How to Understand Australians

One of the surprising truths about missions is there will be a language barrier or struggle to understand even if the people speak English.  The same is true for Melbourne where small changes in pronunciation (all A’s are pronounced long as in Apple, and the letter S is pronounced like a Z here) combinations of letters (ER=the short A sound so the word butter is pronounced budda) and use of slang terms can cause problems.  The real challenge however comes from the Aussie culture using words or phrases I already know in different ways.

So to educate the non-Australians I would like to share with you some of the unique words and phrases you will hear in Melbourne.  It’s my hope that if you ever do come to visit knowing these things will make you seem like less of a tourist (here’s a hint, the digital camera around your neck gives you away).

1.  Cuppa:  A time to sit down and talk with friends (“have a chat”) normally with coffee or tea and some kind of cake…“we haven’t seen each other for a while, lets catch up for a cuppa”

2.  Shout:  Meaning you will buy something for the other person, normally a drink or meal…”Lets go to the cafe I will shout you a coffee”

3.  Lu:  This is Australian for the toilet (or dunny if you are in the country area)…”excuse me but where is your lu?”  (Editors note:  Don’t call it the restroom they will just ask if you are going to rest there)

4.  On Ya Matey:  Short for good on you mate, which means you did a good job; surprisingly it never means there is actually something on you…(following a goal from your favorite sports star) “on ya matey!”

5.  Tea:  The evening meal in Australia, so if someone asks if you want to stay for tea they aren’t getting ready to put out the tea cups….”we asked David if he would like to stay for tea.”

6.  Sorry:  This is the Australian way of asking someone to repeat what they just said if you didn’t understand them (you can also use I’m sorry).  (indistinct mumbling) “I’m sorry?”

7.  You Right?:  If your browsing in a store its common for a clerk or worker to ask if your right, this is Australian for “do you need help with finding anything.” The proper response to this question is yea (pronounced as if you where Sylvester Stalone)….”hi there are you right?”

8.  How Ya Going?:  This is the common Australian greeting (definitely not G’day) that you will receive from countless clerks, bank tellers, and sales personnel.  You are legally obligated to respond by saying yea good; failure to do this would result in being drug out into the street and beaten.  (checking out at the grocery store) “hey how ya going?” (myself) “yea good”

9.  Beauty:  Australian for awesome (while looking at a nice picture) “mate that’s a beauty”

10.  Oi:  There are many interpretations of this word but its basic meaning is “pay attention because I am starting to get angry”……(walking into a room of disruptive kids) “Oi stop doing that!”

11.  Fur Dinkum:  Real, genuine, or true blue usually used to describe a person…”that Steve he is fur dinkum”

12.  Flat Out:  Extremely busy to the point of exhaustion…”sorry mate I have been flat out the last few days”

13.  Arvo:  The Afternoon…”oi lets meet for a cuppa this arvo”

14.  Having a Go:  You are giving someone a hard time to test their character or just because they are a good friend……”sorry mate I was just having a go at you.”

15.  Reckon:  Australian for “I guess”….”well I reckon its time we got back to work”

More will probably come to mind later and I will add them to the list eventually.  In the meantime a good rule is to just nod and keep saying yea a lot even if you don’t understand what they are saying.  If however people start to laugh at you that’s probably not a good thing.

Published by

John Wilburn

Church planter, teacher, and disciple-maker in Barrouallie St. Vincent

One thought on “How to Understand Australians”

  1. Fur Dimkum? Let’s try Fair Dinkum. Other than that you’re becoming the real McCoy, mate. Have fun on your furlough( silent laugh). I know how hectic they actual are. You got to come down for a meal after you get back. I’m tired of asking mate, now I’m telling. You gotta come down. Catch yas buddy

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