Aussie Slang for Beginners: a Guide for Kiwis

March 10, 2020

The first thing you’ll find in Australia is a friendly acceptance and rivalry. And in that, is the inevitable joking and making fun of your Kiwi accent. Your best defence; adopt their unique language and try to blend in.

It’s not difficult for a Kiwi, as we’ve grown up with Aussie accents in our communities, TV’s and sports commentaries. So, here’s how you can sound like an Aussie.

Practice the accent

Aussies have two distinct speech patterns: the question inflection, and dropping off the ends of the words.

The question inflection is the when the end of a sentence, which is not a question, has that rising note that makes it sound like a question. Think of statements that sound like they are a question: ‘I’m going to the supermarket?’

Dropping the ends off words is an absolutely classic Aussie manoeuvre. Generally, it’s removing whole syllables at the end of a word and replacing it with… an ‘a’ or ‘o’ sound… or nothing at all. A service station is a ‘servo’, ambulance is ‘ambo’, afternoon is ‘arvo’. It’s tricky, but basically you want to be as lazy as possible.

Mangle those vowels

While Kiwis flatten vowels and make our words sound a lot longer, Aussies do the opposite. They have a sharper bite to vowels, and a nasal twang. To replicate their vowels, turn your e’s in I’s. I’s should now be ‘oi’. Turn those A’s into eh’s or I’s, and oo’s should now be ew’s. Confused? Don’t be.

What we think of as six fish and chips are now soix foish and choips- best enjoyed on the dick. *ahem*, deck.

Now that you’ve got the accent, you need to understand the lingo.

Stop speaking Kiwi

Know your Kiwi and Aussie phrases. Although ‘all good’ is the same in NZ and across the Tasman, there’s some words and phrases that aren’t.

  • Dairy: While we know we are popping out to the corner stores, Aussies will be mystified. They call it a milk bar.
  • Kumara: You’ll have to ask for sweet potato. Kumara is a Māori word.
  • Jandals: The Aussies call these thongs, which are underwear in NZ
  • Vivid: Nuh-uh, it’s a permanent marker
  • Weed-eater: Of all things, they call this a whipper snipper.
  • Jersey: Jumper
  • Duvet: Doona
  • Sticky plasters: This gets you a head tilt and confused face. Band-aids.
  • Chilly bin: Esky.
  • Scallop: A trick for young players. If you see a ‘scallop’ at a fish and chip shop, do not be fooled. This is not a delicious, expensive seafood treat. A scallop is actually a potato fritter.
  • Pack a sad: Nope, they have no idea what you’re saying.
  • Any Te Reo Māori words at all: While these are as common as flies at a BBQ in NZ, Kia Ora, kai, whanau… nope.

Start Speaking Australian

Aussies have a colloquial slang phrase for everything. And to add to the confusion, slang will change across the states. And even within that, there’s variations. So while in Queensland, togs are called togs, in NSW they are more likely to be called ‘cossies’, and in Victoria you’ll likely hear them being called ‘bathers’.

  • Ambo: Ambulance
  • Arvo: Afternoon
  • As cross as a frog in a sock: Sounds angry
  • Aussie salute: waving off the flies
  • Banana bender: A person from Queensland
  • Barrack: To cheer on a team
  • Bubbler: Water fountain
  • Buckley’s chance: Not a chance
  • Cactus: Broken/ dead ‘This fridge is cactus’
  • Conch: A person who is very conscientious
  • Dunny budgie: A fly
  • Figjam: F**k I’m Good, Ask Me. A person who thinks highly of themselves
  • Flannel: A flannelette shirt, not a facecloth
  • Furphy: An improbable rumour
  • Goon: That cheap cask of wine you buy? The ‘goon bag’ is the plastic bag it comes in.
  • Grommet: A young surfer
  • Harold Holt: To do the bolt
  • He’s got kangaroos loose in the top paddock: Not the sharpest knife in the drawer
  • Hooroo: Goodbye
  • Icy pole: An ice block
  • Mexican: A person from south of the Queensland/ NSW border
  • Mystery bag: A sausage
  • Nasho: Compulsory military service (‘National Service’)
  • Ocker: An unsophisticated person
  • Port: A suitcase, loosely based on portmanteau
  • Pot: Not what you think it is. It’s a 285ml beer glass in Victoria and QLD
  • Servo: Service station
  • Shark biscuit: Children at the beach/ someone new to surfing
  • She’ll be apples: it’ll be OK
  • Taswegian: Rude term for someone from Tassie
  • Trough lolly: Urinal cake

This list includes some less-common phrases, because Australians are a unique bunch. While this is not the complete list of Australian slang, this doesn’t include the ones that Kiwis commonly use too.  Because there is a lot of crossover, as much as either of us don’t want to admit it.

So, welcome to Aussie, and enjoy the friendly banter- don’t get as cross as a frog in a sock.

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