How to speak Australian, part 2

How you going? The first time we heard that, we stood there with blank looks on our faces. Was the correct answer “Walking” because that was how we were going… But no, the correct answer is “Fine, how you going?” because “How you going?” is the standard Wagga greeting (and maybe other parts of Australia), sort of a hybrid of “How’s it going?” and “How are you doing?”. This is just another one of those words and phrases we have to get used to; here are some more.

No worries. This isn’t just an Australian term, but we think it originated here. It is basically a “You’re welcome” sentiment, similar to the common Canadian phrase “No problem”, but probably also has some grounding in Aussies being the happiest people in the world (don’t worry, be happy). Whenever the uber-perky clerk at The Lawson does something for us, and we thank her, she usually responds with “Too easy”. We think this is either an evolution of “No worries”, or she is telling us she wants us to challenge her with a harder task.

This is a pint of Thirsty Crow's award winning vanilla milk stout. It is REALLY good.

Schooner: Not all of Australia is beach and surf. Wagga is inland, so there are no large boats here. But we do have schooners. A schooner is a traditional measurement of beer in NSW: a 15 oz glass. A smaller glass is a middy (10 oz), while a pint is 20 oz. Thirsty Crow sells its beers in middys, schooners and pints. A schooner is probably a good size for the heavier porter or vanilla milk stout, but on a hot day nothing can beat a pint of their hefeweizen, a spectacular wheat beer infused with Chai tea that has an interesting banana-like flavour. Our membership at Thirsty Crow gets us a discount on pints on Monday nights, but not schooners.

Firie/bikie/postie, etc: Aussies (hmmm, some pattern here?) have a tendency to alter people’s professions/lifestyles by shortening them and then adding “ie”.  So a firie is a firefighter. A bikie is a member of a motorcycle gang. A postal worker is a postie… You get the drift. These were recently in articles in the Wagga Daily Advertiser. We aren’t sure what other words might be treated this way, but anything can happen.

Canadians would say this is a photo of pumpkins, squashes and gourds. In Australia, they are all pumpkins.

Pumpkin: Canadians think of pumpkins at those things that we carve on Hallowe’en and make into pies in the autumn. In Australia, pumpkin is a staple food, eaten all year around. However, we have yet to see any of the big orange ones that we call pumpkins. Here, what Canadians call squash are pumpkins, so there is, for example, butternut pumpkin.

Rego: Pronounced rej-0, not reeg-o. Another one of those condense and add a vowel things (see firie above). They probably do it with other words but this is one that we are encountering. Rego is car registration, known as licensing in Canada. Here, a car is registered (regoed?) for life and the rego passes from owner to owner with the same plates, unlike the Canadian system where you register/license your car, get your number plates and when you sell it you keep your plates and new owner does it themselves. The other big difference is the cost: in Alberta,  it was about $85 annually, but in NSW it varies depending on the car and we will probably pay about $500 for a compact car.

Tucker: food. Not sure how much this one is used, but it is used a bit. The morning djs on the local radio station were discussing a ‘Murrumbidgee Master Chef’ competition (to coincide with the hugely popular Master Chef television show), and saying how great it was because they would be judges and get to eat the food. “That’s some good tucker” was how one of them put it. People in the outback carry food in a tucker bag, or maybe a billy (extra points to those of you who can define this one in the comments section!).

Opportunity shop: Just before we left Canada, there were job fairs in Alberta recruiting energy workers to Australia. The economy here is doing quite well, and many might consider it the land of opportunity. When we saw our first “Opportunity Shop” sign, Dan (idiot) thought it was a place where he could just go and get a great job. But no, it is the equivalent of Goodwill or the Salvation Army shops in Canada. Supposedly, the biggest one is called Vinnies. In keeping with the …ie thing, people started calling the St. Vincent de Paul shops Vinnies, and it took so well that they actually formally adopted the name. There isn’t a Vinnies in Wagga that we have seen, but there are ones for the local hospital, churches, etc. We are actually going to shop there a bit; it is a perfect way for us to buy a few dishes, flatware, maybe some pots, to get us through to when our container arrives. We figure we can spend about $20 on kitchen and dining necessities, then just give the stuff back in a month or so when we don’t need it.

So, we are getting used to the language. It isn’t really that hard, just takes a bit of quick thinking to figure out how the Aussies have converted the Queen’s English into their own version. Some terms are British, not used in North America, but we are used to those from travel and also having friends from there. So calling red, yellow and green peppers ‘capsicum’ is easy to understand. And knowing what chuffed means…

But, there is one term that we have heard a couple of times that is almost completely incomprehensible to us. Maybe some day, we will understand it, but for now we just let our eyes glaze over whenever we hear the phrase “yes, you can grow citrus in your back yard.” That’s not a sentence we’ve ever heard before, but we think we will like getting to know what it means!

Search terms of the week: crazy bugs in Alberta, Mr Rogers kicks, container number images.  Ok, so the last one isn’t that interesting, but who is looking for something like that?

