Australian terms and phrases explained

Wondering what some of the words and phrases the School Spirit kids are using actually mean in ‘regular’ English? This is the place to find out. Here we translate the Strine the kids speak into less colourful and interesting language. What is Strine? Strine is the Australian language, basically. We tend to shorten our words, say them faster, and not open our mouths too much. Rumour has it that this is because to open your mouth too far when talking the flies can get in, but that’s another story. The word Strine actually comes from the word ‘Australian’, it’s just said faster and becomes ‘Strine’. Got it? No? Bugger.

We will add to this list as required when we think we’ve used words in the comic that might need explanations. If you find any other terms yourself that you would like an explanation for, feel free to either email us or leave a comment on a particular strip. We’ll see what we can do.


A.F.L. – Australian Rules Football. Our native football code. While New South Wales and Queensland are generally Rugby territory, the other four states and both territories are AFL territory. Denigrated by those who dare to not watch it as ‘Aerial Ping Pong’. Through winter it is almost a religion. Almost. It’s more important than that.


Avagooweegend – In long winded English, ‘Have a good weekend’. Who needs those unnecessary letters and spaces?


Bags – If you ‘bags’ something, you lay claim to it. Usually this is on a first come, or at least, first call, basis. ‘I bags the back seat!’ for example.


Billabong -After a river or creek has flooded and then receded once again, sometimes, in some places, nearby hollows remain flooded with nowhere for the water to drain out of. This is a billabong – an old creekbed or flooded hollow that remains after the flood has gone. Sometimes they last for years.


Black Tracker -Through the 19th and early 20th Century, Aboriginal people were occasionally used to locate bushrangers, missing people, lost children etc, in the bush and outback of Australia. It’s not politically incorrect if Didj is saying it, eh?


Blind Freddy – Blind Freddy is the ficticious incapacited figure of folklore, who’s name is invoked to suggest that if Blind Freddy could see it, then it was clearly the most obvious thing in the world. Two versions link the name with a blind hawker from Sydney in the 1920s, or a police trooper who somehow managed to let the bushranger Ben Hall evade capture, earning the nickname Blind Freddy.


Blue – A nickname for somebody with red hair. Obviously. Also, a fight or serious argument. ‘We had a blue.’


Buckley’s; – Buckley’s chance or none. To have Buckley’s is to have very little chance of success. In 1802 an expedition left New South Wales to reach Port Phillip Bay in present day Victoria with 300 convicts. One of the convicts was William Buckley. On Christmas Day, 1803, he and two convicts escaped. They starved and were never seen again. Until 1835 when a wild man was found with W.B. marked on his arm. William Buckley had somehow survived living with aborigines for 32 years and had all but forgotten how to speak English. His name lives on as a reference to any pursuit that has a forlorn or slim chance of success or survival.


Bushrangers – The Australian version of highwaymen. Since Settlement in 1788 till about 1880, Bushrangers were a colourful part of our history, culminating in the end of the Kelly Gang, and the hanging of Ned Kelly, considered the last bushranger, and a divisive folklore figure since then. He’s the bloke who wore a suit or armour made out of plowshares with a great big helmet. Kind of hard not to enter folklore when you step out to face a gunfight dressed like that, eh? Also, the Bushrangers are the Victorian cricket team.


Chook – A chicken, hen, rooster. One chook, lots of chooks. Rhymes with book. An elderly woman could also be referred to an an old chook.


Crook – Sick or ill. A little under the weather. Could be a cold or the flu, could be something much worse. ‘I’m just feeling a bit crook’. Could also apply to machines as well. ‘The tractor’s running a bit crook, eh?’


Cornstalk – Not in common usage much now, but this used to be an early term for a colonial (anyone from Australia). Australian born, Australian bred, Long in the legs and Thick in the head. Also a generally tall person with light hair.


Digger – The quintessential Australian soldier. Folklore has it the name arose because the ANZACs were forced to dig their own trenches under heavy fire when landing at Gallipoli in 1915, hence the name ‘Digger’. There are references to Diggers in the earlier Boer War as well. The name could have come from the gold era of the 1850s as well. The Digger is brave, resourceful, cheery, and above all loyal to his mates, and will follow a man who leads with character, not class. To this day Australian soldiers are referred to as Diggers. To earn the nickname ‘Digger’ is generally high praise indeed.


