You are in site section: Exhibitions

Australian English

Australian English

The way Australians talk is peppered with many words that are unique to our version of English. In Nation, brush up on your Aussie words and discover the meaning of famous expressions and phrases supplied by the Australian National Dictionary Centre at the Australian National University.

Listen to the diversity of our accents, and discover how some Aboriginal words became part of Australian English.

Don't be a dag or a bludger! Test your knowledge of Aussie English.

Bludger

Bludger, by David Pope 2002
Bludger, by David Pope 2002

A person who does not do a fair share of work and who exploits the work of others. The word comes from the British slang word bludger, shortened from bludgeoner, a prostitute's pimp, so named because he carried a bludgeon, presumably to ensure payment. In Australia, bludger came to be applied to anyone who did not pull his or her weight.

Bung

Bung, by David Pope 2002
Bung, by David Pope 2002

Broken, exhausted, out of action 'The TV's bung.' It comes from bang, meaning 'dead', which was first recorded in 1841 in the Yagara Aboriginal language of the Brisbane region. The word found its way into nineteenth-century Australian pidgin, where the phrase to go bung meant 'to die'. By the end of the nineteenth century, the present sense of the word had developed.

Dag

Dag, by David Pope 2002
Dag, by David Pope 2002

A person who is unkempt, unfashionable or lacking in social skills. The word dag also means a lump of matted wool and dung hanging from a sheep's rear. This sense probably led to the meaning 'unkempt', and then to the broader meanings 'unfashionable' and 'socially unacceptable'. It was first recorded in 1891.

Economic rationalism

Economic rationalism, by David Pope 2003
Economic rationalism, by David Pope 2003

An approach to economic management that allows market forces, such as supply and demand, to direct the economy. This approach typically adopts privatisation, deregulation, 'user pays' and low public spending. Most Australians are surprised to discover that this is an Australian term.

Pom

Pom, by David Pope 2002
Pom, by David Pope 2002

A British person. Also pommy. First recorded in 1912, the term was originally applied to an immigrant from Britain, and was formed by rhyming slang. A British immigrant was called a pommygrant, from the red fruit pomegranate, perhaps referring to the complexion of the new arrivals, which was then abbreviated to pommy and pom. Although some argue otherwise, it is not an acronym of prisoner of mother England.

Snag

Snag, by David Pope 2002
Snag, by David Pope 2002

A sausage. In Australia and elsewhere snag has a number of meanings, including 'a submerged tree stump', 'an unexpected drawback', and more recently a 'sensitive new age guy'. But in Australia, a snag is also a 'sausage', a sense that probably comes from the British dialect word snag, 'a morsel, a light meal'.

Aussie English for Beginners boxed set

Related links

Aussie English for the Beginner - view Flash interactive or HTML version

Aussie English for Beginners (out of print; reprint under consideration)

Aussie English for Beginners Book Two (out of print; reprint under consideration)

Aussie English for Beginners Book Three (out of print; reprint under consideration)