Australian clippings in Peter Temple’s ‘Truth’

Australian English has a famous tendency to abbreviate words, doing so frequently and in a variety of ways. Clipping comes first, then the stump may be suffixed with an –er, –o, –s, –ie or –y, etc. This can and does occur in any form of English, but Australians seem to have taken diminutives furthest: it’s an unmistakable feature of the dialect.

Peter Temple - Truth - Quercus book coverPeter Temple’s Truth is an outstanding Australian crime novel with an abundance of such terms, and as I read it I decided to note some of them. To begin with –o forms. Truth offers several, usually in dialogue:

‘…get someone to take down every rego in the parking garage’ (registration, i.e., car number plate)

‘…years ago, you rings the cops, the ambos, they come.’ (ambulances ambulance paramedics)

‘If my old man had been a garbo, I’d be labouring on a building site.’ (garbage collector)

‘And have the Salvos take a walk around there,’ said Villani. (Salvation Army)

‘Told you at the servo then, you don’t fucken listen.’ (service station, i.e., gas station or petrol station)

People’s names commonly get the –o treatment: there’s a Tommo and a Stevo, Burgess becomes Burgo, Singleton Singo, Ribarics Ribbos. Myxomatosis is reduced to myxo, while boy as a form of address becomes boyo – not an abbreviation but worth including in this context.

The –ie/–y ending seems even more popular. Some examples used in Temple’s book, such as mozzies (mosquitoes), druggies (drug addicts) and vegies (vegetables) are more or less part of global English, but others are more restricted:

He took sunnies out of his denim jacket… (sunglasses)

‘Scare you, this shotty?’ (shotgun)

‘Stuff like this, the media blowies on you, bloody pollies pestering, the ordinary work goes to hell.’ (blowflies, politicians)

‘…associating with murdering bikie scum’ (biker)

They walked across the concrete yard, chatting side-on, could be tradies coming on site. (tradesmen, i.e., trade workers)

‘Across the road come and put a cushie under me head, held me hand.’ (cushion)

‘Lots of little buggers in there now,’ said Bob one day. ‘Echidnas, bandis, God knows where they come from.’ (bandicoots)

Searle’s the worry here, he’d like to see me buried. Whole Searle family’d have a wakey. (wake)

‘Yeah, a man said he was a relly.’ (relative)

‘Rose’s street was mostly pensioners, everything spent on rent, cigarettes, the pokies…’ (poker machines, i.e., fruit machines or slot machines)

Place names and proper names get similar treatment: Brisbane is Brissie, Tasmania Tassie, Crown beers are Crownies and Blundstone boots Blunnies. The police force’s Special Operations Group is acronymised to SOG (pronounced ‘sog’ at least sometimes: ‘better than a SOG move on Kidd’s premises’ [not an SOG]), and its members are occasionally, inescapably, soggies.

Finally there’s the delightful saddies, a nominalisation of sad:

‘Got the saddies, mate?’

Inveterate critics of slang and youthspeak would love to hate on teens for using such a trivial and seemingly unnecessary word, but saddies here is spoken by a seasoned officer. It’s no more trendy than got the morbs, which sounds like a novel clipping but in fact had currency in the late 19th century. To borrow from Buffy, it gives me a happy.

Additional such abbreviations can be found at the Australian National Dictionary Centre’s page on Australian English vocabulary. Why they have become such a characteristic part of the dialect is not clear, but slang lexicographer Jonathon Green tells me it may all have started with the late-19thC rabbit-o ‘rabbit seller’.


An earlier novel by Temple, Bad Debts, contains a few more, e.g.: ute ‘utility vehicle’, dero ‘derelict’ (i.e., homeless person), smoko ‘smoke break’, mentioned in the comments below, and welfarey ‘welfare worker’, in this case a youth worker.

Temple’s The Broken Shore offers burg ‘burglary’, chainie ‘chainsaw’, lippy ‘lipstick’, and swaggie ‘swagman’ (i.e., vagrant, drifter).

Bruce Moore, editor of the Australian National Dictionary, has a great post on this at the Ozwords blog: ‘The story of rello, rellie, and other Australian terms ending in “ie” and “o”‘.

And here’s a funny one from comedian Deirdre Fidge:

The Red Hand, a posthumous collection of work by Peter Temple, includes a glossary (‘Tradies Wear Sunnies and Blunnies’) written for American publishers upon the release of The Broken Shore and Truth. It includes the following busy entry:

Tradies: Tradesmen. Tradies wear sunnies and Blunnies, drive utes, often with skun tyres, rise at sparrer, tell porkies about when they will show up at your house to fix the dunny, and are fond of a stubby or three at stumps.


99 Responses to Australian clippings in Peter Temple’s ‘Truth’

  1. catteau says:

    Wow, this is wonderful and silly! I especially love your last sentence – “Why they have become such a characteristic part of the dialect is not clear.”

    Why? There is a REASON for why language evolves as it does? Goodness me, now someone’s gonna show up telling us there’s a reason why we must use different from / than / to, too! ;-)

    I don’t really have any serious comments here – but I agree, this is all delightful. I’m not much into vampires or slayers thereof myself, but I’d also say this gives me a happy! Only I’m afraid I’ll never understand anyone if I should find myself in Australia.

    p.s. I think “mozzies” might be standard in UK or Irish English, but I’ve definitely never heard it in North America.

  2. John Cowan says:

    Yes, the clipped form in N.A. is skeeters. But let’s not forget Aussie, pronounced as if written Ozzie.

  3. marc leavitt says:


    Having spent a month-long holiday in the Land of Oz, I can attest to the prevalence of these usages, but I first became familiar with them after I heard my English girlfriend use “good-o!” as an interjection. Then there’s the very British (and I think, Irish), “boy-o.”

    I haven’t heard the “-o” suffix in the US, but we are particulary partial to the “ie” diminutive, as in “goodie!”

    • catteau says:

      LOL, Marc! You’re probably right about the use of the “-o” suffix in the US. But the etymology of my wordpress name “catteau” dates back to my undergraduate days in Boston, when my then-boyfriend used to refer to my sweet cat as “cat-o”. I picked it up from him, and it became fixed in our lexicon. When I moved to France a year after college, we agreed that now it would have to become “catteau.” The feline in question has long since gone the way of old cats (not the human type, of course – I’m still around!) – but “catteau” remains in my internet presence to this day, almost 35 years later!

