Many times I've been reading a story and been puzzled by terms used without explanation. Some writers seem to assume that their readers will be familiar with all the words they use. The reality is often that a word (or the way it is used) is peculiar to the country or region where the author lives.
Likewise, some expressions I use may be unfamiliar to some readers. Although Australian English is largely identical to British English, our language is rich with unique metaphors, idiomatic expressions and diminutives. "Australian usage of English is creative and inspiring."(1) So, to help you become inspired, I've prepared this glossary. As well as "Aussieisms" it includes other terms that might need explanation.
If the glossary doesn't help, or if you find that I've left something out, please send me a message!
Within the glossary there are several groupings of related definitions: plants and animals are listed under Flora and Fauna, Aboriginal words and concepts under Indigenous Australia and definitions relating to schools can be found under Schools.
To do something with ease, as in "He aced the exam!"
Remote, far outback. Also back o' beyond.
To shout encouragement, usually for a sportsperson or sporting team. Equivalent to the US root, which has an entirely different meaning in Australia. Also used to indicate support, as in (Question) "Which footy team do you barrack for?" (Answer) "I barrack for Collingwood."
A lawyer who acts as an advocate in court.
Snack, often accompanied by a cup of tea or mug of coffee. Equivalent to the US cookie.
(1) Hell, as in Go to blazes. (2) An intensive, as in What the blazes is that?
Located at Buchan (pronounced "buck-en") in eastern Victoria—a honeycomb of caves formed by underground rivers cutting through limestone. The caves have spectacular stalactites and stalagmites created by rain water seeping through cracks and dissolving some of the limestone. Royal Cave and Fairy Cave are open to the public. See Parks Victoria's Buchan Caves Reserve website.
Camel driver. Usually refers to the men who transported goods by camel train.
Also known as pepper spray, OC spray and OC gas. A chemical compound, Oleoresin Capsicum, which irritates the eyes, causing tears, pain, and sometimes temporary blindness. It's used by police in Victoria to subdue people in volatile situations.
Acronym for computed axial tomography. Also known as CT, or computerised tomography. An imaging technique producing pictures of the body that show internal structures in cross section rather than the overlapping images typically produced by conventional X-ray exams.
The southern region (one of five) of the Northern Territory, with Alice Springs as its hub. It is sometimes referred to as Centralia, and its people as Centralians. Other common names are The Centre and The Red Centre.
To relax or calm down, hence "take a chill pill" means to make an effort to be calm.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, a lifesaving technique used in an emergency where a person's breathing or heartbeat has stopped.
Colloquial name for Guy Fawkes Day—5 November, the anniversary of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up the English houses of parliament in 1605. It was celebrated with bonfires (often with an effigy of Guy Fawkes, the leader of the plot, on top) and fireworks. Since the ban on fireworks came into effect the day has largely gone unnoticed.
Excellent. Usually used in a negative sense, as in "I'm not feeling too crash-hot."
(1) Sick, as in I had the flu and felt really crook. (2) Injured, as in Cameron had a crook ankle.
An affectionate term for an amusing, humorous person who is a bit of a character. Sometimes "real" is added for emphasis, as in Travis is a real dag.
Bread made from a simple flour and water dough with or without a raising agent, cooked in the campfire coals or in a camp oven. There's a recipe at Aussie-Info.
Slangy version of dinkum, which means genuine.
A quilted bed cover filled with down or synthetic padding. "Doona" was originally a brand name, but it is now used generically in Australia. Equivalent to duvet.
A rowing crew consisting of eight members plus a cox. See this Wikipedia article on rowing for a very detailed description of the sport and its history.
A style of architecture common in Australia during the early years of the 20th century. Known elsewhere as Edwardian. There's an article on Federation architecture at Wikipedia.
See one fell swoop
A suite of rooms forming a residence, usually rented. Equivalent to apartment.
A path for pedestrians. Equivalent to sidewalk or pavement.
In Black Dog, "footy" refers to Australian Rules football. Also known as Aussie rules and (disparagingly) aerial ping-pong. A uniquely Australian code of football, invented in the 1850s in Melbourne. The sport is almost a religion for many people in the southern states. In recent years it has expanded into New South Wales and Queensland—once impenetrable rugby territory. If you're interested in finding out more (but for the life of me I don't know why anyone would want to), Wikipedia has a comprehensive article at Australian Rules Football.
