Speaking Australian


All of the mentioned words or pronunciations have been chosen either because I get teased for not using the Australian word/pronunciation of them or they have caused me and others confusion in conversation.  Despite the fact that I know how to say a word or pronounce the word in an Aussie way, I manage to instinctively use my American thought process and flub up.  I continue to attempt to adjust my speaking to obtain a suitable level for interacting with the daily Australian.

Tea- (used like this…”what did you have for tea?”)- Aussie meaning=Supper or dinner (depending on if you live on a farm in Iowa…dinner being a late afternoon meal and supper being a late evening meal, or if you are a city person like me they are interchangeable for the last meal of the day).

Meanwhile, I keep thinking they literally mean Tea and respond to such questions like this: “Green?”

Fag – The American meaning is obvious and it makes me cringe when I hear it because it is not nice.  But here in Australia it isn’t referring to a person homosexual in nature (although they do have several other terms they use which are equally not nice) they are simply referring to a cigarette.  So when my American learned mind hears: “I am going to go have a fag,” I get a look of confusion because my mind congers up a scene which involves sex with a drag queen , and it takes me a second to realize they mean they are going to HAVE a SMOKE not HAVE a “FAG.”   Sigh.

Phenergan- In America pronounced: “Fen-er-gan.”  Which I instantly know can be used as an antiemetic but when I hear, “Could you grab some Phenergan (pronounced Fin-nerg-en)?” I looked puzzled and wonder why they are asking me for some kind of Norwegian fish.  Luckily the nurses on the oncology unit are used to me staring at them confused when they know that I know what they mean but can’t quite translate fast enough.    This had me laughing for weeks.  Finnerggen, it even looks Norwegian if you spell it the way they say it. 

Pee- Yes, I am referring to urine.  However, whenever I ask someone at work, “Have you peed?” Yes, nurses need to know these things, especially in oncology and on the post surgical ward.  I get strange looks like I just spoke in a non-English language.  I try asking again annunciating and trying to sound a little Australian thinking it is an accent thing.  Still I get stares.  Oh, okay…. “Have you do a wee?” or “Have you passed water?” Then there is an immediate response of yes or no.  Seriously?  Like wee and pee don’t sound alike, you can’t figure out that I am asking about urination (which they also don’t understand, urination, like “did you urinate?”).  Not a mix up I expect to have on a daily basis but I do. I do chalk this up to the fact I am asking older patients this question, I know if I said it to a co-worker they would understand what I mean.  For some reason, patients do not. 

I have a bit of an Amelia Bedelia complex.  For those who did not follow 1990’s children’s literature, Amelia Bedelia is a character who takes all sayings and slang literally.  For instance, when she was asked to “dress a turkey” she put a shirt and pants on it. I actually remember this specific mess up because whenever I read the book (all of the hundreds of times) I didn’t understand it.  I was with Amelia because that is exactly what I would have done if asked the same thing.  Like I said, Amelia and I are kindred spirits.

A Root-.  When someone asks: “Did you have a root?” I picture someone holding the root of a tree or some kind of tuber.  It takes my mind a few minutes to realized they are asking about sex.  Imagine if an Aussie was in America and heard some say “I was rooting for the Hawks.” HAHAHAHA.

Speed Hump- American translation: speed bump.  But of course when I hear this or read it on the sign I picture an indecent act being done very quickly.  I could write an adult only version of Amelia Bedelia as my mind is fairly perverse.

Aussie lingo translated:




Thong=Flip flops (not underwear)

Capsicum=Green Pepper

Boot =Trunk of a car

Bonnet =Hood of a car

CBD or City Centre=Downtown




Uni=College (I find myself saying I want to Uni instead of college which makes me feel like I am lying since we have both Universities and Colleges.  For the record, I did not actually go to a university, I went to a college).


Cuppa=a cup of a warm drink like coffee, tea, etc.  (My first response when I was asked if I wanted a cuppa was of course: “of what?”)

10 Tips for Speaking Like An Aussie-

1)      First of all I have learned that Aussie is pronounced AUZZIE

2)      End all of your sentences with an upward inflection like you are asking a question. (I went the park today?)

3)      Swear a lot, especially if you are a school kid (although, if you are a school kid and reading this…please don’t actually do it because it makes you sound unintelligent and rude.  If you are an adult please feel free to do so because I love swearing.  Adults don’t swear to “sound cool” like school kids do, which is why they sound unintelligent, rude, and ANNOYING. This statement is directed to the kids that ride the 7:38 Route 510 bus toward Ivanhoe )

4)      Shorten every word you possibly can. For instance, my  name Michelle, gets shortened to Mish( which I don’t mind, but find it a funny nickname as people tend to shorten the last part of my name, not the first) .  I love it because I am always shortening people’s names like that, maybe I have been destined to be in Australia.

5)      Add an O or IE to the end of shortened names.

6)      Instead of saying the word you mean say something that is unrelated but rhymes with it (as if I get confused enough!). Ex: A Joe Blake (snake) and Aristotle (bottle). Both of which I came across while reading son Australiana and the meaning had to be put in parentheses (like I have done) so non-Aussie knew what it meant. Otherwise, it sounds out of place in a sentence.   

7)      Add inappropriate vowels to words.  Diarrheoa, haematology, paediatrics, or oespohagus.  Mostly just medical terms anyway.  I was told they are just the Greek way of spelling things which is funny to me since English is derived from Latin and Latin spellings… the vowels are just inappropriate.  This can be confusing because it changes disease acronyms like GERD to GORD (which makes me think of a Gourd or squash).  The girls at work have a nice laugh because they can tell when I have done the handover sheet because everything has “American” spellings. 

8)      Pronounce the letter H with a harsh “Ha” to start like “Haaaach” not “aaach.”

9)      The letter Z does not exist…Zed takes its place.  Kids literally sings the ABC’s ending with…x, y, zed.  I have only heard of this kind of thing in military terms when reading off a location like Iceburg, Octopus, Water, Apple (Iowa). 

10)   When reading numbers, if any number is repeated in a sequence you say double (the number). For instance, if reading the phone number 0450272755 you would read it as: 0, 4, 5, 5, 2, 7, 2, 7, double 5.  Every time.

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