    • cynthiamvoss says:

      One US example is something I thought of while reading the post: “rando,” meaning a random person. As in, “She got drunk and hooked up with some rando.” I heard that a few times on the show The Mindy Project and laugh every time they say it.

  4. cynthiamvoss says:

    Such an interesting post. I didn’t know that abbreviation was a characteristic of Australian English in particular. These examples are so cute! (Despite the whole crime novel subject matter.) Were the abbreviations distracting as you read the book? I think I wouldn’t help smiling seeing cops and criminals using so many -ies endings. “Saddies” is the best!

  5. maceochi says:

    No mentions of -zza for names such as Sharon or Barry? Apparently it’s the R-final syllable which is the trigger. This isn’t limited to AusE, of course.

  6. Chips Mackinolty says:

    As covered in Peter Temple (and many other Australian authors) there does seem to be an inevitable tendency for Australians to both contract and expand personal names, and in both directions. At least for Anglo-based names.

    Karen becomes Kaz, and by extension Kazza. Garry and Barry become Gaz and Baz; thence Gazza and Bazza. And Graham often gets the Gary treatment.

    The general rule of thumb would appear to be that polysyllabic names (and this includes surnames) will be reduced to fewer syllables, and vice versa. Smith will become Smithy, Jones will be Jonesy, and Cooke will be Cookie. While Paterson will become Patto, and Henderson rendered as Hendo. And just about anyone with “Mc” or Mac” in front of their name will be referred to as Macca.

    At the other end of the scale of familiarity, a former prime minister was referred to as “Hawkie”; his political predecessor Mr Malcolm Fraser more often than not referred to as “Mal”.

    Of course other Englishes do this, and on another front I’ve forgotten how many diminutives the Italian “Salvatore” has.

    But Stan Carey is right, the suffixes of “–o”, “-ie” and “-y” to less animate objects is close to universal in Australia.

    And, sometimes, we end up with appropriately gender inclusive terms such as “fisho” instead of “fisherman”.

    Could this be a clue to the rest of the English speaking world seeking gender non-specific nouns? The suffixes of “–o”, “-ie” and “-y”? That would be cute!

    It’s sometimes a matter of speaking a different lingo.

  7. Stan Carey says:

    Joy: There are probably several reasons, but it’s open to speculation. Once the habit is ingrained in the vernacular, new examples become more likely; but what got the ball rolling seems to be a mystery.

    John: Mosquitoes aren’t common enough in Ireland to have a common abbreviation, at least in my experience. Coincidentally, the book I’m reading today (The White South by Hammond Innes) uses the word skytter, Norwegian ‘shooter’ apparently, which is superficially similar to skeeter. I hadn’t forgotten Aussie but was sticking to what appeared in the book.

    Marc: Yes, boyo has some currency in Ireland. I use goodie in two senses: as a noun in Manichaean opposition to baddie, and as an interjection. There’s also a simple traditional Irish dish of bread soaked in milk and sugar, known as goody.

    Cynthia: Young Irish people use ‘randomer’ to refer to randos. Both terms amuse me! I like saddies too but it’s no morbs. The abbreviations weren’t really distracting, though by deciding to write most of them down I distracted myself. But even then it didn’t happen too often, given that the book has 400+ pages.

    maceochi: No mentions at all – I aim to disappoint. There are exceptions to the r-final pattern, for example Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne, and RZA ‘Rizza’, who’s a Robert.

    Chips: I like that use of fisho, and hadn’t heard it before. I was discussing gender-neutral alternatives to fisherman recently and got no further than fisher and angler. Maybe AusE suffixation is the answer!

  8. stuartnz says:

    An interesting illustration of the extent to which AusEng and NZE are similar. Of the examples you give, nine or ten are common here in NZ, with most of the others referring to the Australian-specific entities. As John Cowan pointed out about “Aussie”, “Brissie” and “Tassie” are also pronounced as “Brizzy” and “Tazzy”.

  9. maeveak says:

    Growing up in an Irish-American family ‘boyo’ was commonly used by my grandmother (and aunts and uncles) when the male was in trouble; if the girl was in trouble, she was ‘girl’- in other less foreboding circumstances, lad and lass were commonly used especially when they couldn’t remember just which one of the many cousins you were…Jean? Joan? Jane?

  10. Chips Mackinolty says:

    I don’t doubt NZE and AusEng share much. The double “s”, as spelt in Aussie etc, are nevertheless pronounced as “zz” in any case, never as “ss”. As this terrible old song has it, with lyric supplied from an NZ web site! from 80 years ago!

  11. azzurosky says:

    One term we often hear in the media, due to the prevalence of bushfires in Austrlia, is firie for firefighter (“firies and ambos attended the scene of devastation”).

    Sometimes a commentator can get tangled up when improvising. One time, as the naval contingent appeared at an Anzac Day march, the tv commentator excitedly announced “And here come the navvies!”

    Gerry from Oz

  12. Vireya says:

    Your first example puzzles me, “Get someone to take down every rego in the parking garage”. Not because of rego, which is standard Australian English, but because of “parking garage”, which is something I have only ever heard Americans say. In Australia it is a “carpark”, The fact that your copy has “parking garage” makes it seem as if it has been “translated” for international audiences. But if that were the case, why leave in all the other Australian English? I shall have to search for a local copy to compare.

  13. It always feels strange to read that such abbreviations are “common” in Australian English, because it makes it sound as if there’s one lurking in every sentence, but “common” is a relative term.

    A few are truly standard and not regarded as slang at all. As far as I’m concerned, “bikers” is a variant form of “bikies”, not the other way around. I’d also consider “pokies” neutral in register, in contrast to the formal “poker machines”.

    Others are moderately common (meaning I know sane people who use them), but definitely marked in register. In this category I’d put “sunnies”, “rellies”, and various others. “Salvos” is familiar mostly from the Salvation Army’s own advertising campaigns.

    Still others I’d only expect to hear from people who are either unashamedly eccentric or from Queensland. (Queensland is widely acknowledged as the slang capital of the country, and these types of abbreviations are reputed to be much more common there than elsewhere.) I can’t say I’ve ever heard “cushie”, among others.

    Individuals will differ on exactly which words belong in which category.

