Tag Archives: Australian Slang

Posh Birds

After the cruise we walked along the river to the Royal Botanic Gardens.  I am a crazy plant lady.  Or am I normal?  At this time of year I make several runs to my local garden shop and spend loads of money to surround myself with doomed house plants. Is there something in the human spirit, our circadian rhythms, or our sensory organs that craves green in the winter?  I think this is one explanation for the origins of the Christmas tree.

Anyway, I was in my glory in Melbourne as we boarded a trolley and listened to the silver-tongued commentary of our driver.  She had one of those soft voices that lulls you into a trance.

Once again, my photos were subject to that particular effect of the Australian sun that makes them look like my lens was smeared with Vaseline.  I kind of like it.

The guide said, waving toward a tree, “And here are some of our famous elms. We get lots of Americans coming here to see them,” she looked meaningfully at me.

Hmm.  We have elm trees in America.  A lot of them were wiped out in the 70s by Dutch Elm Disease, but we still have plenty. I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, but I kept my mouth shut because she was obviously proud of those trees.

These are banksia nuts; what I would call cones.

I bought some diffusers in the gift shop made out of polished banksia nuts.  Normally I don’t like anything scented but I have one of these by my bedside filled with Eucalyptus oil.

These are banksia flowers, one of 70 varieties.

And gum nuts. I don’t know why Eucalyptus trees are called gums, or why their flowers are called nuts.  It kind of looks like the nuts burst open and flower.  So are they really nuts?  Who cares, they’re fantastic.

I don’t know what this was; all I knew was that anything that appears to be a 20-foot-tall asparagus spear must be photographed.

I snapped this shaky photo of a banyan tree from the trolley.  I wonder if the guide found me an annoying American due to the many times I exclaimed, “Wow!”

“I could have stayed on that trolley all day,” I said to Heidi and Danielle after we reluctantly disembarked.  The driver had politely but firmly said no when we suggested going around a second time.

“I know,” said Heidi, “Our guide had such a posh Melbourne accent.”

“Is that what it was?” I asked.

“I think so.  It’s hard to tell if she was putting it on or if that was her real way of speaking.  There aren’t loads of different accents here, like in the UK.  Mainly, we have regular … ”

“Like us,” Danielle interjected.

“Country,” Heidi continued.

“Like Crocodile Dundee,” said Danielle.

“And posh,” finished Heidi.

“That guide was posh, obviously,” said Danielle.  “I don’t think Melbourne is any different from the rest of the country.”

Heidi replied, “I guess I was talking about the lilt she had, like a bird.  Hearing all the birds of Australia—I hardly notice them but Annie, you’ve been bringing them to my attention—I wonder if our accent was influenced by them.”

She glanced at her watch.  “Oh my gawd!  We’ve got to meet Andrew!”  Andrew, an old uni chum of Heidi’s.  We raced past the Victorian keeper’s house and children’s garden.

We got to Lygon Street in Little Italy where, once again, I had a moment of disorientation where wondered, “Where am I?” because all the restaurants were Italian and people were speaking Italian.

We found Andrew and settled down at a sidewalk table with wine and pasta.  Andrew works for a Member of Parliament and commutes to Canberra during the week—a seven- to eight-hour drive or one-hour flight. We talked more about language.

“The state south of yours is the Mexicans,” Heidi said.

Fair dinkum means, ‘You’ve got a point’,” said Danielle.

“What’s a slice?” I asked, and was informed it was another name for a bar-type dessert, like a brownie.

“And tucker?”

“That’s just food,” Andrew explained, as he twirled his spag bol.

Convos

Heidi and I watched The Bachelor finale, then looked at each other wordlessly as the credits rolled.

“Right!” she exclaimed as she leaped up.  “Looks like we’re not gonna make it to the laser light show, so it’s time to watch that Aussie slang video I’ve been meaning to show you.”

We watched two Aussie guys rattle off slang, like:

Reno—house renovation

Eggs benny—obvious

Salvo—Salvation Army

Sweet pots—sweet potatoes

Spag bol—spaghetti Bolognese

“I noticed one of your Lebanese coworkers referred to herself as a Leb—would it be okay for you, as a non-Leb, to use that term?” I queried Heidi.

“Hmmm…it could have a negative connotation … I think Leb is worse than Lebo, but personally I would avoid both just to be on the safe side.”

“And do you call Aboriginals Abos?”

“No!” Heidi said emphatically, as if I had used the N word.

“We make up new ones all the time,” she looked at the list of abbreviations I was compiling.  “We call the PM Sco Mo.”  Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

There were other Aussie slang bits I learned later, on my own, like that a squatter is not someone illegally taking over a property, but a property owner, and a bush ranger is not a forest ranger, but an outlaw.

