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Description on Amazon

Australian slang is changing. Many slang terms used by my parents generation and before then are no longer in use. "Cobber" for example is not often heard these days, but "mate" certainly is. We used to have "bobs" and "zacks", but that was in the days before February, 1966 when decimal currency was introduced. With the internet and social networking sites, there are global influences now on language, and many slang terms have become universal. Aussies have a sense of humour which is reflected in our slang. We tend to use hyperbole to a great extent. Many words we use with mates in a friendly many would be considered offensive in other English speaking countries. Very often the context in which something is said is far more important than the actual words themselves.

Even with all the changes to language, many Aussie colloquial terms remain, and I have endeavoured to put a comprehensive collection of them together in this publication.

Also included are a few short stories including an explanation of the meaning of the words in a song which has almost become the unofficial Australian National Anthem; "Once a Jolly Swagman". In some cases I have used the slang words in a sentence to help explain their meanings.

Description on SmashWords

“Black, dry, irreverent, ironic, self-mocking” are all words that have been used to describe Australian humour. This humour is reflected in the unique slang that is used by Aussies. The author has compiled a comprehensive catalogue of Australian colloquialisms and has included not only explanations of their meanings, but in several cases short stories and examples of them.


Paperback Description

Aussie Humour and Slang
Authored by Ian McKenzie

"Black, dry, irreverent, ironic, self-mocking" are all words that have been used to describe Australian humour. This humour is reflected in the unique slang that is used by Aussies. The author has compiled a comprehensive catalogue of Australian colloquialisms and has included not only explanations of their meanings, but in several cases short stories and examples of them.

About the author:
Ian McKenzie has been an educator for most of his working career. With experience in each of the Primary, Secondary, Special and Tertiary sectors he is now semi-retired and works part-time with International Post-Graduate students. This work mainly involves assisting them with communication and cultural issues to assist these students to obtain employment in Australian workplaces.


Below is a sample taken from the SmashWords eBook version of the publication


Australian Humour and Slang

Ian McKenzie

© copyright - 2012 – by Ian McKenzie

Smashwords Edition


Australian humour can be black, dry, irreverent, ironic, and self-mocking. This humour is reflected in colloquial language used in Australia. This book is a collection of those colloquialisms with some explanations of their derivation and meaning.

Languages in use are living entities and are constantly changing. The English language has many variations depending among other things, upon the geographic location in which it is spoken.

Australian English can therefore be very different from American English or U.K. English. Australian English can also vary from location to location within Australia.

The author, Ian McKenzie, has spent a major part of his working life in Primary, Secondary, Special and Tertiary sectors of Education. In recent years he has worked closely with International Post-Graduate students in Australia who wish to work in and/or obtain permanent residency status to live in Australia. Understanding differences in cultural expectations and language usage between their place of origin and their new potential home in Australia can be a major obstacle for many of these students.

This publication is a collection of some common and not-so-common Australian colloquialisms. In some cases it gives the derivation of the term and the context in which it is generally used. Sometimes with “Aussie slang”, the meaning is dependent upon the context in which the term or phrase is used. However, common meanings are given and sometimes a sentence giving an example of how the term or phrase could be used.

Grouping of colloquialism terms and phrases have been made and these groupings are listed on the “Contents” page. In each grouping, the terms and phrases are also alphabetized.

Some interesting short stories regarding the use of Australia English are given under the Chapter entitled “Anecdotes”. If you have your own interesting story that you would like to share, the author would be interested in hearing from you. Languages in use are constantly changing and this book which is about language will also change from time to time. The author plans to review and publish revised editions to make the work as relevant as possible. Each new addition will probably be an expanded version of its predecessor.

Ian McKenzie is currently semi-retired and teaches still on a part-time basis. With the additional time available to him he is able to spend more time on two of his passions, writing and photography. The text in this book is punctuated by photos which have been taken by the author.


Waltzing Matilda
Can I nurse your baby?
Knock off for tea!

Waltzing Matilda

The song “Waltzing Matilda” could almost be considered the unofficial Australian National Anthem. Whenever a group of Aussies get together for an informal sing-song “Waltzing Matilda” will probably be on their repertoire.

The words of the song were written by well-known Australian poet Banjo Patterson, and the music based on an old Scottish ballad.

