Questions about English used in Australia.

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32
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9answers
4k views

Is “best” still a superlative in “best friend”, as in can you have more than one “best friend”?

I was speaking to a 15-year-old native English speaker (in Australia), who referred to someone as her "best friend". Later, she revealed that this wasn't her only best friend. She had four best ...
25
votes
6answers
2k views

Does the washing up fairy exist outside of Australia? [closed]

Just to clarify, I'm not talking about the Lush product of the same name. In Australia, the washing up fairy is a mythical creature. People leave their dishes unwashed overnight, and lo and behold, ...
23
votes
7answers
12k views

“Pissed” vs “Pissed off”

In Australian English there has always been a distinction between "pissed" (intoxicated) and "pissed off" (angry, irritated). I've noticed a trend towards the American usage where "he was really ...
18
votes
4answers
12k views

Is it awkward to use the word “aubergine” instead of “eggplant”?

According to Google Ngrams eggplant is far more common (although in British English aubergine seems to have a small advantage over eggplant). So, not being a native speaker of English I wonder ...
18
votes
6answers
23k views

How did the Australian accent come about?

Can anybody tell me how the Australian accent came about? It seems strange to me that it is not more like an English accent taking into account that the first and the majority of settlers were ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

Date as a synonym for anus

In the Song "Ten Foot Cock And A Few Hundred Virgins" Tim Minchin uses the phrase "it's a sin to take it up the date, even if it's great, even with your cowboy mate". I'm not a native English speaker -...
11
votes
2answers
2k views

Meaning of “Caucasian”

When I search the definition of Caucasian in the NOAD, I find the following definition (it's the first of three definitions): (often offensive) of or relating to one of the traditional ...
10
votes
3answers
5k views

Why do Aussies use “cactus” to mean “dead,” “useless,” or “broken”?

This bloody washing machine is cactus! Glossaries / dictionaries of Australian slang (like this one, and this one) list cactus as meaning "dead, useless, or broken." How did this usage come about?
10
votes
5answers
4k views

“I hate when…” vs “I hate it when…”

Growing up in Australia (and with an English mother) we would say "I hate it when " It seems, based on TV and movies, that in the USA it's more common to say "I hate when " The two phrases mean the ...
10
votes
1answer
12k views

Is Australian English closer to US English or British English?

It would seem obvious to me that Australian English is closer to British English due to the historical events that led to English people living here. But it seems when differences occur that US ...
9
votes
5answers
11k views

What does “Eleventy-seven” mean?

I came across the following phrase in a story (set in Australia): So the fact that I'm forty-five and you're eleventy-seven means nothing to me. If other people have a problem with that, then it's ...
9
votes
1answer
630 views

Australian regional shibboleths

I have been living in Australia for 7 years now, and still haven't been able to pin down the local regional accents. I can tell a "Town" from a "Country" accent, but I can't reliably tell which state ...
8
votes
5answers
1k views

How to express someone's height in metric

If someone is 169cm tall, what is the most common way of saying their height in metres and centimetres in American/Australian/British English? I'm not interested in converting metres (meters) and ...
8
votes
4answers
27k views

Why are Australian redheads often called 'bluey'?

From Wikipedia's article on Virgin Australia: Virgin Australia was launched as Virgin Blue in August 2000, with two Boeing 737–400 aircraft, one leased from then-sister airline Virgin Express. ...
8
votes
1answer
564 views

Meaning of “work ethics” in Australian English

Inspired by this question, I'm left wondering if the phrase “work ethics” has a slightly different meaning in Australian English than in other dialects. I came across this term some ...
8
votes
2answers
5k views

Origin of “cracked the shits”

I heard someone use the expression "he cracked the shits" today which is universally recognised (at least in Australia) to mean "lost his temper". It struck me that it is a strange expression and the ...
8
votes
1answer
148 views

Strange pronunciation of “door”

I have just heard Australian-English actor Rob Inglis repeatedly pronounce the word "door" so that it rhymes with "poor". In what dialect is that pronunciation found? Is it Australian? Edit - ...
8
votes
3answers
1k views