A period of two weeks.
Brave, willing to face danger.
Ned Kelly was a fugitive whose exploits during the late nineteenth century have made him something of a national folk hero. His story begins with petty theft and police harassment. It progresses through horse thefts and bank holdups carried out with his gang of bushrangers (outlaws) to a final, desperate shootout with police, during which the gang wore armour fashioned out of plough mouldboards.
Ned's life ended with his hanging in 1880 at the age of 25, but his story lives on. It's been the subject of numerous books and films. Bailup has a comprehensive history of the Kelly Gang, and other resources—including details and photos of the armour.
Student organisations fostering a safe and supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. The goal is to make school and university communities safe and welcoming to all students regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. There is a brief "Gay-Straight alliance" article at Wikipedia.
Universal, all-purpose, friendly greeting. Abbreviation of good day. Sometimes spelled gidday, which is approximately how it's pronounced.
A flat tract of desert strewn with small stones.
Disgusting, revolting. Usually an exclamation.
A selfish person, hence, to refuse to share.
Over-excited. Abbreviation of hyperactive.
A contraction of Image MAXimum. A film format with the capacity to display images of far greater size and resolution than conventional film display systems. An IMAX screen is usually 22 metres wide and 16 metres high. IMAX is the most widely used system for large-format film presentations, and there are about 280 IMAX theatres in 38 countries. For 3D films, infra red sensors in the lightweight electronic headsets worn by viewers alternately switch off the left and right eye liquid crystal lenses in sync with the images projected, creating the illusion of three dimensions. Visit IMAX Melbourne's website for more information, or see Wikipedia's IMAX article, which includes the history and technical details of the format.
A monument marking the site of the one millionth concrete sleeper laid on the railway between Tarcoola, South Australia and Alice Springs, Northern Territory. The sculpture depicts a steel "stick figure" carrying a concrete sleeper. See also sleeper.
A wobbly, fruit-flavoured dessert, made by dissolving jelly crystals in boiling water, then chilling until it sets. Equivalent to the US jello.
Contraction of kilometre, pronounced "kay". Sometimes used as a plural, pronounced "kays". Example: The Simpsons lived ten k (or ks) out of town.
A group of monoliths, previously known as The Olgas. With Uluru, they form Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park—a World Heritage Area listed for its cultural and natural values.
Stop it! Take a break!
In Victoria, celebrated on the second Monday in March. It commemorates the success of a nineteenth century trade union campaign for an eight-hour working day.
In Victoria the learner permit is the first step to becoming licenced to drive a car. It's available from the age of sixteen, and applicants must pass an eyesight test and a computer-based multiple choice theory test on road law. A driver with a full licence must be seated beside the learner driver at all times, and "L" plates must be displayed on the front and rear of the car. See the Vic Roads website for more information.
A lunatic or crazy person. Usually used in a frivolous way.
Has several uses. (1) A good friend—the sort who sticks with you through thick and thin. (2) An acquaintance. (3) Someone who is not a "mate" at all, as in "No photos either, mate. Out!" (4) A greeting, as in "G'day mate!" where the person being greeted may not be known to the greeter.
A favourite drink of Australian kids since 1934. Milo is chocolate-flavoured, and made by mixing Milo powder with milk. It can be enjoyed hot or cold. The Milo website has all the facts.
A mountain and ski resort on the Great Dividing Range in Victoria.
Acronym for magnetic resonance imaging. A technique that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create cross-sectional images of the head and body. Provides a non-invasive way for doctors to examine the body—especially the brain, neck, spinal cord and soft tissues.
Sparsely inhabited desert country; a remote and isolated area.
Until 1872 Australia's news of the rest of the world came by ship, often months out of date. That year the Overland Telegraph line between Adelaide and Darwin was completed. It linked with a submarine cable to Indonesia, and an overland line to Melbourne.
The telegraph station at Alice Springs was one of twelve relay stations along the line, and the site of the first European settlement in the area. It was sited close to the natural spring that gave the town its name (the "Alice" was the wife of Charles Todd, the head of the government department responsible for the line; the Todd River is named after him). Today the telegraph station is the centre of an historical reserve, and the spring is surrounded by an oasis of green in an otherwise dry landscape.
In (or at) one fell swoop: all at once.
