Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Another form of English is that of Australia, a commonwealth country that still has the Queen of England as its head of state. Australia was at one time the world's biggest open prison, the British would send their unwanted criminals there, many of whom never returned (even after serving their sentence, the chances of surviving the return trip were so slim it was better to stay put).

Many convicts were Londoners or Irish immigrants, and the Australian accent today still has traces of these influences. Other European immigrants later on have made a contribution to the accent and intonation too.

Australian has its own words and expressions, some of which have been exported successfully to the rest of the English speaking world. However, some that are claimed to be Australian are highly doubtful, for example, rhyming slang has certainly come from Cockney London.

Some of my favourite words that are commonly known in Europe and elsewhere are "smoothie" for milkshake, "Sheila" for woman (Sheila was once a very common first name), "tucker" for food, although "tuck shop" exists in English - a kind of snack bar found in schools. A "Matilda" is a sleeping roll, from where the song "waltzing matilda" has its origins. "Walkabout" was first used to describe the lone journey a young aborigine made as part of his initiation into adulthood, but now refers to any kind of absense - "he's gone walkabout".

The first settlers in Australia also used the aborigine words for the new things they discovered: kangaroo, koala, wombat, boomerang, didgeridoo, etc.

Here is a link to a website that lists some common words and expressions in Australian English. Some of the words listed for me can't be sure to be 100% Australian, but don't throw a wobbly, it's just for fun!

Dictionary of Australian slang

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