    People often use marked informality to indicate familiarity, and it wouldn’t surprise me if people who use “rego” and “servo” have a particularly strong bond with their cars. But it’s a bit disturbing if the person who used “shottie” for “shotgun” was expressing affection for the weapon.

  14. astraya says:

    One day in Korea I was talking to an American colleague, and he said that he knew about the Australian English clipping. He asked ‘Is that why Sydnopolis is always called Sydney?’. I almost replied.

    As well as the /s/ v /z/ of abbreviations Aussie, Brissie and Tassie, there’s the stress of whole words. A long time ago I met an American in a youth hostel in New Zealand, who said he was going to fly into Bris-BANE then catch a bus to Mel-BOURNE. I suggested that he didn’t.

  15. astraya says:

    @ Adrian. My brother-in-law and nephew are proud bikers, but loudly disclaim being bikies.

    • astraya says:

      My great-nephew is 7 weeks old. Today my niece posted a photo of him on Facebook, wearing a baby-sized Harley-Davidson t-shirt. Her caption is ‘My little bikie boy’.

  16. Chips Mackinolty says:

    @ Vireya, it is entirely possible there was a translation for the US market, at least, for carpark. A friend of mine had to wear “spanner” replaced with “wrench”. Perhaps fair enough. But they tried to tell her the “wheat belt” should be described as an “erogenous zone”. Go figure.

    @ Adrian Morgan, the term “shottie” for shotgun is merely descriptive, not affection. And Salvos preceded by many decades the Salvation Army’s use of the term as a publicity tool in the last couple of decades: I remember it being used in the 1950s by my grandparents.

    @ astraya, the difference between “bikie” and “biker” is interesting. When I was young (1960s), “bikie” described pretty much anyone who rode motorbikes, and was not a pejorative. As Australia was influenced by the importation of motorcycle clubs displaying colours of (largely) US-based groups such as the Hells Angels, and their apparent links with crime, this changed with motor bike enthusiasts adopting the term “bikers” (still an Australian approach to clipping the English language).

    @astraya (again!), there’s also the appalling Can-BERR-a! I do like the title/descriptor for Brisbane of Brisvegas which has been around for at least a decade if not longer!

    • That “salvos” precedes the Salvation Army’s use of the term is not in question, but to a lot of Australians today, that is primarily where it’s familiar from. If the contraction was a lot more common in the 1950s and has since declined, that would be in full agreement with what I wrote.

  17. azzurosky says:

    Keeping the Salvos company are Vinnies (the charitable St Vincent de Paul Society).

    Gerry from Oz

    • Chips Mackinolty says:

      Of course, and perfect! And don’t disagree with @ Adrian on what are also known as the “Sallies”. Need Stan Carey and this blog, perhaps, to see if Vinnies, Sallies and Salvos have equivalents in other dialects/usages. I’m wondering if there is some kind of affectionate usage here?

      On another front, not necessarily affectionate, there are “surfies” and “Westies” (not necessarily with initial caps for the latter).

      • azzurosky says:

        Yes, an element of affection in use of Salvos and Vinnies. An article in the newspaper this morning reminded me of the term Nashos for those who did national service as soldiers in the Vietnam war, which in turn prompted my recollection of the pejorative word Chocos (chocolate soldiers) for soldiers who were poorly trained conscripts, or who served in the Australian Army Reserve.

        Gerry from Oz

      • astraya says:

        Sneering at ‘Westies’ has a long history. Governor Arthur Phillip records that on an expedition to the Hawkesbury River in April 1791, Colebee and Ballooderry told him that the people there were ‘bad men’, their ‘enemies’ and ‘climbers of trees’ (his emphasis; that is, they lived by hunting and not fishing).

        Later, Judge-Advocate David Collins records: ‘The natives of the coast, whenever speaking of those of the interior, constantly expressed themselves with contempt and marks of disapprobation. Their language was unknown to each other, and there was not any doubt of their living in a state of mutual distrust and enmity. Those natives, indeed, who frequented the town of Sydney, spoke to and of those who were not so fortunate, in a very superior tone, valuing themselves upon their friendship with the white people, and erecting in themselves an exclusive right to the enjoyment of all the benefits which were to result from that friendship.’

      • Stan Carey says:

        Chips: The St Vincent de Paul society is active in my town but I’ve never heard Vinnies used to refer to the organisation. Sallies and Salvos are unknown to me too, in the senses being discussed. I can’t report on the use of any of these terms in other countries, though.

      • catteau says:

        [hmm, wordpress says I’m replying to Lady Demelza – but actually I’m trying to reply to Chips, below whose comment I clicked “reply” and to astraya’s reply to chips, below this! apologies to all if this gets totally misfiled in these discussions!)

        And my point is briefer than the apology! well, almost. In my world a Westie is an abbreviation – it’s an old VW van, the camper conversion done by Westfalia in the 1980s. I lived in one for two and a half years traveling around N. America, and a very fine creature she was, my Westie! Name of Matilda, and we waltzed from east to west and west to east and all around in circles.

        Chips, your Westies are people from the west? or something else?

      • Chips Mackinolty says:

        @ catteau, sorry just saw your comment re: Westies. Yes, in both Sydney and Melbourne contexts, indeed from the western suburbs of both cities, though less certain about Melbourne connotations. Certainly in Sydney applied to those who lived away (west) from the beach side suburbs, from Palm Beach to Maroubra (thence surfies), let alone the toffy suburbs of Vaucluse and Double Bay (nick named Double Pay). I grew up beyond even the pale of Westies, in a semi rural area … which is now well within the suburban sprawl encompassed by western Sydney.

  18. astraya says:

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned ‘bottlo’ yet. This has now reached respectability in being the company name of a chain of bottle shops (ie bottles (cans, casks etc) of alcoholic drinks).

    • Chips Mackinolty says:

      And then, beyond firies and ambos, a whole range of other jobs descriptions such as wharfies; some also based on union membership, as well, such as Missos (Miscellaneous Workers Union) and Shoppies (Shopworkers Union).

  19. Stan Carey says:

    Thanks to everyone for the very interesting comments. It’s great to get information on this especially from AusE and NZE speakers.

    Adrian, yes, I meant it relatively. Presented all together they could seem likely to be ‘lurking in every sentence’, as you put it, but spread out over 400-odd pages they don’t add up to a great many, except in comparison to other English varieties. I appreciate the notes on their different registers.

