Photo: Sam Wordley/Shutterstock

15 Language Mistakes That Give You Away as an Outsider in Australia

by Jess Buchan Feb 20, 2018

You say: Flip flops
Aussies say: Thongs

If you’re in Australia during the summer (or any other time of the year, really) you might be wondering why Aussies keep talking about their underwear, how they’ve broken one, or if you’ve seen their missing pair. It’s the quintessential language mistake that most foreigners make.

You say: Kissing
Aussies say: Pashing

Favored by teenagers and iconic TV characters Kath and Kim, pashing is a classic Aussie word to describe a good old make-out session. What’s even better than pashing is the all-telling aftermath, known as “pash rash.”

You say: Swimwear
Aussies say: Togs, cossies, swimmers

There’s a big countrywide debate as to what term for swimwear is correct but all we can say is that if you say “swimwear,” you’re not an Aussie. Oh and those delightfully small swimmers favored by old European men? They’re known as budgie smugglers.

You say: Cooler
Aussies say: Esky

Eskies are classic example of how Australians have taken a brand name and made it a whole new word. Another example is Panadol paracetamol. No matter what brand of paracetamol it is, it will always be called Panadol.

You say: Crisps
Aussies say: Chips

Us Aussies are simple creatures. We don’t want several different words for something created from the same vegetable. To us, chips are chips whether they come from a foil packet or served hot with gravy and chicken salt.

You say: Aluminum foil
Aussies say: Aluminium foil

It’s funny how one single letter can create a debate between the Aussies and their North American acquaintances. To Americans, the handy kitchen product is pronounced “a-LU-min-num” and to us Aussies it’s “al-U-min-ium.” We could just settle it once and for all and say “al foil.”

You say: McDonald’s
Aussies say: Maccas

Australians don’t like to waste time on three syllables. After all, fast food needs fast pronunciation.

You say: Lots of/a lot
Aussies say: Heaps

“That was heaps good,” “thanks heaps,” “there are heaps of people here” — whatever you’re talking about, there are heaps of ways to include “heaps” into your Aussie lingo.

You say: U-turn
Aussies say: Chuck a U-ie

Despite what Siri might say, Australians will never utter the words “perform a U-turn” when it’s necessary to turn around. “Chuck a U-ie, mate” is one of the most Australian phrases you’ll hear and it’s one we’re heaps proud of.

You say: Drunk
Aussies say: Para/smashed/shitfaced/maggot

There are a thousand ways to say you’re drunk worldwide but it’s in Australia where it’s most eloquent. There’s nothing like hearing “Lets get maggot tonight” or “Mate, I’m para” to really make you proud of your country’s quirky vocabulary.

You say: Toilet
Aussies say: Dunny/loo/crappa/outhouse/thunderbox/long drop

I shit you not; Australians have more words for the toilet than we do Prime Ministers in one year.

You say: Tantrum/getting angry
Aussies say: Spit the dummy

Aussies are a laidback bunch of people so when someone is getting a bit angry, we like to bring them back a notch. You’re not getting angry, you’re spitting the dummy — because you’re being a baby.

You say: “I got swag”
Aussies say: “I’ve got MY swag”

Long before “swag” was a way to describe how much street cred you had, it had a completely different meaning Down Under. A “swag” has long been an Aussie word for a mattress protected by a canvas cover, used for camping.

You say: Talking
Aussies say: Having a chinwag

Us Aussies love a good chat so much that we’ve named it after the motion that your face makes. So if you hear someone say “chin-wag” it doesn’t mean they have loose facial features, it just means they’re having a bloody good chat with someone.

15. Bogan

I couldn’t finish this list without the ultimate Australian word. If there’s one word that leaves foreigners dumbfounded, it’s “bogan”. “Bogan” is one of those words that have no exact translation and it’s easier to spot a bogan than to describe one. I’ll just put it like this — if you find yourself using the slang above regularly, chances are you’re well on your way to becoming one.

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