Why is the Australian Labor Party spelt without a 'u'? [closed]

In both the UK and New Zealand there are Labour parties spelt with a u. The Labour Party. The New Zealand Labour Party In Australia, it's The Labor Party. Australian Labor Party What explains ...
7
votes
4answers
3k views

Origin & history of name “she oak” or “sheoak” (a Casuarina tree)

In wikipedia's Casuarinaceae article (and somewhat similarly in its Casuarina article), one finds: The most widely used common name for Casuarinaceae species is sheoak or she-oak (a comparison of ...
7
votes
2answers
5k views

Is “early mark” only used in Australia and New Zealand?

What countries is "early mark" used in? It means being let out of something, typically school, early. onelook.com only reports it being mentioned in Urban Dictionary, and it doesn't have information ...
7
votes
2answers
4k views

Meaning and origin of British/Australian slang word 'tut'

About twenty years ago I overheard a girl from the north of England laughingly advise a friend to get ready for a night out by telling her to 'slap some tut on your face'. She clearly meant 'put on ...
6
votes
9answers
6k views

What could be the equivalent term in British or Australian English to the American English word “hillbilly”?

In Wikipedia, “hillbilly” is defined as: … a term referring to certain people who dwell in rural, mountainous areas of the United States, primarily Appalachia but also the Ozarks. Owing to its ...
6
votes
2answers
7k views

Exact meaning of “Tyranny of Distance”

In Australia, I often hear the phrase "the Tyranny of Distance", but I'm not exactly sure what it means. I know that the phrase originated from The Tyranny of Distance: How Distance Shaped Australia'...
6
votes
3answers
12k views

How common is pronouncing the past tense of beat as /bet/?

Personally, I pronounce the past tense of "beat" (to win at a game) as /biːt/, to sound identical to the infinitive. However, I have heard a few people under the age of 30 and from either the west or ...
6
votes
3answers
888 views

Are there any words pronounced with an unstressed short monophthong at the end of word that are not /ə/?

Following my question Are there any words in English pronounced with /e/ at the end? I was wondering if there are any words pronounced with an unstressed short monophthong at the end of word that are ...
6
votes
1answer
898 views

Origin of “good'o”

Where did the Autralian or British expression good'o come from? What is the 'o part related to?
5
votes
2answers
1k views

What Kind of Connotations are Associated with the word 'Bruv'?

I encountered the slang word 'bruv' for the first time not long ago while playing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. The word is used quite a lot by a genius scientist character named Gladstone Katoa, but ...
5
votes
4answers
5k views

Why do 'fine words butter no parsnips'?

I was at a dinner last night where some rather nice herb butter was served with the vegetables. Conversation close to me then turned to the English expression 'Fine words butter no parsnips'. It ...
5
votes
7answers
4k views

Would the phrase “No worries!” be understood outside Australia?

In Australia, No worries! is a very common way of saying You’re welcome. I wonder whether it is used this way in other English-speaking countries. The phrase’s meaning can be understood easily ...
5
votes
3answers
239 views

Different dictionary in New South Wales, Australia?

My writing textbook on page 446 says this: Use local conventions regarding punctuation, spelling, and mechanics. Be aware that these conventions differ from place to place, even in the English ...
5
votes
4answers
3k views

Origin of “chuck a wobbly”?

Chuck a wobbly is Australian slang for someone throwing a tantrum, and I like it because it invokes amusing imagery. I'm not certain of its origins however. I can see how it may be equivalent to the ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Buckley's Chance

In Australian parlance we have the expression "He's got Buckley's chance" or "You've got two chances - Yours and Buckley's". Meaning - he o you have no chance at all. Who was Buckley?
5
votes
2answers
2k views

Why did Australian English change from spelling words like 'honor' to 'honour'?