Dim Sim – A native Australian version of the Chinese Dumpling, sold mainly in fish and chip shops as well as many Australian Chinese restaurants, although it isn’t actually a proper Oriental food. A ball of pork or meat and cabbage in a noodle sort of wrapped shaped like a little brick. Usually steamed or deep fried, although cooked on the barbie they’re magnificent!


Drongo – A foolish person incapable of carrying out any task they are given. ‘He did what? Aw, the silly drongo!’


Duck – Besides the bird, a duck is a cricketing term. If you go ‘out’ without making any runs, you are out for a duck. Possibly because the 0 next to your name on the score sheet is a ‘duck egg’. If you go out the first ball you face, you are out for a Golden Duck.


Fair Dinkum – To be ‘fair dinkum’ is to be honest and true. It can also be used as an exclamation, or when enquiring about the truthfulness of a topic. ‘Fair dinkum?’ ‘Yeah, fair dinkum!’ ‘Are you fair dinkum?’ ‘Yeah! He fair dinkum did!’


Foo – Foo Was Here is a piece of Australian graffiti featuring a simple bald head and nose looking over a line (wall) with the fingers of each hand on either side. It was popular with Diggers through both World Wars and was apparently scrawled on any train cargo carriage the Australians passed. Another story suggests it came from Foo, an engineer who’s job it was to inspect submarine welds, often in small confined spaces. To stop anyone suggesting he hadn’t made his inspections, he would leave the mark of graffiti with the words ‘Foo Was Here’. It has since become popular amongst Australian school children on and off over the last sixty years.


G’day – The Great Australian Greeting. Simply just a contraction of ‘good day’.


Goog – An egg. Usually used in the phrase ‘as full as a goog’. You can also be called a goog if you are foolish or silly. It is usually used endearingly in this context. On a side note, an egg, while being a goog, can also be referred to as a bumnut, or even a cackleberry. Pronounced with a double o like book.


Hooroo – See ya later. Cheers. Goodbye, but leaving the suggestion that you’ll meet up again.


HOWZAT? -The generic cricketing term used to beg the umpire to give a batsman out. Apparently it’s Strine for ‘How’s that?’ but I’ve never actually heard a cricketer use that entire phrase. ‘Howzat’ is also a pretty cool song by the group Sherbet.


Huey – It is a little known fact that God’s first name is actually Huey. He’s often invoked by farmers when the rains finally break. ‘Send her down, Huey!’ they would call to the heavens. Australians are the only nation on Earth on a first name basis with God.


Icypole – Might otherwise be called an iceblock, a frozen ice. A sweet, often coloured, frozen block of yum on an icypole stick. Known to damped mild pain when applied to the mouth.


Jake – Okay. Everything will work out for the best. ‘She’ll be jake‘.


Joe Blake – Rhyming slang; a snake. Also known as a Joey Blake.


Lofty – A short person. Obviously.


Pull your head in – Your making a spectacle of yourself, stop showing off.


Raw Prawn – Don’t come the raw prawn with me! Generally means you’re feigning innocence and ignorance about something despite everyone knowing otherwise. How this phrase arose is uncertain, but it seems to stem from the World War II era.


Smoko – To take a break during work, particularly physical work, is to knock off for a smoko.


Struth – The great Australian exclamation. It’s original meaning is a contraction of the phrase ‘God’s truth’. It is strongest when used on it’s own, and loses it’s strength a little when put into a sentence. It may also be spelled ‘strewth’, which shows you how to pronounce it. So get it right!


Slab – A slab is a measurement of quantity of alcohol, specifically any contained in single serve bottles and cans. You can get beer, for example, in a six pack, but a slab… a SLAB is four sixpacks. A full 24 bottles or cans. In some states of Australia it’s called a ‘carton’, because you usually buy a slab in a cardboard carton.
It’s also a unit of currency generally involved after a transaction of services, usually between mates. Can you help help me fix this fence over the weekend? You can? Great, what’s the damage, about a slab? No worries, cans or bottles?


Sure As Eggs – A certainty. Each morning you go out to the chookpen and guess what you’ll find? Eggs. Well, yes, chooks too, but eggs.