    Vireya, I hadn’t picked up on that use of parking garage. My copy of the book is Quercus’s UK edition, and I don’t think it has been tailored for non-AusE readers, certainly not for US readers. So I can’t tell why carpark wasn’t used. Temple is South African but the book is steeped in the Australian idiom. This January magazine profile offers his thoughts on the practice of translating between dialects:

    I have read books adapted for the American market and, in some cases, they have been Americanized to the point where they’ve lost any local charm they ever had. This seems to me to be a mistake. I don’t understand why you would want to create a hamburger novel, something with no local flavor. I think the publishers are extremely short-sighted. I don’t think they fully understand their readership. I’m convinced of that. Even the niche markets in the States are so huge that there would be room for a profitable publication of lots of Australian books. But we have to convince other people of that.

  20. Lady Demelza says:

    Wow, this has been fascinating, to read everyone’s reactions to something that is so common for me I hardly think about it. If I were reading that book, I don’t think I would even notice words like rego or ambo or servo. As far as I’m concerned, they are the real words. They are so entrenched as the normal version for me, that I would look askance at any Australian who talked about their car registration, paramedics, or service stations, and think that they were putting on the dog. If I bought something at Vinnies, and told my friends that I’d bought it at St. Vincent de Paul, they would probably reply, ‘What’s that?’ Even the shops themselves have Salvos or Vinnies written on the shopfronts.

    I’m certain that the diminutive form has nothing to do with affection, and there is no need to worry about the man having deep feelings for his shottie. We can just as easily use this form for things we don’t like, for example, ‘cappo’ means ‘capitalist’ but includes a negative judgement on the meaning. If a person really was in favour of capitalism, they wouldn’t call themselves a cappo, but people who don’t like them would.

    I remember once explaining the rules for Australian English to a friend I met when I was travelling in Ireland. The next day, we were driving around, and came upon a very pretty little shop. I said “I bet it’s really exy.” My friend thought about this for a moment and was so incredibly proud of herself when she correctly translated ‘expensive!’

    My mister used to have a terrible habit of referring to the witchhazel we use for skincare as ‘witches’ hazel.’ It drove me crazy until I thought to point out that it was very unAustralian of him to make a word longer instead of shorter. Suitably chastened, he hasn’t made that mistake again.

    I often wonder if it was due to my refusal to accept ‘Demi’ as short for Demelza that led my friends to just call me Lady instead.

    • Stan Carey says:

      Thanks for your thoughts on this, Lady Demelza. It just goes to show how normal our local dialects become to us. I remember my surprise when I learned that certain Irish usages (such as amn’t, give out, and the ‘after perfect’) were not used by most English speakers.

      Vinnie’s appears on a shopfront in my home town of Galway, but (as the tell-tale apostrophe suggests) it’s not an abbreviation but a possessive, in this case a chipper. I agree with you about diminutives: we shorten words for all sorts of reasons, so overgeneralising can mislead. Irish has the -ín ‘-een’ suffix, imported into Irish English, and though it often marks affection, or littleness, sometimes it connotes neither.

    • catteau says:

      Great comments! This will all be very helpful if I ever find myself in Australia again!

      But what ever is “putting on the dog???”

      • Lady Demelza says:

        Well, you’ve really got me thinking, catteau. (By the way, I love your name story.) I didn’t think too much on the meaning of the expression when I typed it in there, apart from considering it a polite way of saying what I wanted to say. I’ve never had to define this phrase before, but I’ll give it a go. I don’t hear this phrase particularly often, but whenever I say it to other Australians, they know exactly what I mean. I think it’s more in the foreground of my mind because of a line in one of my favourite songs – Bow River by Cold Chisel – “I’m goin’ for the heat, babe/ and the tropical rain/ in a place where no man’s puttin’ on the dog for me.”
        Someone is putting on the dog if they are being a bit of snob or a toff, or using language or manners in a way that conveys an implied, or just inferred, sense of superiority. They may also be sycophantic in the presence of an authority figure. However, the phrase itself manages to maintain a fairly gentle, jocular sense. It’s not as offensive as the words I’ve used in my definition.
        And when I think a bit deeper, I realise it’s loaded with the politics of class differences. It reflects the suspicion and distrust of the working classes for the upper classes. Differences in accent or dialect within Australian English usually tell a lot about the socio-economic background of the speaker, but very little about their geographical location in this vast country.
        I have no idea, however, how those words came to form that phrase. I’d love to find out.
        I have a habit of pronouncing foreign words and names – such as ‘route’ and ‘cache’, and the ‘r’ in ‘Ireland’ rather than saying ‘eye-land’ – ‘properly’ that often causes some people to give me that look. They don’t like it. They’re thinking, are you putting on the dog? I remember one day in high school, I answered a question in class – ‘Jacques Cousteau.’ Half the class arced right up (got very upset) because I didn’t call him ‘Jack Coo-stow.’

    • Whereas in my experience (I live in Adelaide), the only Australians who say “servo” are those who for whatever reason are particularly drawn to the use of slang. (Likewise “rego”, but who ever has need to mention car registration in casual conversation anyway?)

      “Petrol station” rather than “service station”, though.

  21. Chips Mackinolty says:

    Chipper? Is that an Irish clipping describing a type of shop?

  22. 1. “Arvo” is very common, meaning “afternoon”, which no-one says.
    2. “Smoko”, for smoke break, was common, but like in Ireland, smoking is dying off.
    3. The lovely “right-oh!” is always a delight to hear. It sounds English to me; I suppose it must be. Not sure though if this is an abbreviation like the others.
    4. As already pointed out, “bottle-o” is very big too, meaning “off license”.
    5. Did you pack your ‘”sarnies”? (sandwiches)
    6. A “rashie” is something you vaguely wear at the beach, not too sure.

    Slightly off topic: Australians pronounce “cache” as “cayche”. I’m in IT, and this comes up a lot. In podcasts from the US, UK, anywhere else, it’s always “cache”, as in “an IRA arms cache”. Also, “route” is pronounced “rowt”, probably to avoid the dreaded “root” word.

    • 6. “amn’t” – I’ve been laughed out loud at for this one, made to feel a right gombeen. I’m sticking with it.

      7. To “give out to someone” is to “pay someone out”, here in Oz. Took me a while to realise that.

      8. The letter “r” causes confusion occasionally. They say “are” here.

      9. “foyer” is pronounced “foy-err”, which always grates, not “foy-ay” as we’d say in Ireland. Mind you, speaking to some French friends recently, they don’t use “foyer” to mean a hotel or cinema lounge area, so not sure if we’re using it right.