Our convo (see how I did that?) pivoted to some old TV shows that had been on in the UK during our time there.

“I saw Jonah from Tonga in Scotland late one night,” I said.  “It was so shocking—the most politically-incorrect show I’ve ever seen.  I thought maybe I was having a dream.”

Jonah from Tonga—in which 40-year-old white Australian comedian Chris Lilley plays a 14-year-old Tongan boy, in brown face.

I continued. “If you replaced Tongans with Native Americans or African Americans and showed it in the US, the stereotypes would have people rioting in the streets, demanding it be axed.  The F bombs alone would make sure it would never air.

“That said, I thought it was really funny—maybe in a ‘Borat, I’m so shocked I’m having a knee-jerk laugh reaction kind of way.’”

“You should watch his first show, Summer Heights High,” suggested Heidi. “Chris Lilley plays Jonah, and a gay drama teacher, and a posh exchange student from a private girls’ school, and it’s hilarious.”

As it happened, the next show after The Bachelor was Black Comedy, a sketch show written and performed by Australian people of color. It was clever, but not shocking or side-splitting.  Maybe I was too tired to appreciate it.

At brekky the next morning we talked about dating.  We’d both received much unsolicited and often conflicting advice from well-meaning people:

You’re trying too hard.  When you stop looking, He will appear (He, always pronounced as if the “he” in question is God)

You’re not trying hard enough.  You should try (fill in the blank) speed dating, shopping at the most expensive grocery store in town, late at night, in heels; hanging out in coffee shops/libraries/sporting events/hardware stores; trying dating apps/sites, etc.

You’re too picky.

You’re not picky enough.

Don’t try to be funny. Men don’t like women to upstage them.

Men love women who make them laugh, so act cheerful and tell jokes.

Once you resolve all your issues, He will appear!  (Some of the most f-d up people I know are married.)

Find someone who has similar issues to yours so you understand each other.

You travel too much.  You should stay put so you’ll meet someone local.

You should go work in a refugee camp so you can meet a doctor.

You’re young looking and acting, so date younger men.

Men are only interested in younger women, so date older men.

Take up snowmobiling, even though you aren’t into it.

Pursue your own interests so you’ll meet men you have things in common with.

Maybe, unconsciously, you don’t really want to meet someone.

“I hate that one,” I said to Heidi as we got up to leave, “Still, it could happen—you could turn a corner and bump into Mr. Right.”

And just as we turned the corner there stood one of Heidi’s 17-year-old students.

Sydney Reccy

Reccy: Aussie slang for reconnaissance mission.

While I hung out waiting for Heidi to finish up at St. Pat’s, my eye fell on a list of rules for uniforms and grooming.

It’s very specific, especially with the haircuts.  I must be old because I don’t know what lines, steps, “under No. 2 in length,” or the other prohibitions even are.  I do know that “fringe” is what we call “bangs” in the US.  When you think about it, fringe is a lot more descriptive than bangs.

I wandered the halls a bit and learned from a display that St. Pat’s most famous “old boy,” as they call alumni, is Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s Ark, the novel upon which the movie Schindler’s List was based.  How did an Aussie come to write a book about the Holocaust?  Heidi Googled this later and read the story to me. On a visit to Los Anglese, Keneally went into a luggage store to buy a suitcase and happened to talk to the owner, Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor.  When Pfefferberg learned Keneally was an author, he told him about Oskar Schindler, a German businessman credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews, and urged him to write the story.  The rest, as they say, is history.

There were display cases featuring Cricket awards.

It reminded me of Eton, but spacious, bright, and new.

There was a physical acknowledgement of the Darug Aboriginal people, upon whose former land the school stands.

When Heidi was done with her year-end odds and ends, we walked across the street to the bus stop and waited.  And waited.  She consulted her transport app and reckoned it would take as long to wait for the bus as to walk, so we gave up and ambled toward the train station.  That was fine with me because it was a nice day and the neighborhood we walked through was lovely.

Houses in Australia tend to be one story (think about heat rising).  It was spring, and everything was in bloom.  These are some photos of Australian houses I took elsewhere, but they seem pretty typical of what I saw near the school—Victorian or Edwardian with beautiful gardens and massive trees.

We took the train into the CBD.  That’s Central Business District, for those of you who like to spell things out.  We headed for the QVB, or Queen Victoria Building, and here I will use the word massive again.  So many things in Australia are massive.  The QVB, constructed in 1893, fills an entire city block.

We wandered around inside and gawked at window displays of the high-end shops and the architectural features.

