Aussie slang – if you know, you know.
And if you don’t, well, expect to be very confused.
When tourists visit Australia for the first time, they’re often confronted with a massive culture shock and who can blame them – us Aussies have a very unique way of doing things, and an even more unique approach to words.
But, if we were to pick just one Aussie slang word that really defines us, it’s “mate”.
And not just because it really encapsulates the Aussie spirit, but because it’s a word with multiple meanings.
For example, it can be used as a greeting, like, “Hey mate.” The more you extend the vowel sound – like, “Maaaaate” – the happier you are to see the person.
But it can also be used if you’re annoyed like, “C’mon mate!” and the extended version also works – “Ma-Aaate” which translates to “Seriously!”
Most popular Aussie slang word
A survey of 1500 Aussie participants (aged 16 to 55-plus) conducted by language learning platform Preply revealed “mate” as the most popular word with 78 per cent using it in a sentence.
The older generation such as the over-55s love to use it with 80 per cent weaving it into a sentence.
Coming in very close behind as the next most popular Aussie slang word is “thongs” (better known as “flip-flops” for the non-Aussies) – with 75 per cent using it in a sentence.
In third place at 74 per cent is “sunnies” – because who has time to say sunglasses?
It is followed by “brekkie” (breakfast) and “arvo” (afternoon).
Of course “servo” (petrol station) and “smoko” (cigarette break) are on the list, coming in sixth and seventh place respectively.
“Bottle-o” (liquor shop) takes eighth spot with 66 per cent of Aussies using it, followed by “outback” (rural Australia).
And who can forget “bogan” – it’s in 10th place with 62 per cent of people using it. For the non-Aussies, it’s an uncultured or unsophisticated person.
Most annoying Aussie slang word
But, if you were to ask an Aussie what the most annoying slang word, according to those surveyed, it’s “sheila”, a term used to describe a woman.
It comes as no surprise that more women (33 per cent) than men (27 per cent) find it annoying, describing it as outdated and derogatory.
Steve Irwin’s famous catchphrase “crikey” (an exclamation of surprise) came in second at 23 per cent, followed by “cake hole” (mouth).
And even though “mate” is the most popular slang word, it came in fourth as also the most annoying.
Interestingly, more men (24 per cent) than women (20 per cent) find “mate” annoying – likely due to more men being referred to as “mate” than women, according to the survey.
The age group who tend to incorporate slang into conversations the most is the younger 16-24-year-olds, with 11 per cent agreeing.
Meanwhile, 16 per cent of the over-55 age group said they never used slang in any conversations.
Another surprising find was that women use slang more than men, at 35 per cent compared to 30 per cent.
When it comes to the workplace, 58 per cent of people say they have co-workers who regularly use slang, however, they are unlikely to speak in slang to their manager, with only 14 per cent doing so.
There’s divided opinion about using it in the workplace with 37 per cent arguing that it is unprofessional to use slang in the workplace.
Evolution of slang
Sylvia Johnson, language expert at Preply, discussed how slang has evolved over the years and why Aussies have made slang words and phrases part of their daily language.
“A number of the classic Australian turns of phrase, the ones falling out of use that sound slightly old-fashioned to the younger generation, are actually inherited forms brought to Australia by British and Irish settlers,” she said.
“For example, ‘tucker’ meaning food from the 1850s, even cockney rhyming slang such as ‘take a butcher’s’ meaning look.
“The three traditional varieties of Australian English – broad, cultivated and general – are converging and nowadays, on the global English stage, the Australian vernacular tends to be inundated by British and especially American English.”
Ms Johnson said on top of social media, new slang often emerges from popular culture and is used as a ‘flex’ showing that you are keeping up with the latest trends.
“Slang serves as a form of shorthand, not only for language but also for the connections that unite us,” she said.
“It fosters a sense of belonging among individuals within a specific ‘tribe’ or circle of friends.”