Waltzing Matilda

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong,
Under the shade of a Coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled,
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda,
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me,
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee,
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda,
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me,
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Up rode the squatter mounted on his thorough-bred
Down came the troopers One, Two, Three
Whose is that jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag?
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Waltzing Matilda Waltzing Matilda
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me
Whose is that jumbuck you've got in your tucker-bag?
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Up jumped the swagman and sprang in to the billabong
You'll never catch me alive said he,
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Waltzing Matilda Waltzing Matilda
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

“Waltzing Matilda” is choc-a-block with Aussie colloquialisms, so it’s probably a good topic to get started with in this book.

Refers to walking or moving in a quick and/or nimble way. “He waltzed into the office and announced that he was resigning.” The word “waltz” can also refer to taking something very easily. “He easily waltzed off with the blue ribbon for his prize bull at the agricultural show.”

Colloquial for a swag. “Matilda” is also a female name and the use of the name for a swag probably comes from a swagman having all his personal possessions rolled up in his swag. He is therefore “close to” his swag and not some female.

Waltzing Matilda
Walking around with a swag

A swag is portable bedding rolled up with a few other minimal basic personal possessions and some food

In the early days of European settlement in Australia, a swagman was a person who wandered around the country on foot carrying all his personal possessions in a swag on his shoulder. He would rely on gifts of food or money and do the occasional odd jobs for payment.

The word “camp” has numerous meanings. However the way it is used in “Waltzing Matilda” refers to a temporary place to stop for the night. Drovers and others travelling in the bush would set up primitive cooking facilities “a camp fire” to “boil the billy” and sometimes some basic shelter. In Banjo Patterson’s song, the swagman camped by a billabong.

A water-hole. Australia is a country which can have extremes of climate. There can be floods and droughts. A billabong is frequently a water hole which has been left after a river has dried up because of a drought.

Coolibah tree
Eucalypts are endemic to Australia. The Coolibah is a member of the eucalypt family and is found throughout out-back Australia. Its botanical name is Eucalyptus Microtheca.

A billy is a tin can usually with a wire carrying handle which was placed on a camp fire or hung over a camp file. The billy would be filled with water, probably from the billabong in the case of the swagman in the song, and left till the water in it boiled. Some tea leaves would then be thrown into the billy to make a cup of tea.

Aussie slang for sheep

Colloquial for food. A tucker box is a container with food in it. The term “tuck-in” is also used in Australia generally referring to an invitation to start eating and to enjoy a hearty meal.

In the early days of European settlement in Australia, people would settle anywhere on government land without government permission to run sheep and sometimes cattle. These people were known as squatters. Squatters were free settlers not convicts and the practice was generally accepted. In later years leases and/or licenses were obtained.

In the song, “thoroughbred” refers to the thoroughbred horse that the squatter was riding.

A mounted police officer in the days of colonial Australia. “Trooper” also has an alternate meaning in Aussie slang. It can refer to a hard-working friend. “He was a real trooper helping the family clean up after their house was flooded.”

Can I nurse your baby?

My mother, who is no longer with us, used to tell this story on herself. It highlights how Australian English can have different meanings from English spoken in other English speaking countries. I am quite sure that my mother would not object to my recounting the story here.

My parents would make reasonably regular visits to my sisters living in the USA. On one visit years ago when my siblings and I were much younger, my sister Marilyn arranged a dinner party for her close friends to meet with our parents.

Marilyn had friends with babies and young children. My mother innocently asked a mother of one of the babies; “Can I nurse your baby?”

Apparently the Americans present were horrified at the thought of this elderly lady wanting to breast feed someone else’s baby.

In Australia to nurse a child or a baby generally means just to hold that child. In the USA the meaning of the term is very different.

Other terms for which the meaning differs between Australia and the United States of America are “thong” and “fanny”. The Aussie meaning of these terms is explained elsewhere in this book.

Just on the subject of mothers, in America they have “Moms” and in Australia we of course have “Mums”.

Knock off for tea!

Tim is an engineer and was an International Post-Graduate student of mine from China.

The engineering firm with which Tim was working had an urgent project to be completed which required on one occasion for Tim and his boss to work late into the evening. Around six o’clock the boss said to Tim, “let’s knock off for tea.”

The pair returned to work and worked late into the night. Around ten o’clock hunger pains were starting to get to Tim, and he asked his boss, “are we going to stop for dinner soon?” To this his boss replied, “we had tea around six o’clock”.

In Australia, the evening meal is often referred to as “tea”. So, if an Aussie invites you for tea, s/he is probably inviting you to have dinner with them, not a cup of tea.


The Aboriginals were the earliest known inhabitants of Australia. It is estimated that they have been on the Australian continent for around 70,000 years. The indigenous inhabitants of Australia include the Aboriginals and the Torres Straight Islanders.