You can’t see it because of my lousy photo-taking abilities, but the clock is incredibly detailed with lots of—literally—bells and whistles and a train that runs around it at the lower level. Just think, this was the era when clocks used to be the proud main feature of buildings.

We sat down for lunch at a tea shop, and I noticed the tables adjacent to us had Chinese newspapers scattered on them.

I could say this over and over but I’ll just say it here—there is such a big Chinese presence in Australia that I sometimes had these weird moments where I had to check myself and ask, “Where am I?  Am I in China?  No, I’m in Australia.”

When you think of the geography, it makes sense.

 

There are Chinatowns in Sydney and Melbourne but also Thai towns and Japan towns and probably Korean and Vietnamese neighborhoods.  So if you like any of these types of foods, you’re in luck in Australia.

After lunch we hit a couple shops where Heidi returned some clothes, then she led me to Hyde Park, the “Central Park” of Sydney.  It is dominated by St. Mary’s Cathedral, which seemed to be the most massive church I had ever seen.  And I’ve seen a lot of churches.

It’s frustrating that photos cannot capture the scale of things.  I tried including Heidi, and a lamppost, in these two photos to give a sense of scale of the trees, but that didn’t really work.

This is the ANZAC (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) war memorial.

Next stop: Bondi Beach

How Ya Goin’?

Greetings from Palm Cove Australia, where I am on my own in this country for the first time since arriving 18 days ago.  I am reading the guest information book in my room and under “Swimming” it says:

Crocodiles are occasionally seen off the beaches but generally they inhabit creeks and estuaries that flow into the ocean. They are ambush predators and generally do not actively hunt or expend a lot of energy in the process.

Is this supposed to make me feel safer?

Visitors are discouraged from wading in creeks, waterways and mangroves where water is shallow or knee deep. Visitors should NOT swim in the ocean at night.

I can abide by those guidelines, but apparently others cannot.  Before I left Melbourne my friends were telling me about recent croc deaths. A park ranger was fishing with her family—wading in a shallow creek.  One minute she was there, the next she was gone.  They found her dismembered body a few days later. A German tourist went swimming in a creek that had a sign warning, “NO SWIMMING—CROCODILES.”  It even had a picture of a crocodile with its mouth gaping open, for non-English speakers.  That was his last swim, ever. As I was riding into town on the hotel shuttle, I saw dozens of people fishing and wading in the creeks and mangrove swamps.  What gives? These are probably the same people who would swim in the ocean at night.

The one thing I dreaded about this trip was the 15-hour flight from LA to Sydney. I have to say, it wasn’t that bad.

I had my compression socks, eye mask, ear plugs, down pillow, crossword puzzles, and a book, which I thought might be overkill but the movie selection wasn’t great so I was glad to have it.

I did watch one really good movie, All the Money in the World, about the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson.  It starred Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, Christopher Plummer, and his grandson Charlie Plummer as the grandson.  This was the movie Kevin Spacey was cut from after his #MeToo moment.

There was an Aussie sitting next to me on the plane who was returning from a vacation in Mexico.  He raved about Mexico, took a sleeping pill, then didn’t move for 15 hours except when I shook him awake so I could go to the bathroom. It’s interesting how Mexico was exotic to him but he was dreading going back to Australia (and work).  I have spent a lot of time in Mexico and it no longer feels exotic.

And Australia—does it feel exotic?  There have been moments when I thought, “This could be Minnesota.”  Like this view of Heidi’s family’s farm:

But then there were the roos.  These photos aren’t great, but they are candid.

There are other landscapes, of giant gum (eucalyptus) trees that feel alien, in a stunningly beautiful way.

The language is English but they shorten many words (a journalist is a journo, a medic is an ambo) and so much slang that I have often found myself staring blankly at the speaker.  A newly arrived immigrant is a FOB (Fresh off the Boat) and going to hang out with your friends is hooning around.

In the UK I was thrown by the standard greeting, “Ya’ll right?”  In Australia, the greeting is “How ya goin’?” instead of, “How ya doin’?” as we would ask in the US.  Aussies really do say, “G’day”—not everywhere, but here and there and more so in the country.

People are so friendly. Yesterday when I was checking my bag at the airport, the agent told me about her favorite tour here, while hundreds of people waited behind me.  None of them seemed irritated.

Is Australia as expensive as I’d read?  It depends.  Hotels are very reasonable, while meals out are outrageously expensive, and food in groceries is somewhere in between. The American dollar is strong against the Australian, so I get to take 30% off everything.

Heidi and her family have been so welcoming.  Heidi’s Auntie Margaret gave up her flat in Sydney for us to use for a couple nights.  This is the view.  Horrible, huh?