      10. One of the more obvious abbrs. you’d think would be more popular, “mobey”, isn’t as popular here for some reason. I think people still say “phone”.

      11. “Dunny”, for “toilet”, while evocative, isn’t really heard anymore, which is a real shame.

      12. “Tradie” is the general term, and very common here; subcategories include “sparkies” (electricians), and “chippies” (carpenters).

      • catteau says:

        Ralph, a few comments back:

        3. The lovely “right-oh!” is always a delight to hear. It sounds English to me; I suppose it must be. Not sure though if this is an abbreviation like the others.

        North Americans say “right-o” too. Not an abbreviation – a lengthening!

        6. “amn’t” – I’ve been laughed out loud at for this one, made to feel a right gombeen. I’m sticking with it.

        But whatever is a gombeen???

        7. To “give out to someone” is to “pay someone out”, here in Oz. Took me a while to realise that.

        what’s “to give out to someone”, though? Neither of those expressions means anything to me! (from north east USA, originally)

        8. The letter “r” causes confusion occasionally. They say “are” here.

        as opposed to what? I say “are” too. Are you in Australia but not from Australia? So you refer to Australians as “they” because you don’t consider yourself one of them though you live there?

        9. “foyer” is pronounced “foy-err”, which always grates, not “foy-ay” as we’d say in Ireland. Mind you, speaking to some French friends recently, they don’t use “foyer” to mean a hotel or cinema lounge area, so not sure if we’re using it right.

        I say “foy-err” too. Not that anyone says it much in north America, I don’t think. I don’t think it would apply to the entry area of a hotel or cinema in north America. In a hotel that would definitely be the lobby. There wouldn’t be a lounge area in a cinema – there’s an area to buy tickets, and area to buy popcorn, and then the theaters. We used it as a child to refer to the room in our house where we entered, and that we never used for anything. I don’t think I’ve heard it used much for anything else.

        10. One of the more obvious abbrs. you’d think would be more popular, “mobey”, isn’t as popular here for some reason. I think people still say “phone”.

        In N. America it’s cell a cellphone or occasionally just a cell. In other places where I’ve been it’s a “mobile” among those speaking English. (E.g. in France, Lebanon, sub-Saharan Africa, etc.)

      • Lady Demelza says:

        2. I’ve been very pleased to notice that many people, workers and employers, who have never smoked in their lives still call their work breaks ‘smoko.’ I think the word is holding on better than the habit.
        3. I think of ‘right-o!’ as a particularly British expression. However, I often hear and say ‘righty-o,’ which, though an expansion, allows the speaker to swallow the ‘t’ consonant with the help of a liasing vowel. We do like to swallow our t’s.
        5. I never had sarnies growing up. We had ‘sangers.’ I’ve only heard ‘sarnies’ a few times in recent years, and I doubt I would recognise it out of context.
        6.’Rashie’ is short for ‘rash vest’. The word was once exclusive to surfies, who wore this thin vest under their wetsuits, to prevent a particular rash caused by the wetsuit fabric. A rashie is basically a t-shirt made out the same fabric as a bathing costume (cozzie). Now the rashie is all the rage, only they are worn to protect the skin from cancer rather than simple contact rashes.
        11. I still hear ‘dunny’ quite often, though I think ‘loo’ is more popular now.

      • Ralph Lavelle says:

        Lady Demelza.
        5. You’re right. I can confirm that “sangers’ is what’s said here in Oz. I was getting confused about that term being something that still rang in my ears from growing up in Ireland.

        In fact, that’s a big problem when hearing Ozzie (or any other country’s) slang terms for the first time: are they from the place you’re in, or are they from somwhere else, and you’re just hearing them for the first time here and assuming they’re from where you are?

        Ireland has given Australia very little in terms of slang, or terms that ‘became’ Australian, unlike England, partly because of the perceived low status of the original Irish. One that it did give is ‘to barrack for’, meaning to support, to cheer on. I never heard that in Ireland, although that’s common with the English terms too, like ‘dinkum’ which have just stopped being used in England, but took off here in Australia.

        Another is the terminal “but.” As in, “He’s a hard worker, but.” I though that was Ozzie, because you hear it here, but then I read it was Irish originally, and sure enough, watching “The Van” one night, I noticed it a lot. Never noticed it before in Ireland.

      • Stan Carey says:

        I hear ‘terminal but‘ in Ireland now and then (and thoughbut in jocular use in the UK). The origins of the construction aren’t clear, but it shows up in several well-distributed dialects. There was a post about it some years ago at Language Log, and if you Google “sentence final but” you’ll find a few more discussions.

        For anyone interested in the history of Australian slang, Jonathon Green’s recent book Language! 500 Years of the Vulgar Tongue has a useful chapter on the subject.

    • I would be prepared to bet that “afternoon” vastly outnumbers “arvo” in Australian English (in the order of a 100:1 ratio), and that people who say “arvo” more often than they say “afternoon” are a very small minority.

      Then again, you live in Queensland, so …

      • I exaggerate of course, but from your previous comments I get the impression you disapprove of this sort of thing. Almost all Ozzies I’ve met are “drawn to slang” in one form or another, and “arvo”, “uni”, “rego”, and “servo” are very common. Not to mention “footy”. There’s even a TV show with that abbreviation in the title.

        Yeah, I’m not as familiar with what it’s like elsewhere, haven’t lived anywhere else. But from speaking to ppl in the office here, QLD is not particularly different in Oz in terms of slang usage. I’ve met people from all over Oz, they all use more-or-less the same slang, with some regional variations, “footy” and drink-related terms being the main ones from what I can see. Do people outside of QLD say “I’m having a barbeque this afternoon with my relatives. I hope there won’t be any mosquitoes. Seen my sunglasses?”?

      • It’s not slang that I disapprove of … more, stereotypes. (Ask Stan for his thoughts on leprechauns sometime.) When elements of Australian culture are exaggerated out of all recognition and presented as fact to people who might actually want to learn something, this does make me a little uncomfortable.

        “Uni” is indeed very common, as are a few others, though I’ve never thought of “uni” as particularly Australian.

