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Colloquial Sayings & Slanguage



Colloquial Sayings and Stories from Contributors


The Australian language has evolved over more than 200 years and its still evolving – for better or worse. Words come and words go and so do what we call ‘colloquial’ phrases where we describe things and activities in our unique and often very colourful ‘slanguage’. Our language is the result of our cultural influences and, in particular, our pioneering stock which was predominately British and Irish. This became our ‘main’ influences however, because of continuing immigration, we have also taken in words and expressions, and even speech patterns, from other cultures be they European or Asian. Even the mobile telephone has affected the way we speak and what we say.

Australians in the first half of the 20th century had a reputation for speaking slowly as if this was a reflection of our ‘no worries, mate’ attitude to life. This is especially true of the stereotypical gangling bushie in the city. Some observed that we spoke with our lips hardly parted. The standard joke out of this, of course, was that we spoke this way because a wide-mouthed style would have resulted in a mouth full of flies.

The contributions in this section – and I would be grateful for additions to the list – come mainly from Sydney following a series of pars in the Sun Herald Newspaper (Peter Fitzsimmons column 2005) and I have included them verbatim. – WF


All over the place like a mad women’s shit.
” ” ” ” ” a fart in a pickle bottle.
Behaves like a cow with a bastard calf.
Looks like a poofter out of work.
Has a voice like a billygoat shitting on tin.
With apologies & well wishes.
[Derek Swan.]

My mother-in-law, who is 89, has a favourite saying `he/she has a mouth like a torn pocket`.
She is the only person I have ever heard say it. She was born in Bulli and her parents were of English/Irish origin.
[Barry Hirst ]

As far as I know this is a true story.
An English visitor got a job in a pub down at The Rocks in the early ’50’s. She spent several hours learning the local names of the glasses, brands of beer and spirits and as much grog related jargon as they thought she would need. The first customer she got the next morning asked “Could I have two zacks for a deena?” She had no answer to that! I look forward to reading you book when it is released.
[ Bev Cockburn ]

The Black Horse of Sutton’s Forest

I’m wondering what other information you might have about this
legend. I am writing a novel where it plays a small role and information
seems to be spotty at best. Since one of my characters sees the
horse, I would like to know as much as I am able.
Thanks so much for any further help you can provide.
[ Catherine Summers ]

These from a 78 year old who loves his country and it’s ockerisms,
ARMY—–Drop shorts (artillerymen.)
Ginger Beers(engineers)
Don R(despatch rider)
90day wonder(conscript)
Foot sloggers(infanteers)
Officers(brass)Join the artillery and see the war on wheels!
Shot through(gone or AWL)
Bronzed Anzac(physically fit and tanned),
Meat wagon(ambulance),
Bible basher(religious digger)
SAYINGS—-More movement than a fiddlers elbow,
More hide than Jesse(was an elephant at the zoo),
Take a Captain Cook(look)
On the frog and toad(road),
More starts than Bernbourgh(jobs worked),
Further behind than Walla Walla(running late)
Dragging the chain(slow),
As cheeky as all get out(a brat),
A screw loose or Off your rocker(stupid),
You will finish up in the funny farm(asylum),
That will do for starters(beginnings),
Elbow grease(effort),
Sydney coat hanger (harbour bridge),
Dogs breakfast(a mess),
Gone to Gowings(left here),
Last ride before Blondin(closing time Blondin was a circus performer, I think),
Time gentlemen please(pub 6pm closing time call),
Fez please(tram conducters call for fare payment),
More farewells than Nellie Melba(curtain calls).
[Col Henry ]

To add to your collection of sayings– from my great grand mother (born here 1860) “up in Annie’s room behind the clock” referring to something a member of the family was seeking, and of course the mother of the house was/is supposed to know where absolutely every item was/is kept. “shot through like a Bondi tram” from my father born 1916. referring to anyone who had escaped pursuit for whatever reason.
[Judith Wicks.]

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