Beyond “Shrimp on the Barbie”: 27 Phrases You’ll Hear Only Down Under Posted January 28, 2019
Remember those old Foster’s beer commercials aiming to teach the viewer “how to speak Australian“? Well, although they were meant to be tongue in cheek (and Foster’s isn’t even very popular in Australia), they had the right idea because Australia and New Zealand both have their own distinct idioms that you won’t hear in other English-speaking countries.
Before discussing their language, it’s important to know what people from Australia and New Zealand call themselves and their countries.
People from Australia call their homeland “Oz;” a phonetic abbreviation of the country’s name, which also harkens to the magical land from L. Frank Baum’s fantasy tale. Australians refer to themselves most often as “Aussies,” hence Australian golfer Adam Scott’s explosive “Come on, Aussie!” self-congratulatory shout after winning the Masters tournament.
New Zealanders may call their country “Kiwiland” or the Maori name of “Aotearoa,” and almost universally refer to themselves as “Kiwis” after the endemic (and adorable) flightless bird.
The two island nations share a litany of linguistic quirks, a few of which we spell out below.
G’day – The abbreviated form of “good day,” used as an informal greeting. Your basic “Hi there!”
Ice block – The name that both countries use for a popsicle.
Heaps – If you have lots and lots of something Down Under, you have heaps of it.
Chocka – An abbreviation of the phrase “chock-a-block,” this adjective means you’ve eaten your fill.
Fair Dinkum – This odd phrase with a disputed etymology simply means, “Honestly,” as in, there’s no leg-pulling going on. As Aussies and Kiwis enjoy sarcasm and a good joke, the use of “fair dinkum” indicates that what they’re saying is the genuine article.
Bloody – As in the U.K. and Ireland, “bloody” simply means “very,” as in, “I’ve had heaps of food this arvo and I’m chocka, but this ice block is bloody delicious!”
Though the two countries are separated only by the 1,300-mile-wide Tasman Sea (which people from both refer to with typical droll humor as “the ditch“), Aussies and Kiwis can’t seem to agree on a number of terms. Here are the most popular linguistic divergences.
Thank you – To thank someone in Oz, give them a “cheers.” To give thanks in New Zealand, use “cheers’” shortened cousin, “chur.”
Food – Aussies call their food “tucker,” while Kiwis may use the Maori word “kai.”
Toasted sandwich – Americans don’t have a consensus name for a toasted sandwich, either, though many call it a panini. In any case, folks in Sydney call this a jaffle, while those in New Zealand and some other parts of Oz refer to it as a toastie.
Portable cooler – In Australia, it’s called an “esky” (which is actually a brand name, though most Australians use it as a catchall term) and in New Zealand, it’s a “chilly bin.” Of course.
Convenience store – If you’re looking for a quick drink, snack, or newspaper, you’ll go to the dairy in New Zealand and the corner shop in Australia.
Beer sizes – This one’s tricky, and applies to ordering beer from a tap. Ordering a schooner in Australia will get you a 15 oz. beer, while the more popular 10 oz. offering is called a middy in Sydney and a handle in the Northern Territory (the Outback). In New Zealand, asking for a handle or a pint may get you anywhere from 13 to 16 ounces. In a pinch, calling for a pint will always get you between 13 and 20 ounces in either country. Or, you could order a bottle!
Flip flops – Aussies call these casual sandal-style footwear thongs while Kiwis use the term jandals.
Tired – Worn out after a long day of touring? In Australia, you’re stuffed (not to be confused with chocka), while in New Zealand you’re buggered or knackered.
We hope this list has been helpful, and you’re not too knackered after getting through it.
And if you really want to put your newfound linguistic knowledge to the test, consider our Exploring Australia and New Zealand or New Zealand Adventure small group tours!