      • Fair enough Adrian, of course I understand. You might want to tone down the stereotypes about Queensland in that case :)

      • Of course, there’s a place for stereotypes — as with everything else in life, context is all.

        For example, I’ve heard it said that the difference between Klingon and Australian English is that in Klingon you sound as if you’re swearing whereas in Australian English you actually are swearing.

        Obviously this isn’t true, but it’s just as obviously said with good humour and without any expectation of being taken literally, so it really doesn’t bother me and I’m happy to pass it on.

  23. Hi Catteau,

    6. I use “gombeen” to mean a bit of an eejit. I think it means a rube, an unsophisticated fellow, etc. I can’t find it here on this site, but I’m sure it’s here somewhere.

    7. To “give out” is to criticize, complain. There’s a post about it here:

    8. If you grow up in Ireland, you’ll say “or” for the letter R, not “are”. It’s the rhotic R. The letter “r” is one of the biggest pronunciation differences between the ol’ sod and Oz. That and the “u” in “bus”, for example. In Oz it’s “bas”, in Ireland “buhss” – it’s hard to spell the way we’d say “bus”! It just sounds normal to me.

    I’m from Dublin but have lived in Brisbane for the last 12 years, so no, I’m not Australian, although my accent has probably become more Ozzie over the years, strewth!

    9. Yeah, “lobby” is the same as “foyer”. In the States it seems, as opposed to in Ireland and the UK, a lot of French terms are not pronounced as if they were French. I might be wrong, but that’s how it seemed to me when I was there. Think “Noter dame”.

    10. I feel they’ve missed a golden “-ie/ey”” chance with “mobey” here in Oz. They abbreviate so much but don’t seem to do it with mobile.

    11. “Uni”. I forgot “uni”. Great abbreviation.

    • catteau says:

      Hi Ralph,

      Ah, I think I’m getting the idea of “gombeen” – you must mean a dingbat! Or maybe a bit of a dork.

      But “give out” – hmm, I thought a woman who would give out would, you know, go to bed with someone – but maybe that’s put out? But what you’re talking about, now that would bitching.

      Strewth! – would that mean maybe jeepers? Oh, I’ve got it, oy vey!

      But for sure I know Noter Dame, that’s the uni where they play football!


  24. astraya says:

    I just heard someone on Australia tv say ‘Absolutle’ for ‘Absolutely’. I’m not sure what category that falls into. The internet has examples which might be typos for ‘Absolutely’ or ‘Absolute’.

  25. Chips Mackinolty says:

    There is no final word on the number of clippings in Australian usage … many have been cited in this thread before. There have been a number of comments that words such as “arvo” and “servo” are unusual these days. Perhaps, but really depends on the register you are using, and it is probable there are regional differences.
    Job descriptions are very common, as has been noted. Among others: blocky*, bookie, brickie, bushy, cabbie chippy, cocky, cookie, cow cocky, crim, dunnyman, garbo, glassy, journo, milko, muso, pollie, postie, prossie, ringer, roady, showy, shoppie, soundie, sparkie, tradie, trucky, yardie**
    Then there are states of mind, dimension or status, such as maddie, daggy, derro, biggie littlie, oldie
    And of course, as Australians, we look to enjoyment and self abuse: rollie, durrie, bundy chardy, junkie, druggie, alky and dipso.
    And after a weekend on the turps, you can always take a sickie.
    No rivers! [that is, No River Murrays, or No worries]
    A few friends of mine helped put this together: each are referred to by others with a clipping or expansion to their names!
    *A blocky can be a concrete block layer or the owner of a rural block of land. T confuse things more, a “bluey” can refer to a swag, a red-headed person, a cattle dog or to a police summons/fine.
    ** In Australia means someone who does odd jobs around a pub, especially in the beer garden, not a Jamaican gang member

    • Lady Demelza says:

      A ‘bluey’ is also a very thick, pure wool, fairly weatherproof, utilitarian kind of coat, of any colour, commonly worn by working men in winter, but obviously not in Queensland. Nothing to do with stereotypes, just the reality of the climate.

      • Chips Mackinolty says:

        Thanks for that, it’s one I had forgotten … but it gets damn cold in western Queensland come July-August so entirely possible in areas around Winton and the like that blueys are worn! It’s often forgotten that winter, and indeed the “Dry” can get very cold at such times of the year … have clear memories of freezing in a swag in the Katherine region.

    • Chips Mackinolty says:

      And has been pointed out to me, there are two types of “soundie”. One does the audio mixes for bands; the other does the audio recording for a film/video crew.

  26. Chips Mackinolty says:

    Bugger! I forgot there are two meanings to roady/roadie. One is the thankless task of bumping bands in and out of venues. The other means “last drink”, as in “I’ll have another roadie” (one for the road).

  27. astraya says:

    This is possibly about English slang than Australian clippings, but it involves Australia. After the one-day cricket match on Saturday, Sir Geoffrey Boycott said that the English team were ‘brainless and lack bottle’. I have never encountered the latter expression. The intention is clear and there are occasional references online, but nothing solid. Any information?

  28. Chips Mackinolty says:

    “hasn’t got the bottle” has 116,000 google hits, as opposed to “lack bottle” which has fewer than a thousand (and many referring to Boycott’s recent statement) … definitely an English expression, though I have heard it in Australia . Rough translation into an Australian-ish term would be “gutless”. What’s perhaps more an Australian idiom is to refer to someone as a “gutless wonder”, a wonderful oxymoron.

  29. Stan Carey says:

    The OED suggests that this sense of bottle ‘courage, guts, spirit, nerve’, which it dates to 1958 (‘What’s the matter Frank, your bottle fallen out?’), comes from the phrase no bottle ‘no good, useless’, which had been around about a century before that. It says it’s ‘often popularly associated with the rhyming slang term bottle and glass = “arse” and other similar expressions’. Chambers Slang Dictionary antedates this sense of bottle to the 1910s.

    Thanks again to everyone for the comments and additional examples; it’s been fun catching up on them.