(1) Remote, sparsely inhabited back country. (2) Relating to, or located in, the back country.
An enclosed piece of land on a farm, equivalent to the British field.
A waterproof jacket with a hood. Equivalent to anorak.
Acronym for post traumatic stress disorder. An anxiety disorder that can develop after a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened.
An Australian lemon squash soft drink. More information at P & N Beverages.
Annoyed or irritated. Also used as a verb: to annoy or irritate.
Since Queen Elizabeth II is Australia's head of state, we have a public holiday on the first Monday in June to celebrate her birthday. This should not be confused with her actual birthdate, which is April 21.
A town of about 13,000 in eastern Victoria. Established in the 1840s, Sale has always been an important regional centre. The Sale community website is an excellent place to learn about the town, its history, and the surrounding area.
A flat expanse of ground covered with salt and other minerals, formed when a salt lake evaporates.
A child's catapult or slingshot. Usually made from a Y-shaped stick and a strip of rubber cut from an inner tube.
Leave, go away, often hurriedly.
A beam providing support for a railway track, equivalent to the US crosstie or tie. The sleepers on the new Ghan line are made of concrete. See also Iron Man.
Australia has some of the most venomous snakes in the world. There are around 3000 snakebites each year, and of these one or two result in death of the victim. Although death doesn't usually occur in less than four hours, prompt action helps to ensure that the patient can be treated successfully. The recommended first aid technique involves pressure and immobilisation. A firm bandage is used to apply pressure to the bite area to slow the spread of the venom through the body, and the limb (most bites occur to arms and legs) is immobilised with a splint or sling. This is the technique to which Clare refers in chapter four of Black Dog. Australasian Anaesthesia's Australian Snake Bites is a good article on our venomous snakes, their identification, and treatment of their bites.
(1) A property where cattle or sheep are raised for sale. Roughly equivalent to the US ranch. In order to carry a viable number of stock in the dry conditions, outback properties need to be huge; they are usually measured in square kilometres rather than hectares. For example, Anna Creek Station in South Australia is the world's largest working cattle property at 24,000 sq. km. (2.4 million hectares, or nearly six million acres). That's bigger than Israel and nearly as big as Belgium. (2) The place where a train stops.
The word is used in both ways in Black Dog.
To tease in a light-hearted, friendly way—just for the fun of it.
This expression has several forms. In Black Dog, it has various meanings, depending on the context. (1) stuff - to ruin or wreck. (2) stuff it! - damn it!; forget it! (3) stuffed - exhausted; ruined or wrecked. (4) stuffed up - made a huge mistake.
A bridge that turned 90 degrees on a central pylon to allow boats to pass on either side. The one at Sale was built in 1883 just below the confluence of the Latrobe and Thomson Rivers. It carried South Gippsland Highway traffic until it was replaced by a bypass and two new bridges upstream in 2002. It has since been restored. See Sale Swing Bridge.
This is where Aussies really confuse the rest of the world. Has two meanings. (1) A drink made from tea leaves (or more usually these days, teabags) infused in boiling water. (2) The evening meal—also known as dinner, which can also mean the midday meal, as in "Christmas dinner." Tea should not be confused with supper, which is a late-night snack, often served at the end of meetings and conferences. Confused? I am too.
The monsoonal rainy season, November to March.
A small battery-powered portable electric light. Equivalent to flashlight.
A sandstone outcrop, one of the world's largest monoliths. Previously known as Ayers Rock, or simply The Rock. With Kata Tjuta, forms Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park—a World Heritage Area listed for its cultural and natural values.
A roofed open (or partly open) area attached to a house, with the same floor level as the house. Similar to porch or portico.
Large, white, edible, wood-boring grubs—the larvae of several Australian moths and beetles. They are large and cylindrical, mostly white with brown heads, and grow to about 7cm in length. They can be eaten raw or cooked. See the Wikipedia article Witchetty grub for details and a photo.
A brand of bourbon. Available as full strength spirit or pre-mixed with cola. Originally a New Zealand brand, it's been available in Australia since 1997.
A timid person, especially a male.
(1) A talk or chat. (2) An exaggerated story or tale.
In both senses the word is also used as a verb: to talk or chat, or to tell stories or tales.
(1) Australian English, Language Capitals, accessed May 21 2008.
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