Being an Aussie living in the Unites States, I find that I am repeatedly asked by Americans what a particular word or phrase I’ve just used means. Since Australians absorb American culture (media, TV, films, music, even politics) like one downs popcorn at the movies, we’re pretty well versed in Yankee jargon. For example, phrases like “oh brother,” “having a blast,” “scoot on over,” or “right on,” make perfect sense to us Aussies, although we’d rarely, if ever, adopt them in conversation ourselves. Conversely, however, Australian culture is less available in the states. For instance, American kids don’t grow up on our soaps, “Neighbours” and “Home and Away,” and very few Americans would know who Australian rock legends John Farnham and Jimmy Barnes are (Barnsey and Farnsey)! With that said, I’ve put together a list of words and phrases that most Americans have never heard of before, but which exist in most Aussie’s daily vernacular.
1. Daggy – This really is my favorite word of all time and simply MUST be elevated to global common-place. The urban dictionary defines “daggy” as: the opposite to cool and stylish. This is sorta true, but there’s more to it than that. There can be something wonderfully loveable about a person who is daggy or a shop or cafe that is daggy. In fact, someone or something can be so daggy that they’re cool. Music is a good example of this, certain throw-back tunes from the 60s, 70s or 80s sound so daggy today that they become a whole new level of cool. The history behind the word “daggy” is kinda left-field and weird. It literally refers to the dried faeces left dangling from the wool on a sheep’s bum. Um yeah.
2. Cheeky – Brits also use this wonderful word, the kind of word I associate with most things great in the world. “Cheeky” means mischievous and fun. With a bit of spunk thrown in there for good measure. It sounds just as it means; an onomatopoeia, if you will.
3. “Said the actress to the bishop” – I believe that the US translation for this humorous figure of speech is “that’s what she said.” Basically, the idea is that the actress is the whore and the bishop is the holy man, so if someone makes an innocent comment like “I can’t get it into the right whole”, while attempting to connect TV cables, someone else might say, “said the actress to the bishop”, thereby twisting the meaning of the (one innocent) sentence into something risque or salacious.
4. Sunnies – Very simple, “sunnies” means sunglasses. We Aussies love to shorten and “ie-ify” things. It allows everything to remain casual. (My half Greek, American boyfriend was mesmerised by the way everyone referred to the Spanakopita we had made from his mom’s traditional recipe on new years eve in Melbourne as “Spanna”.)
5. Lippy – Lipstick.
6. “Takin’ the piss” – Not sure why we say this, but it simply means “yanking your chain”, “having a lend” or “just kidding”. So if I arrived late to a dinner party and used the excuse that I just found out I’m pregnant (we Aussies would say “preggers”), if this really was a joke, I’d then relieve everyone by saying “Nah, I was just takin’ the piss.” *Cue laugh.
7. Jumper – Sweater. Not an 80’s onesie or a baby’s jumpsuit.
8. Pash – A long, wet kiss; a make out session. Probably derived from the word “passion”.
9. Maccas – MacDonalds. This nickname is so dear to Aussies that I recently discovered while in Melbourne that the MacDonalds situated in the centre of Melbourne city, opposite from the clocks at Flinders street train station, has actually changed their big yellow and red sign to “Maccas”—thus immortalizing our beloved nickname.