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Illustrated Dictionary of Australian English

Australian English

A major variety of the English language used throughout Australia. Although English has no official status in the Constitution, Australian English is the country's national and de facto official language. It is the first language of the majority of the population.

Australians speak English. They don't speak it like Englishmen, or Scotsmen, or Welshmen, or Irishmen, or Americans, or Canadians, or South Africans - or anybody else who speaks, or claims to speak, English.

They speak their own brand of the language,developed during their years of isolation from other English-speaking peoples. Whom they can understand.

But most other English-speaking people have difficulty in understanding Australians. And this, to an Australian, is an astonishing thing.

After all, his language is uniform. He has no dialects. With a few minor variations in idiom and tempo, his language is the same from Cooktown to Perth, whether you travel around the top, or through the centre, or via the southern cities.

Aussie English has very little music in it. It is generally delivered in tones as tuneless as the bleat of a sheep, or the kark of a questing crow.
It is delivered through an almost closed mouth, with a slurring of consonants. And it is delivered as rapidly as possible. Except outback, where it is often delivered as slowly as possible.

At its worst, it is a mumbled monotone, its sentences slangy, idiomatic, and brief.

At its best, it is clearer, lengthier, grammatically correct — but the unmistakeable flat accent will distinguish it from any other intonation on earth.

Aussie English, An Explanation of the Australian idiom by John O'Grady (Nino Culotta) 1965

There are particular words and phrases that are uniquely Australian, meaningless to many from outside the country, but part of what binds Aussies to each other.

The history of Aussie English reflects the history of the country as a whole — Aboriginal words, convict slang and words from various migrant groups have all been assimilated.

Aussies love colloquialisms and word plays. The results are often very funny, picturesque, and robust. By using this dictionary you will have a better understanding of the aussie personality and the aussie sense of humour.
It requires a healthy tolerance, a creative mind, and a sense of the absurd.

Aboriginal Australia

Long before a word of English was ever spoken in Australia, the Aboriginal languages were heard all over the continent. Each Aboriginal grouping has its own language, but those languages spoken close to what later became the main centres of European population were those which have had the most influence on modern Aussie English.

In 1770 Captain James Cook was forced to beach the Endeavour for repairs near present-day Cooktown, after the ship had been damaged on reefs. He and Joseph Banks collected a number of Aboriginal words from the local Guugu Yimidhirr people. One of these words was kangaroo, the local name for the large black or grey Macropus robustus.

Commonly used Aboriginal words include many animal names, such as kookaburra, koala, wallaby and dingo.

Many Australian place names are from Aboriginal languages — the capital Canberra is so‑named because it means ‘meeting place’.

Other Aboriginal words common in Aussie English include yakka, meaning work–normally used as part of the phrase hard yakka, and cooee, first used by Aboriginal people calling each other through the bush. Aboriginal english slang appears in the 1980s with deadly, meaning excellent.

Some adjectives and verbs were borrowed into the Australian pidgin that was spoken in the nineteenth century. Most of these have now disappeared, but some important words have survived, such as bung (1841), borrowed from the Yagara language of the Brisbane region.

Aboriginal words are likely to have been absorbed into Aussie English as local leaders from both native groups and colonists tried to find some tentative common ground; and as the new arrivals sought to find names for the strange new things they were seeing.

Bush Traditions

 The term swag has its origin in thieves’ slang. It originally referred to a thief’s booty or plunder, but by the middle of the nineteenth century it was used to describe the collection of personal belongings wrapped up in a bedroll, as carried by a bush traveller.
This is the beginning of the swagman tradition.

Bushranging in Australia

 The development of bushranging in Australia is an off-shoot of the convict system.
The first bushrangers were convicts, escaping either from imprisonment or from bad masters when in assigned service. To them we owe the terms bail‑up and stick‑up.

The bushrangers of the post-goldrush are the more familiar Ned Kelly kind.
To them we owe the development of such terms as bush telegraph and cattle duffing.

it's the

Illustrated Dictionary of Australian English

Words and Phrases in Afferbeck Lauder

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