About waggadventure

Canadians newly relocated to Australia.
This entry was posted in Australia, beer, Canada, cultural differences, food, language, small town culture, wagga. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to How to speak Australian, part 2

  1. Harriet says:

    Couple of comments …

    Firie/bikie/postie, etc – it’s not always ‘ie’, sometimes we add an ‘o’ (as you noted later with rego). So in terms of emergency services, a fireman is a firie, but an ambulance driver is an ambo. A policeman … well, I would say ‘cop’ but I suspect a lot of people would use rather more obviously derogatory terms. Similarly, St Vincent de Paul is Vinnies, but the Salvation Army are the Salvos (and they are normally called ‘op shops’ – I suspect plenty of people don’t even know this is short for ‘opportunity shop’). Don’t know who decides which kind of ending applies. You do get Johnnie and Johnno, but Johnnie is most likely to be a John (and probably a child … or a Prime Minister), whereas Johnno is probably Jonathan.

    Part of the reason rego is so expensive is that it includes compulsory third party insurance (aka CTP or a ‘green slip’). And you still need to get normal insurance on the car. CTP is only for injuries to people – it doesn’t cover property. Actually, I just looked at my last registration renewal notice – the actual registration fee was only $56. But then there was $209 motor vehicle tax, plus the cost of the green slip (charged separately as you can now choose your own insurer – this didn’t used to be the case). You also need a ‘pink slip’ – provided by a mechanic to say the car is roadworthy. I can’t remember how much this is, since you only need them for cars more than about 3 years old, and my car is still relatively new.

    I don’t think ‘tucker’ is really used all that often, at least in Sydney, except in a semi-joking deliberately-ocker sort of way. Steve Irwin probably said it a lot. Though maybe that was the way he actually talked all the time …

    Do you really not know what a billy is? Or have you figured it out and are just challenging non-Australian readers.

    • Billy wasn’t one we were familiar with – it is a pretty specific Australian item it seems. We were at the Museum of the Riverina on the weekend, and there was an exhibit about Australian icons (wattle trees, Holdens, kangaroos) and the billy was one of the 10. To us, it seemed a bit out of place because the other 9 were ones that people from outside Australia would recognize but the billy was the obscure one.

  2. kalita says:

    Tucker is one I haven’t heard in a long time, and I grew up (and still live) just down the road from Wagga!

    There will most definitely be a Vinnies in Wagga, you just have to look 🙂 (and it’s usually Op Shop, because we have to shorten everything).

    • You’re right, there is a Vinnies in Wagga. Just hadn’t noticed it, because it was just off the main street in an area we hadn’t ventured into yet. We picked up two very good wine glasses that will be more than sufficient until all of our Riedel glasses get here.

  3. Fredrik Astrom says:

    The “condense and add a vowel things” is obviously the reason for calling our mutual friend MO Mikey-O… He loves it!

  4. Harriet says:

    Courtesy of the ‘billy’ question, I now have the chorus and first verse of ‘The Overlander’ (aka ‘Queensland Drover’) stuck in my head. And then when I looked up the words to the other verses, I discovered there are many variations of both melody and lyrics. So I now don’t even know if I’ve got the right version stuck in my head …

  5. Michael Olsson says:

    ‘Tucker’ was a standard Australian expression in the late 19th-early 20th century but, as Harriet has already said, is not used in ordinary speech, except perhaps by speakers of some Aboriginal pidgin dialects. It started to become promine t again a few years ago when there was a TV show called ‘The Bush Tucker Man’, otherwise known as ‘the bloke in the stupid hat who eats grubs’! It is now mostly seen on the menus of pretentious restauants charging 60 bucks for sauteed emu fritters in a witchetty grub jus…

    A tucker bag (as possessed by the swagman in ‘Waltzing Matilda’ for purposes of stuffing jumbucks into) is simply a canvas knapsack for carrying food in – not to be confused with a tucker box (as in ‘The dog sat on the’), which was a much more substantial chest a gang of shearers/drovers etc would keep their supplies in. An authentic billy is made from an old tinned fruit can and a piece of bailing wire – anyone ho buys one from a shop is a silvertail…

    And only a Pommie or a silvertail would drink a pint! 😛

    How you going, to be properly authentic, must be turned into a single word – owyagoin, although I prefer the longer version -owyagoingmateorright?

    ‘Too easy’ seems to be this year’s teen fad phrase – my tutors and I were talking about its prevalance among first year undergrads a couple of weeks ago.

    The ‘ie’ verses ‘o’ is usuallu fairly random – except with names. I disagree with Harriet in that ‘Johnie’ is a diminutive – fine for a child but definitely insulting if applied to an adult, as in “little Johnie Howard” – a deadset Aussie bloke would be ‘Johnno’.

    I notice you haven’t ventured into the murky waters of what to call a redhead yet – blue, bloodnut, ranga…

  6. When I first got here, I used to torment people who asked me ” How you going?” with the reply… “By bus” and I would get a blank look back every time …. LOL 😉 You gotta be there, it was damn funny! I think they caught on that I was pulling their tits!

  7. Pingback: And you thought the El Camino was dead « Becky Quarterly

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