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June 30, 2015 Comments (6) Destination Guides, ONE Proj blog, Practical and How-To

Daggy Aggro Bogans: Introduction to Australianisms

Kangaroo disrupts myke's sleep

Australians speak funny.

I learned this pretty quickly seven years ago when I arrived right into the guts of remote Western Australia (“dubyay”) and went straight to work on an underground mining crew.

(Your first lesson on pronunciation: Only tourists call the country “oss-TRAIL-ee-uh”. It’s “strah-ya” or “a-STRAH-ya”, to most ‘strahyans.)

My crew, a colourful collage of coworkers – with nicknames like Cowboy, Ripper, Princess, Peewee, Gun, Slugger, Hollywood, Pirate, and Rambo – said things daily that had me scratching my noggin. After 8 months with them, I was versed in a vernacular of Australian slang to a level exceeding most real Aussies.

citizenship ceremony with Mayor

The beer is part of the citizenship ceremony.

The certificate proving I’m a propa Aussie gives me license to teach you these words.

If you never intend to travel down under: Be entertained by them. If you plan to visit or live in Aus: Here’s your chance to get a head-start learning the dingo lingo. (I admit: that one’s made up. But I could never dream up the rest of these)

Let’s begin – with the beach, of course!


Aussies love to wear thongs. But I will never stop calling them flip flops, because if there’s one ambiguity I wish to avoid, it’s my choice of underwear. (Boxer-briefs, thanks for asking)


Another essential piece of beachwear: togs are swim trunks. 


I’ve no idea how Aussies shortened the word ‘afternoon’ into arvo (pronounced ‘AHH-vo’). But they did. (not to be confused with ‘AH-vo’ – that’s an avocado).

Stack it

This means to trip over or fall down.


This means to be upset, and it certainly confused me at first: North Americans use this word for something very different.

Translation time!

“This arvo I saw a fella in his togs carrying a carton of beer down to the beach. One of his thongs broke and he completely stacked it, smashing a few bottles. He was spewin.”


Another multifaceted Australian word, like root (see the ‘Mildly Inappropriate’ section below). On it’s own, “piss” means beer. But you can also “sink piss” (drink beer), and “get pissed” (get drunk). Things can be “a piece of piss” (really easy).

But most importantly, and completely unrelated to beer, “take the piss” means make fun of someone in a playful way. This is an important part of Australian culture and one that bothers some uptight foreigners who don’t realise it’s a sign of fondness, not disrespect.

Thankfully I was taught this within days of my first landing in Australia by someone who told me, “If people aren’t making fun of you every day – it means nobody likes you.”

My crew must have really liked me.


Shortened from ‘domestic dispute’. Used to describe anytime couples fight, especially situations which are not actual domestic disputes. 


Shortened from ‘aggravated’. It’s amazing how much more often you’ll reach for this adjective when it’s half the syllables.

Translation time!

“Bruce was sinking piss all arvo at the pub, and was getting pretty aggro. His missus came to get him, and they had a bit of a domestic.”


From “uncoordinated”. This is pronounced ‘UN-co’, and it’s heaps of fun to say. It’s mostly used self-deprecatingly when you suck at a sport or suddenly trip over the air. 

Tradies: Sparky, chippy

You should be able to guess by now. Tradies are tradesmen. Sparkies are electricians, and chippies are carpenters.

The term sparky is so ubiquitous I almost never hear anyone use the word ‘electrician’. In Aus, words that necessitate such elocutionary enunciation are always modified. We wouldn’t want to accidentally practise our pronunciation!


A friendly noun to describe your mate when they’re acting incompetent.


A person with red hair. One of my absolute favourite words. It’s from ‘orang-utan’.

Just a warning: some rangas consider this word offensive. Probably because they’re still getting over the merciless teasing they suffered during their childhood. Poor rangas. Go give one a hug. 


An important subculture of low-social status Australians known for being tasteless and unsophisticated. There is much written about them.

But (just to turn things downside-up) there now exists the ‘cashed-up bogan’ (aka ‘CUB’), due to decades of resource-boom demand for blue-collar jobs. CUBs splash their cash thoughtlessly on gaudy-coloured Holden utes (a type of car existing nowhere else in the world), chunky designer sunglasses, jet skis, and ever-expanding sleeve tattoos. 

Translation time!

“That chippy mate of yours – the ranga – he’s such a muppet at work! He’s always hurting himself.”
“Nah nah, he’s alright mate, just a bit unco. Still better than those other bogans.”


Can be used as a noun to describe uncouth or disgusting people. Also an adjective to describe yourself when feeling physically wild or unkempt.

After days in the bush without a shower, I’m feeling pretty feral. 


Another great adjective: Daggy means unstylish, untidy, or unclean. It’s not necessarily derogatory, as most people use daggy to describe a temporary state of themselves or their friends.

Can you change out of those track pants? You look really daggy.

I love this one because of the origin of the root word ‘dag’, which is the matted and shit-encrusted wool around a sheep’s butt. 

We both know that Aussies aren’t exactly famous for being politically correct.

So you’re probably wondering “Fuller you muppet, where’s all the cursing slang?”

Well I’ve set aside some mild vulgarity into a special bonus section for you, just a click away:

Mildly Inappropriate Australianisms – click at your own risk of being offended

Stirring shit

When someone is trying to annoy people or cause trouble, for their own amusement. Beyond just ‘taking the piss’.

Don’t mind him mate, he’s just stirring shit.

Ass over tits

Aussie equivalent of ‘head over heels’ and a more colourful alternative to ‘stack it’ taught earlier. Typically shortened when spoken:

I tripped at the top, and went A-over-T down the stairs. 

