AUSSIES: Language (“Strine”)

The entire Australian population would be remarkable if they were judged on their linguistic skills alone. Yet this characteristic is not often identified.

All Aussies possess the mental dexterity to write fluently in one language (basically English with a few Americanisms thrown in) and yet speak an entirely different language.

It is when it comes to the spoken one that you will realize you are amongst foreigners. This is the language increasingly referred to as 'Strine', one that enhances English with a colour and vigour to suit the Aussie character. Just the act of reserving Strine for conversation frees it from the risk of restrictive definitions.

The purpose of conversation is clearly to convey information. No Aussie is going to see it as anything more. It is neither an art form nor an inheritance from some classic literary past. Words can get joined together, abbreviated and even missed out, so learning it is out of the question. It is a matter of listening carefully. A 'coupla' samples are:

driza - it is as dry as a

jawanna - do you want a

With rhyming slang getting mixed in there as well, you will get some incomprehensible local words. On one particular surfing beach three new words were created to describe surfers from outside the district:

euros - Europeans

touros - Australians

seppos — Americans

(Americans are yanks. Yanks rhymes with tanks. The worst kind of tanks are septic tanks and seppos is short for septic tanks. It's all so logical.)

Most bastards reckon that the Aussies use swear words in every bloody sentence the buggers ever utter. This is not new. One shocked English visitor more than a hundred years ago recorded: 'Your thoroughbred gumsucker never speaks without apostrophising his oath and interlarding his diction with the crimsonest of adjectives.'

The Aussies are not subtle and neither is their language. They will say what they mean. The problem is that the words they use don't always mean what they say. For example:

bluey - someone who has red hair

you're orright - you are absolutely super

itsa bit warm - it is probably 120° in the water bag (water bags are always hung in the shade)

that'd be right -I don't believe it either.

Another Aussie rule is: why use conventional descriptive phrases when there is a humorous one that will do? This produces some colourful results, such as:

flat out like a lizard drinking - doing nothing

off like a bucket of prawns in the sun - moved like lightning

drier than a dead dingo's donger - very thirsty

wouldn't shout if a shark bit him — won 't buy a beer

The key to picking up the meaning of Strine is to watch the face of those who are speaking. If they are not scowling it is probable that what sounds like an insult is in fact a compliment. This is not completely reliable though; you have to remember that they are a far from homogeneous group of people.

It would be a social mistake to try and speak like a local. So many intonations and physical expressions are involved that you will not get it right. You will be regarded as a poser - someone pretending to be other than you are - a low form of life. As they would say, "If you're a bloody Pom, mate, at least be a good one."

The Aussies through their language demonstrate their individuality, their vigorous character, their lack of convention and their directness. It's been said before and it's worth saying again - they're a weird mob.