I know there are other questions comparing the US and UK usage of o and ou in words like colour. My question is specifically in regard to Australian English. I was always taught that here in Australia ...
5
votes
2answers
425 views

Equivalences between Australian English and American English

Where can I find a good source (book or web page) of equivalences between Australian English and American English? I am looking for ordinary words, clothing-related words, food-related words, etc.
5
votes
2answers
177 views

What's the origin of “dinkum”?

Dinkum as a noun means work, especially hard work. As an adjective, like fair dinkum, it means honest or genuine. Other than saying it's chiefly Australian and New Zealand, the OED simply says "...
5
votes
1answer
984 views

Origin of “not for quids” phrase

At various times I've supposed the informal Australian phrase “not for quids” (which apparently is analogous to “not at any price”) derives from quid, which refers to sovereigns, or guineas. At ...
5
votes
1answer
182 views

Are litotes more common in Australian English?

Are litotes more common in Australian English, especially colloquial speech, compared to other dialects of English such as American English? I could find on ELU a comment stating that this is the ...
4
votes
5answers
752 views

Expression for becoming homeless, which has the word 'street' in it? How about “pushed to the streets”?

If I lost all my money and became homeless, what standard expression can I use which has the word 'street'? Would it sound perfectly okay to a native English speaker if I said "I was pushed to the ...
4
votes
7answers
754 views

Is there a word for an inferior substitute?

I was wondering if there is a word in English to describe a person fulfilling another's role, albeit not as proficient.
4
votes
3answers
2k views

Does the English language have an official Academy? [duplicate]

For some languages, there are academies that decide topics such as grammar and spelling of things, for example, for the Spanish language, there are 22 academies in 22 different countries, all making ...
4
votes
2answers
8k views

What is a “hens party” and where is this phrase commonly used?

Where does the term come from, where in the world is the term used? I came across the usage in this article, with this paragraph as quoted: Keara O'Neil was on a shopping trip to find bridesmaid ...
4
votes
1answer
194 views

What does 'Roodow (wrongly spelled, only the sound)' mean?

In Australia, I have met a lot of people saying a word (sound like) 'roudow' to respond (mostly to end, like 'alright' equivalent) a conversation. I have been searching around but haven't got any clue ...
4
votes
2answers
246 views

Is 'yeah-nah' a uniquely Australian idiom?

There is a response in Australian English that means "Yes I hear you and empathise with your situation, but no this course of action won't work for me." [Yeah-Nah] I assumed this was a normal part of ...
4
votes
1answer
232 views

Parenthetical commas and foreign English

I advise a friend on her writing, despite not quite knowing an adverb from a proverb (kidding (kinda)). Invariably, parenthetical commas such as the following: Jane, my assistant, opened the door....
3
votes
1answer
189 views

Do Australians say “down north”?

I noticed some maps from the southern hemisphere are "reversed" with the south pole on top. Which makes me wonder, are there places in the southern hemisphere where the concept of "down" is presumed ...
3
votes
3answers
96 views

How did the term “bolshie” come to be applied to birds?

This question is prompted by a term in http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/73108561/Council-warning-threatened-falcon-species-launch-fists-of-fury-against-walkers Falcons were bolshie birds, ...
3
votes
2answers
4k views

Where does “I'll go he” come from, and is there more to the phrase?

I understand the meaning of the saying "I'll go he", but does anyone know where it comes from? The researcher here seems to think that there is a couple of words left off.
3
votes
2answers
259 views

In which countries would “tags” be understood to mean “License plates and stickers that show the registration is currently valid”?

On our sister site a user recently used the term "tags" in relation to taxis in China. I thought it might man some kind of official authorization to operate a taxi. But upon clarification I was told ...
3
votes
3answers
3k views

Meaning of “Cheeky” in Australian Aboriginal English

In Australian Aboriginal English, does "Cheeky" have meanings different from those found in other varieties of English? In the Baz Luhrmann movie "Australia", the word "Cheeky" was used by the ...
3
votes
2answers
263 views

What is the origin of the word “copped”?

In the language used by footy (Australian football) commentators the word "copped" is frequent. For instance, if a player gets knocked on the head, say, then the sentence might be "player X copped one"...