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Aussie idioms confuse newcomers

29 August 20160 comments

From ‘bogans’ eating ‘battered savs’ to ‘bush baptists’ and ‘chardonnay socialists’, the Australian idiom can be bewildering to visitors and newcomers to this country.

‘Babycinos’, ‘rangas’ and ‘captain’s picks’ are among the more than 6,000 Australian words and phrases that have now been officially recognised in the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary.

While some of the new additions, including words from 100 indigenous languages, have been used for a while this is the first comprehensive update to the dictionary since 1988.

Launched at Parliament House in Canberra, the dictionary commits to permanence much of the political lingo that has become commonplace in recent decades, including ‘aspirational voter’ and ‘Howard’s battler’.

Editor-in-chief Bruce Moore described the finished product as “the schmickest dictionary of all”, reflecting our collective identity, history and values.

The former director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, Bruce Moore, said the latest additions reflected Australian values and beliefs.

“One of the important things that the dictionary does, I think, is give you a sense of the way these words tell the history of Australia,” Dr Moore said.

It took 28 long years to update the collection due to the amount of research that went in to each entry, he said.

“This is a very different kind of dictionary from a dictionary you would use at home, it’s a dictionary that’s based on historical principles,” Dr Moore said.

An AMES Australia iMPACT straw poll of migrants’ knowledge of Australian slang shows many struggle with our home-grown idiom.

Twenty newly-arrived people were asked if they know the meaning of five characteristically Australian words and phrases: ‘ranga’, ‘bogan, ‘tradie’, ‘grey nomad’ and ‘mortgage belt’.

Around half of those surveyed knew the meaning of ‘tradie’ and a third knew the meaning of ‘bogan’.

Only two respondents knew what a ‘grey nomad’ was and only three could define mortgage belt.

Perhaps not surprisingly no one knew what a ‘ranga’ was.

Newly arrived migrant Kazim Ali from Pakistan said Australian slang could be confusing.

“It is hard sometimes to understand what people are saying when they use slang words, especially with an Australian accent,” Kazim said.

“But when you find out what the words mean and the context of them, it can be amusing.”

Some of the new additions to the Australian National Dictionary:

  • Battered sav: a battered and deep fried hot dog
  • Fairy bread: sliced bread spread with butter and covered with sprinkles, typically cut into four triangles
  • Rurosexual: a metrosexual male who lives in country Australia
  • Ranga: a person with red hair
  • Bogan: an uncouth or unsophisticated person, regarded as being of low social status
  • Bush baptist: a fictitious religious affiliation, invoked by a person who does not claim or admit affiliation with a particular church
  • Chardonnay socialist: A person who espouses left-wing views but enjoys an affluent lifestyle
  • Checkout chick: a person who works on the cash register in a supermarket
  • Grey nomad: an older traveller
  • Tradie: a worker that specialises in a particular trade or craft
  • Aspirational voter: A voter who is mainly concerned with material improvement or gain
  • Branch stacking: The practice of improperly increasing the membership of a local branch of a political party to ensure the preselection of a particular candidate
  • Captain’s pick: A unilateral decision made by the captain of a team, usually regarding the choice of a team member. In a political context, a decision made by a party leader without consultation with colleagues
  • Mortgage belt: An area where many people are paying off a mortgage on their home, regarded as electorally volatile
  • Negative gearing: The act or process of borrowing money and investing it (especially in property) to make a loss that is tax deductible
  • Callithumpian: A member of an unspecified non-conformist religious sect; a person of unspecified political beliefs

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist