While we know fine words butter no parsnips, or, nothing is achieved by empty words, I must admit Australian slang is particularly well suited to confuse anyone. After four months in Australia, I’ve decided to provide a brief list of some of my favorite, and most confusing, Aussie slang and phrases.
Fine words butter no parsnips
This phrase, probably English in origin, means empty words or gestures don’t get the job done and don’t mean much. Probably one of my favorites overall, even if it is usually only said in jest. What even is a parsnip after all? (It’s a vegetable.)
We’re not here to lick stamps
This phrase might be the pinnacle of Australian colloquialisms, in my opinion. It roughly translates to not messing around and being here to get the job done.
She’ll be right
Rather than saying, “It’s going to be OK,” Australians might say this.
A lot, many, quite a few.
Because the word afternoon wasn’t short enough, Australians decided to call it arvo. So when someone asks you what you ate last arvo, they’re asking what you had for lunch.
Brekky is a shortening of breakfast. Yes, I know both words have the same number of syllables, but that’s what it is.
Root or rooted
This word has several meanings, but largely corresponds to the more common F-bomb. It can mean both exhausted or sexual intercourse. Australians would never use the word root to refer to cheering for a team. If you're planning on visiting Australia soon, avoid root until you understand its complexities.
A bottle-O is a bottle shop or liquor store. Many of these have drive-thrus similar to fast-food places.
One of my other favorites. This means great or awesome.
This is a gas station. In Australia, a gas station is also called a petrol station.
Snags, Prawns and Barbies
Barbie is not a reference to the plastic blonde doll of American childhood. Australians actually do call a barbecue a barbie. Shrimp however are called prawns, and snags refer to sausages.
It is never called football. If it’s an Australian-rules game, it’s always called footy, a combination of rugby and American football.
A beer koozie.
Sunglasses. Don’t forget these and a hat if you plan on being outside during the Australian summer.
I referenced this term when I first arrived in Australia. Maccas is a nickname for McDonald’s. I still have trouble saying it.
And finally, the word that can still bring a blush to this American’s face:
Everybody’s wearing them, and they can make some wicked tan lines after a few hours in the sun. No, they’re not underwear. Thongs are what Australians call flip-flops or sandals. Talk about confusion.
These are just a few of my favorites from my time in Australia. Feel free to comment with your favorites and other slang terms you know.
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