  30. Chips Mackinolty says:

    @ Stan Carey. As a combination bog Irish/peat Scottish descendant there has been a certain appositeness about so many people, including me, invading your blog from Australian English sources (and others). It’s been fun, and has got me reading some Peter Temple books I hadn’t read … discovered another classic clipping; “breathy” for breathalyser/alcohol breath test. I’ve had a jack deliver just such a line to me a dozen years ago as in “you’ll have to do a breathy”. There is a certain chauvinism about one’s own slang, but South African-born Temple has a fine ear for that of his adopted country of Australia. He’s obviously sat in a few bars …

    • Lady Demelza says:

      Wow, that was really exciting for me. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard someone other than my mister call a copper a jack. He has particularly old-fashioned speech. I wondered if maybe ‘jack’ was a regional Sydney expression, and I asked mister about it. He tells me that it comes from the working girls based around Kings Cross. They had two concerns – ‘johns’ and ‘jacks.’ The jacks were the police. It makes wonderful sense like that.

  31. Chips Mackinolty says:

    Those were the days! I picked it up from the Kings Cross/Darlinghurst dope scene early 1970s, though would imagine its usage is much older than that. Peter Temple uses it occasionally, as well, so presumably part of Melbourne argot as well. I have a distant memory that Ned Kelly referred to coppers as jacks, but might be imagining it.

  32. Stan Carey says:

    invading your blog from Australian English sources (and others)

    Chips: Ha, that’s true. I hadn’t thought about it like that. I’m very happy to see this discussion take off. I’ve been too busy to join in as much as I sometimes do (or to publish new posts, for that matter), but I’ve greatly enjoyed following the exchanges.

    I had the impression Temple had a good ear for Australian dialect, but it was just an impression, so it’s good to see this confirmed by a native. There are a couple more of his books on my shelf awaiting their turn, so he might make another appearance here eventually.

  33. Gerry says:

    Another quite common expression in Australia is the use of eh – but not as a question, more like a kind of exclamation point. For example, “That was a good movie, eh.” The eh is pronounced with a falling inflection, not rising. In my experience Queenslanders use this expression quite a bit, and it seems common in Aboriginal English. I’d interested to hear from other Aussies about this.

    • Lady Demelza says:

      First I must clarify that I am assuming you mean the sound that I would write as ay, as in horses eat hay. Written as ‘eh’, that looks to me like a short ‘e’ as in set or bread.
      I say ‘ay’ a lot. An awful lot. I never realised it until I started learning about different dialects and started conciously observing my speech. I was absolutely shocked to discover how many ay’s come out of mouth every day. I’m sure I’ve had hundreds of conversations where every sentence had ended in ‘ay.’ I’m also familiar with the stories about how Queenslanders say ‘ay’ and all sorts of things, but in practise, I’ve never noticed anything distinctly different about Queenslanders’ speech. I think the incidence of ‘ay’ is tied to where the speaker would fit on the Broad/General/Cultivated spectrum rather than their location. The broader the dialect, the more ay’s.
      My mister is Aboriginal, but he speaks Australian English unless he is speaking with other Aborigines who have initiated conversation in Aboriginal English. He does not feel that ‘ay’ is a strong feature of Aboriginal English. However, we both agree that we think it is a particular feature of Maori English. If anyone manages to fit more ay’s into their speech than I’m used to, I reckon it’s the Kiwis.

      • stuartnz says:

        Māori English is something I’m very interested in, as an enthusiastic amateur. My wife’s a native speaker. Like many from her hometown, she doesn’t speak Māori, but her English is different from standard NZE, in identifiably Māori ways. I’d agree that “eh” is a very common feature of Māori English, although I don’t hear it as much now as I used to. The video I linked to above is one of a series that uses Māori English, too. I’d love to read something about the differences between AusE and NZE and between NZE and Māori English if anybody knows of such resources

      • Lady Demelza says:

        I found this today, which suggests a link between the use of the Maori punctuitive syllable ‘e’ and the common use of eh/ay in New Zealand English. The list seems pretty accurate in my experience – most of the terms listed as ‘shared with Australia’ sound like perfectly ordinary words to me, whereas I have never heard many of the terms listed as ‘unique to New Zealand.’

      • stuartnz says:

        Lady Demelza,
        Thanks for that link. I was pleased the page acknowldeged that many of the terms in the “unique” list were more common in times past. Many of them were words I grew up in the 70s, not heard much now. Today’s NZE is increasingly marked by use of actual Māori words, rather than corruptions. The number of Māori words moving beyond Māori English into mainstream NZE is steadily growing, which pleases me.
        A mildly amusing side note, that word “punctuitive” (sic) on the wiki page seems to ONLY turn up there, making it in its own way, unique to NZE :D

      • Lady Demelza says:

        I do find that amusing! I did start for moment when I read it – obviously I’d never heard the word before. I know next to nothing about Maori language, but I had noticed all those ‘e’s in written sentences, and had the sense that they somehow ‘architecturally’ support the structure of the sentence… soon enough my brain fathomed out a guess at how a ‘punctuitive syllable’ might function. I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing in any of the Indo-European languages, but my next thought is to wonder if it occurs in other Polynesian languages.
        I used to live in Tassie several years ago, where a few Kiwi expressions are common, but I haven’t noticed them on the mainland. ‘Puku nui’ is used to mean ‘full or contented tummy,’ and ‘munted’ is common. I even knew a bloke called Munter.

      • Chips Mackinolty says:

        In Aboriginal English in the Top End, “munted” has no relationship to a “full tummy”, but more to do with being drunk or stoned, as in “I was really munted”. Perhaps also that a situation or object was trashed or buggered, as in “the motor car was really munted after the crash”.

        Or now I come to think about it:

        “I was really munted, totally noogoofied!” Now there’s some Top End slang! “Noogoo” (various spellings) is from the Mudburra word, Nguku, for rain or water, transferred by Stolen Generations kids from Phillip Creek to Darwin, with an ultimate transferred meaning as grog. Thus, “noogoo” for grog, and the fabulous “noogoofied” for drunkenness.

        Similarly, and widespread in the Top End, is the word “winga” for alcohol. Originally from the Tiwi word for “salt water”, and therefore used by missionaries as a way to suggest alcohol was toxic to drink, just as salt water was toxic to drink.

      • Lady Demelza says:

        Just to clarify – I know the meaning of ‘munted’ as you described, and it has nothing to do with ‘puku nui’ or tummies. They just ended up in the same sentence together when I was giving Stuart examples from that list of NZE terms that I heard a lot in Tassie. Now I’m really curious as to where it actually started.