Duck’s nuts

Aussie equivalent of the ‘bees knees’.  And way more fun to say.


It’s not just linguists who know the F-word is special. Example from “Why We Love the F-Word So Much”:

The word “fuck” is dynamic, fabulous, and unique. It has conviction and communicates authority. Perhaps its most impressive quality is its versatility. It can be a noun (even a holy one, or a flying one), an adjective (“I’m fucked”), an adverb (“I’m fucking hungry”), a transitive verb (“She fucked him”), an intransitive verb (“He got fucked”), or just as an expression:

“Fuck.” “Fuck it.” “Fuck this.” “Fuck you.” “Fuck off.” “Fuckin’ A.”

It can also be conveniently in-fucking-serted into words and not only produce a legitimate result, but also a better one. It’s a linguistic phenomenon, really.

In Australia, the word ‘root’ is interchangeable with a few of the F-word’s uses: To root is to have sex. To be rooted is to be tired (or broken).

I’ve just worked a 12 hour shift. Chuck me a beer, I’m rooted.

Just as much fun as the word itself are the cross-cultural misinterpretations:

• A truck driver at my mine did a high school exchange in America, and before a baton-twirling competition her elderly home-stay mother and father told her, “We’ll be rooting for you!”. She was horrified.

• My Aussie mate visited Canada’s popular clothing shop, Roots, and found his new favourite t-shirt to sport back in Aus. “Roots Kids”

I wish they still sold the shirts with a guy canoeing beneath a bold admission “Roots Outdoors”.

Believe it or not this is only a fraction of my Australianism dictionary – but the fraction I’ve chosen for maximum entertainment or usefulness.

Australian English is riddled with slang, and every newcomer here is regularly confuzzled by it. But embrace it and you’ll love it.  I’d never heard any of these words in Canada, but now I use them regularly. Australian English is heaps of fun.

Even if you don’t want to jazz up your speaking, I hope this introduction helps reduce the noggin scratching all newcomers to Aus inevitably experience.

Good on ya, mate!

p.s. if you plan to also visit nearby Indonesia too (some Western Australian’s call Bali “Perth’s northernmost suburb”), you might want to read my Eating the Breeze: 6 Funny and Useful Indonesian Expressions Not Found in Phrasebooks post. 

6 Responses to Daggy Aggro Bogans: Introduction to Australianisms

  1. Michelle says:

    ‘Track pants’? – Mike – those are called tracky dacks! (an example of both rhyming slang and the tendency to put ‘y’ or ‘ie’ on the end of words)

    Not sure if this is just a Queensland thing, but how about ‘pineapples’ for $50 notes?

    Thanks for the list.

    • mike says:

      Michelle, all us Aussies know what track pants are really called. But I couldn’t confuse everyone when I was trying to get them to translate!!
      Victorians call ’em pineapples too, but it’s not really a thing with sandgropers.
      P.S. I assume you know there are also lobsters, and ‘blue swimmers’

  2. Samantha says:

    Ha, I enjoyed this Mike, my fave was your description of our use of the term “piss”… so so true.
    I’d like to make two variations though: you’re correct about the definition of “spewin”, however it’s still used to say vomiting, it just depends on the context of it’s use; if there’s a sharp smell coming from the dunny, you can assume someone’s been spewin or has “thrown up their guts”.
    The other thing I’d dispute is that only some Aussies are bogans, I’m more inclined to think that all Australian’s are bogans, it’s just the degrees of bogan which differentiates each of the class groups… you don’t usually have to dig too deep to find someones inner bogan, yep even you Mike, it happened as you accepted that citizenship beer in hand.
    I’ve never used or heard “pineapple”, “lobster” and “blue swimmer” to describe money, but I’ll endeavour to adopt this immediately! Although I’ll swap swimmer for manna otherwise no one will understand me! So what do I call the hundred note and the fiver? Perhaps just the latter, I never see a hundge anyway.
    Good article mate.

    • mike says:

      Sam, I brought those beers with me. Inner bogan indeed!

      Glad you found the piss one entertaining – coincidentally I just returned home from sinking piss with friends and family, at my brother’s local. We went straight from Ultimate frisbee – pretty daggy.

      I guess ‘spewin’ is multi-faceted after all. Also, I don’t know any names for hundies or fivers. You should make them up and we can start a new trend ;)

  3. Mike says:

    Nice list and break-down Mike. Real honky-dory mate.

    About the ‘carton of beer’; its just ‘carton’.

    e.g, Instead of:
    “On your drive past the liquor shop on your way around to my barbeque this afternoon would you mind purchase a 24 box of beer for me please?”

    “Grab me a carton could ya”.
    Disclaimer: ‘Carton’ may or may not become ‘carton of piss’, on a day where one feels most unusually expressive (or, perhaps counter-intuitively given the association: thirsty).

    p.s. Just for good measure I should point out that I think you Aussies pinched a few of these from us Kiwis (unlike the rugby ball, which you can’t seem to get your hands on… I thought you’d like that one.)

    (e.g. ‘toggs’ perhaps? Oh, not to mention ‘boot’ (of your car of course), and most controversially over the ages, the delicious ‘pavlova’; covered with kiwi-fruit slices, naturally… ;)

    Oh but at least you invented the under-arm rolling bowl huh (in cricket). Nice one.
    Sorry, had to chuck that last one in as you refuse to buy our apples and I do miss good kiwi Braeburns..

    • mike says:

      Haha, nice one Steely. Spot on with the carton translation! And of course, that old chestnut about pavlova.

      North Americans would’ve assumed “carton” was a 1L of milk, so I had to say “carton of beer”. I never explained in the post what a “carton” was, because I didn’t want to add another line for that definition (I felt I had enough already)

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