when a river changes course leaving an isolated body of water. It’s also the overflow area of a river that fills seasonally.
It originated from two Aboriginal words: “Billa,” meaning a river or creek, and “Bong,” meaning to die.
Boomerang is an Aboriginal throwing stick shaped in a wide V. The bottom surface is flat with the top curved like the wing of a bird to give it lift. Throwing skill will make it turn left or right or even up if necessary. Not all boomerangs are made to return. Some are used like a flying club. They’re also clapped together creating a rhythmic accompaniment to song and dance.
Bullroarer is a sacred instrument of communication and music. It’s a flat, oval shaped piece of pinewood from a lightning struck tree. About two metres of cord are tied to a small hole in one end allowing it to be swung overhead. As it spins through the air it creates a unique reverberating roar that can be heard from a great distance.
It’s used when entering another tribe’s territory to let them know they have company, to call people together for a ceremony, or a way for a man to tell a woman that he likes her.
Ceremony is about initiation. About turning boys and girls into men and women. It is used to teach and to celebrate. And most importantly, it is about unity.
Clapsticks are two short lengths of hardwood that are clapped together creating a rhythmic accompaniment to song and dance.
Corroboree is basically a party. Aborigines gather from near and far to perform ceremonies, or to just sing and dance for the fun of it.
Coulda is short for “Could have …”
Didgeridoo or Didge is a long cylindrical wind instrument made of wood. Trees and their branches are tapped with tools to see if termites have hollowed them out. Suitable ones of a bit over a metre or more in length are cut into didgeridoos. They emit a unique, low–pitched, resonant sound. Generally, the longer the didge, the lower the pitch.
Dingo is a wild dog, not to be mistaken with escaped domestic dogs. They have a taxon all their own — Canis lupus dingo. It’s estimated that they’ve been in Australia for around 4,000 years and have developed features and instincts that distinguish them from all other dogs. I think the best guess on how they got to Australia in the first place was as domestic dogs on fishing boats from South East Asia. They may have been traded for goods from the Aborigines. Street dogs from Asia look uncannily like a dingo.
Dreamtime or the Dreaming was a time of creation, in Aboriginal beliefs. Before the Dreamtime there was nothing, no rivers, no mountains, no kangaroos and no rain. A featureless, desolate land devoid of everything. Then came the Dreamtime which created everything. Giant mythical Beings and creatures rising from their slumber within the earth to live normal, human or animal lives. These giants, foraging for food and digging in the ground, created all the deep gorges and mountain ranges we see today. It was during this time that the traditional way of life was established and, as ancestors of these mythical Beings, ancient Aboriginal people were taught their traditions. Then the Dreamtime ended, allowing life as we know it to begin.
With no written language; verbal stories, songs, customs and art pass on this knowledge for future generations to live by. It has been this way in Australia for, at the very least, an astounding 60,000 years.
This Aboriginal religion, or spirituality, is as true and real to the Aboriginal people as it is true and real to many other people’s religions — that a mythical being created everything.
Dunno is short for “I don’t know.”
Goanna is another word for a monitor. See Lace monitor.
Gonna is short for “Going to …”
Gotta is short for “Have got to …” or “Have got a …”
Hanky is short for handkerchief.
Hobo is basically a homeless, street person to us. A beggar, a drunk, a bum. In other countries there is a difference between a hobo and a bum, or a beggar, but here in Australia we lump them all together. Although even this word is heard far less these days with the politically correct term of a “Street person,” being preferred.
Kid is a child, or a baby goat.
Loincloth is a simple garment providing cover for a person’s genitalia.
Before the whiteman’s conventions arrived in Australia, Aborigines spent their lives wearing nothing at all.
Me is a badly pronounced “My.”
Metre is a unit of measure, where as a meter is something that measures.
Mongrel is traditionally a mixed breed of dog but is commonly used to describe a person of low morals, like a bastard.
Mum is how we spell mom.
Never–Never depicts the neverending vastness of the Australian outback.
Pinching is to steal or to pinch someone’s skin causing pain.
Platypus is an extremely unusual semiaquatic mammal. It lays eggs yet it suckles its young. They have a bill like a duck, a beaver–like tail and the males have a poisonous spur. They turned science on its head when they were first discovered. All told, they’re a very cute and much loved Aussie creature.
Puke is to throw up.
Pyjama or pajama are your bed clothes, or your PJs.
Quolls are cute carnivorous marsupials with spotted fur.
Sandshoes are what some call sneakers or joggers.
Shoulda is short for “Should have.”
Sling see stone thrower.
Speedos are a tight fitting bathing suit for men. See the beginning of this glossary for information on Budgie Smugglers.
Stone thrower or a sling is two pieces of cord joined in the middle by a flat pouch that folds to hold a stone. The ends of the cord are held with the pouch containing the stone left dangling. After swinging the pouch underarm or overarm, one end of the cord is released at just the right time, allowing the stone to be released with great velocity. It was used in ancient times to great affect as a weapon, and for hunting. Today it is used for fun and competition.
The Rainbow Serpent was the first child of the great creator, in Aboriginal beliefs, and is the guardian of the land. The rainbow in the sky is The Rainbow Serpent travelling from one waterhole to the next, filling it with fertility and creating regeneration for man and nature.
Totem or totemism varies greatly across Aboriginal Australia. However on the whole it’s a spiritual connection to the land through things like animals, insects, birds, fish and reptiles. The concept goes all the way back to the Dreamtime. It helps balance nature and provides guidance through people’s lives.
Totems are assigned at various times for various reasons. The area you live in has a totem as does your tribe and your clan. The kookaburra totem may be assigned to a baby because they sang nearby at the time of birth. Or a bee was buzzing around, telling all that the baby is of the bee totem. If the bee is your totem, then it’s as if you are actually a bee. If you kill a bee it would be like killing your brother or sister. You are charged with looking after the bees, and you know that they will look after you by warning you of danger, for example. If you are a bee you cannot marry a bee, for that would be incest. In this way, interbreeding is controlled. Some say you cannot, and some say you should not, eat a kangaroo if your totem is the kangaroo. In this way, the ecosystem is nurtured.
Westerners say I’m a Taurus and the Asians say I’m a Dragon. Well I don’t eat dragons but I sure as heck cannibalise those bulls every chance I get. Yummo!
Tucker is any kind of food with “Good tucker, mate,” being a well used term.
Ute or pickup truck as it’s also known, is one of Australia’s most successful inventions. The wife of a farmer wrote to Ford Australia in 1932 asking for, “a vehicle to go to church in on a Sunday and which can carry our pigs to market on Mondays”. Ford released the Coupe Utility in 1934. However, 4 years earlier, Australian, James Freeland Leacock built his own and patented the design in 1930. I have been unable to find out if Ford used his patent, if he received any royalties, if Ford got around his patent or if they abused his patent …
Walkabout is a rite of passage and an opportunity for an Aboriginal adolescent to grow into a man. He wanders the bush for a period of time, often six months, travelling along song lines (spiritual paths made by his ancestors) to break the bonds between parent and child and connect with his spirituality. A period of reflection. A time to learn about oneself and the cultures of others. A boy returns a man, full of pride where he earns the respect of his community. It is a good tradition.
Wanna is short for “Do you want a …,” or “Do you want to …”
Willy Wagtails are small black and white birds that love to sing and wag their tails.
Woomera is a stick with a hook on the end that locates into the back of a spear. It essentially lengthens your arm allowing you to throw a spear with a lot more force.
Woulda is short for “Would have.”
Yabby is a freshwater crayfish with a taste comparable to a lobster or a prawn/shrimp.
Yez is short for “You guys.”