In the late 18th Century there were up to 750 distinct Aboriginal languages or dialects. Currently in the early part of the 21st Century there are fewer than 150 remaining and several of these are considered to be endangered.

Aboriginal Australians who have lived in Aboriginal communities since birth are considered to have “English” as their second language. Their mother tongue is “Aboriginal English”. Aboriginal English includes elements of both grammar and pronunciations taken from Australian Aboriginal native languages.

Aboriginal Colloquialisms

A derogatory term for the Australian Aboriginal

Aboriginal English term. As a noun it refers to an indigenous Australian. As an adjective it refers to characteristics of indigenous Australians such as; Blackfella customs and Blackfella talk.

A curved piece of hardwood used by the Aboriginal people. It was designed in a way that it would return to the thrower after being thrown. Colloquially “boomerang” is used to refer to something which should be returned to its owner. A boomerang decision is a decision which rebounds and a boomerang cheque is one which has been dishonoured and returned to its writer.

Something that is broken or not working. The word comes from the Yagara Aboriginal language of the Brisbane region. “The camera has gone bung.” – The camera is not working.

Bush Tucker
Food from Australian native plants. Traditional food of the Aboriginal Australians.

Originally used for an Aboriginal assembly of people associated with dancing for a sacred, festive or warlike occasion. Now it is used for any large or noisy gathering, or some noisy disturbance. Sometimes “Corroboree” is used to refer to the communal behaviour of some species of birds which flock to together and call loudly for extended periods.

An Aboriginal musical wind instrument which can be up to a few metres in length. It is constructed from a hollow log around eight to ten centimetres in diameter. In recent years, its use has been combined with orchestral instruments by some music composers. Rock paintings indicate that didgeridoos were in use around 40,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest musical instruments still in use to-day.

A woven bag made by Aboriginal Australians out of coarse grass or reeds. It was sometimes used in fishing and/or crab fishing. The word “dilly” is generally used today by Australians to refer to any small bag for carrying personal belongings.

A wild dog which is found throughout mainland Australia and also in New Guinea. It is believed to have been in Australia for around 4000 years. Its call is more like a howl rather than a bark. See alternate meaning for “dingo” under the heading “People”.

An endemic Australian cockatoo. Name derived from the Aboriginal term “Yuwaalaraay gilaa” for the bird. See listing of “Galah” also under the heading “Idiots”.

An Aboriginal person. The word comes from the Awabakal Aboriginal language of Eastern New South Wales and neighbouring languages.

Another word used for an Aboriginal person

An Aboriginal Club or Heavy Weapon

A habit of Aboriginal Australians to wander around as nomads. Aboriginals working on sheep stations have been known to leave and go walkabout without letting anyone know. They may return back to their workplace some considerable time later. Apparently they feel the spiritual need to return sometimes to their traditional way of life.

Anatomical and Sex

Many Australian colloquialisms refer to anatomical parts especially either the male or female genitalia.

Although the “arse” is a part of the anatomy, it is used colloquially in Australia to mean “good luck”. “Being made redundant and getting a great remuneration package when you were about to resign anyway, was a real bit of arse.”

Lucky. “You arsey bastard, winning that car in the art union.”

As dry as a dead dingo’s donger
Extremely dry. A “dingo” is a dog native to Australia, and a donger is a slang term for a “penis”.

As dry as a Nun’s nasty
Extremely dry. Generally referring to a property after a drought. A “nasty” is referring to the primary female genitalia.

Backdoor bandit
A homosexual male

Bangs like a dunny door
Similar to “been around” but with more emphasis on promiscuity

Bash somebody’s ear
To talk at great length at someone. It is therefore verbally bashing the ear, not physically doing so.

Been around
A sexually promiscuous female

Beer gut
A man’s large bulging stomach. The term is used whether or not the condition has been caused by beer drinking.

Bite your bum
I totally disagree with your request or proposition. Similar to “get lost”, “go to hell” and “get stuffed”.

A silly person

Bronzed Aussie
A healthy tanned Australian who is also generally good looking with a good physique.

Built like a brick shit-house
A big strong muscular man

Bum crack
The top of someone’s buttocks showing above their pants. Often used when referring to male workers on a building site.

Bung eye
An eye infection (See “Bung” under the heading “Aboriginal”)

Crack a fat
A male erection.

Crack onto
To pursue someone romantically.

Female genitalia

The external female genitalia. Also used colloquially to refer to a contemptible person.

Someone who is infatuated with a woman or women.