      • Chips Mackinolty says:

        @ Lady Demelza

        Haven’t got a clue, will ask around …

      • stuartnz says:

        That’s an interesting extension of “puku nui”. it literally means just “big stomach”, and in areas where Māori English is strong has long been a common way to highlight rotundity. I’ve never heard it used to describe being full or content, although that usage did remind me of the ditty my Dad said was common at his GhoraGali boarding school: “Allah be praised, my belly be raised six inches above the table”

  34. Gerry says:

    Lady D, yes, that eh utterance could be written ay – it’s not a short e as in “get”. I would agree that its use tends to be part of broader Aussie English. Interesting to get your view on its usage, particularly in regard to Aboriginal English. Didn’t know about the Maori connection. I wonder whether it spread from East to West across the Tasman.

    • Chips Mackinolty says:

      To @ Gerry and
      @ Lady Demelza

      Although it’s 30 odd years ago, travelling for work north to Townsville the “eh/ay” sentence-ending utterance struck me markedly. As a then-southerner I used to parody it, and then within six months realised I was doing it myself, ay! My general impression was that the use of the sentence ending of ay became more pronounced the further north and west in Queensland you went. At some extremes it was aspirated as “hay”!

      Lady Demelza, I suspect you’re wrong … this is very much a Queensland thing, relatively non-existent down south, and travels only vestigially to the NT. While I agree its usage very much depends on register, and where you might be on the Broad/General/Cultivated spectrum, I think the banana benders are definitely the leaders in the ay stakes.

      But on the Broad/General/Cultivated spectrum, I have always thought this was a bit of comfortable Anglo linguistic nonsense. As groups such as Wogs out of Work have shown the rest of us, there are distinctive non-Anglo Australian accents–easily identifiable. And it is easy to pick regional differences in Aboriginal English, as Lady D’s mister would know. Dead easy to pick someone from Broome, Darwin, western NSW etc. It’s not just vocabulary differences, but in rhythm, stress and accent.

      • Lady Demelza says:

        Your observation about the ay’s getting thicker the further north you go would make sense. I live just a couple of kilometres south of the Queensland border, but I’ve never travelled further north than Brisbane. If the dialect does get stronger in the rural areas, that would explain why everyone says all that stuff about Queensland speech and I’ve never been able to notice it. I picked up all my ay’s in Victoria, where I grew up – in a very broad-speaking family.
        I have found the Broad/General/Cultivated spectrum extremely useful in navigating differences in Aussie speech personally, but I absolutely agree that it only applies to speakers from an Anglo-Celtic background. All the migrant groups do indeed have their own Englishes, which don’t fit the format.
        Mister can indeed instantly tell which part of Australia someone comes from when speaking Aboriginal English, but I’ve had little experience here and I can’t hear it at all.

      • Gerry says:

        I should have been more specific in the eh/ay/Queensland reference. My impressions were gained in North Queensland, from Cairns upwards. Wouldn’t know about Brisbane. Chips, your expression “I was doing it myself, ay” is an excellent example of what I was referring to. The interrogative element of eh is not present in such a statement. Growing up in the Riverina in the 40s and 50s I only heard eh in the interrogative form, and years later when I heard the other version for the first time it sounded really odd. A bit like the first time I heard someone using a string of rising terminals sometime in the 1970s.

        Another striking North Queensland speech phenomenon is the “yeah, no”, “no, yeah” ending. Someone explained that “yeah, no” means no and “no, yeah” means yes.

      • Ralph Lavelle says:

        Gerry, I don’t think that “yeah/no” thing is particular to QLD, or even to Australia. I first noticed it in NY city, and more recently had a Perth colleague proudly convince me that it was a Perth thing. I don’t think so, I think much more universal.

        Lady Demelza – yeah, the trailing “heyyyy..” is interesting. Like the ubiquitous rising intonation, I wasn’t sure if it was an invitation to answer, but now I know it’s not. The best I can come up with is it’s a softener, like the Chinglish trailing “laaah”. An Indian guy in the paper shop the other day said to me “Have a good one, hey.” the other day, which made him sound quite friendly and relaxed.

  35. Pam says:

    So wonderful! I’m curious about the novel.

    I have a half brother in NSW, and speaking to him and to his family is always interesting. My niece and nephew are fond of saying things like “He was drunk as,” or “That was cool as.” Almost everyone gets a nickname with one of the endings you describe. My sister-in-law Lorraine is Rainey, for example.

    Your post also reminded me there’s an Australian football team called the Rabbitos.

  36. Chips Mackinolty says:

    @ Pam

    … and across two footy codes, teams known as the “Doggies”.

    There is also a team known as the “Dockers”, a reference to the maritime history of the home town. The home footy side of Parramatta is always shortened to “Parra”. Completely unrelated: “parra” also refers to extreme inebriation, as in being paralytic, and perhaps feeling a bit spewie

    One can also bet on the doggies, a subject of some controversy at the moment in Australia.

    Lorraine also gets clipped to “Loz” and then extended out to “Lozza” or “Lozzie”, and I know a Lorelei whose name is treated similarly. In Iceland, the State strictly controls names given to children and only rarely allows registration of non-official names. God help the Australian government that attempted to control name designation!

    • astraya says:

      Parramatta are also ‘the Eels’.
      The Rabbitos are also ‘the Bunnies’. Despite the rabbit on their logo, they are not named after the animal but after the humans who sold them – their catchcry was “Rabbit Oh!”.
      The Magpies are either the Maggies or the Pies, and the Swans are usually the Swannies.
      The most obscure sports team name clipping is probably the Tahs. I challenge anyone not from Australia to figure that one out.

  37. John Machin says:

    Members of Victoria Police’s Special Operations Group are called not only “soggies” but also “sons” (short for “sons of God”)

  38. […] short sentences or long flow-on sentences with commas. More than any other writer I’ve ever read, Temple perfectly captures Australian dialogue, particularly amongst Australian men – truncated, laconic, nobody ever expending more words than […]

  39. Chips Mackinolty says:

    Over a year later, and you reference in Link Love: Language starts this thread all over again. Recently (though Urban Dictionary dates it to 2013) there has been an outburst in Australia of “hospo” to refer to the hospitality industry, or more particularly someone who works in the industry. It is currently a major term in industrial action against sexual harassment towards “hospos” from customers and other staff; as well as unpaid work endured by hospos.

  40. […] style also manifests in the popular Australian practice of clipped words (like bikie, relly, servo, tradie, and ute), which Temple used in his novels. The Red Hand includes […]

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