The anus. Can also be used to refer to someone’s buttocks. See also “dated” and “dating” under the heading “People”.

A social engagement with friends or with a single person with the intention of establishing or maintaining a romantic interest. See also under the heading “Anatomical” for an alternate colloquial meaning for “date”.

To have anal sexual intercourse with. Also “dating”.

The penis

The penis

The penis

Female genitalia. In the USA it seems that the word “fanny” refers to a person’s bottom, whereas in Australia it refers to primary female genitalia.

A condom.

French letter
Condom. The term is probably used more by older generation Australians. Many years ago when I was in charge of Physical Education/Recreation programs for a large community service organization, the gymnasts complained to me that the powdered magnesium carbonate chalk we had for them to rub on their hands before performing was not as good as the blocks. My research showed that the blocks had to be purchased from a French company which I had contacted. A junior assistant of mine at the time called Jenny, came out when all the staff and I were having morning tea one day and excitedly announced, “Ian, you have a French letter waiting for you on your desk.” After the laughter died down, the embarrassed Jenny learned that a “French letter” is also a term for a condom.

Totally surprised

Got legs
Something that has the potential to become successful

Short for the hamstring muscle. A footballer might “do a hammie” and not be able to play for a few matches

Have a naughty
To have sex

Have a perv
To look at someone voyeuristically

Hollow legs
Eating and drinking a lot without putting on weight. Often used in reference to active teenagers. “Peter has a really good appetite, but he never puts on wieight. He must have hollow legs.”

A sexy woman. See also under the heading “Vehicles”

In like Flynn
Usually used in relation to a successful relationship or sexual encounter, but can also be used in relation to being accepted in an organization or workplace. “Flynn” refers to the Australian film star Errol Flynn

In the nuddy

Khyber pass

Knee high to a grasshopper
Someone who is very small

Women’s breasts. Normally referring to larger ones.

Knuckle sandwich
A punch in the mouth

Leg opener
Alcoholic drinks offered to women with the intention of seducing them

Leg over
Sexual intercourse

So drunk that you can’t walk or stand up steadily


Mappa Tassie
A woman’s pubic hair area.

Nail biter
An exciting game

Nicky noo

Another term for women’s breasts

Off his (or her) face
Someone who is drunk

Old fella
The penis

A long enduring kiss generally associated with fondling.

A condom

Stands out like dog’s balls
Something that is very obvious

Animals and Insects

Australia has a reputation for having a vast number and variety of scary insects, spiders and animals. Whether or not the “scary” adjective is deserved could be questioned. Some of our insects, spiders, reptiles and other animals are deadly, but the majority are not dangerous to people.

The “Australian Wave” is the hand brushing flies away from the face. Some interesting statistics about Australian insects and spiders include the following: Australia has around 6,000 species of flies, 4,000 species of ants, 350 species of termites and 1,500 species of spiders.

Animals and Insects Colloquialisms

Bid Red
 A large mature male red kangaroo

Biting annoying insects

A mongrel dog or any animal or person of mixed stock. Also “bitser” as an informal pronunciation of “bits of” as in “bits of this and bits of that”.

Blowie –
A large blow fly

Bluey –
An Australian blue cattle dog. “Bluey” is also used in referring to stinging bluebottles found in the ocean and sometimes also to varieties of jellyfish. See the heading “bluey” also under “People”

Boomer –
A big male kangaroo

Brumby –
A wild untamed horse

Bunyip –
An imaginary creature. In Aboriginal legends it was said to haunt swamps and billabongs (waterholes).

Cleanskin –
Cattle which have not been dealt with as yet. (i.e. branded, castrated or ear marked etc.) Also see “Cleanskin” in the “Drinking” and “People” chapters.

Cockie –
A cockatoo. A species of parrot in Australia. Large flocks have been known to completely devastate a farmer’s grain crop.

Cockie –
A cockroach

Heinz variety –
A term also used to refer to mixed stock especially in dogs. Taken from the advertising for the commercial product Heinz soup emphasizing many varieties.

Mozzie –

Nit –


In Australia, “please” and “thank-you” are expected if asking for or receiving something. Not using these terms is considered impolite.

“How are you?”, is often used as a greeting in Australia. You are not expected to give a description of your current state of health. It is similar to saying “G’Day” or “Hi”. The response can be along the lines of “I’m good, how are you?”

End of extract from the SmashWords edition - There are an additional 130 plus pages following this. The publications are also punctuated with Aussie photographs taken be the author.

Purchase the complete SmashWords edition available by instant download for $2.99

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