Australian English – seriously!

Jul 30, 2002 (Updated Aug 1, 2002)

The Bottom Line This epistle shows where the one last bastion of pure English is located and gives an insight into the customs and culture of that land.

Despite having published well over half a million words on Australia and all things pertaining thereto – I am still asked questions by the score – well potentially anyway.

The number one question I potentially hear is; “hey mate, how come ya all speak without an accent”?

Well good buddies, playmates and enemies – the time has come to dispel a few myths.

First and foremost there is no such thing as English! Startling as that may be consider the European Sand Bar, sometimes called the United Kingdom. Listen to the dialects that tribe speaks in that tiny area and clearly we aren’t going to find any consensus of a language there!

But fortunately the planet, this planet, has a girdle slung around its underbelly called Australia. In that place, free from outside interference, a true language was able to develop and that language is euphemistically known as Australian English. Where else on this earth, on the one patch of dirt, do the populace speak as one? There is nowhere so essentially Australian English is logically the only true English!

I admit we Australians took this for granted and never sought to encourage others to speak effectively. There was a very good excuse…er…reason for this in that we had little contact with the outside world until the rapid communication era took hold not too long ago. Well we were understandably bewildered that things had got so bad in the Northern Equatorial region and the question know is - is it too late?

We like to think not but we do realise the conversion is a daunting task. This is not just your scribes opinion of course. There may well be someone else with the same notion but more importantly Australian English is a documented, official language with its own dictionary.

The Macquarie Dictionary was first published in 1981 and is without a doubt the most authoritative work in a thousand years – or thereabouts! This dictionary is the National Dictionary of Australia and between its covers lie scores of thousands of perfectly pronounced, clear and concise words. It is true literary genius and even includes thousands of sentences giving a clear understanding of a word.

This piece of literati wasn’t just thrown together by a mob of galahs. It was conceived by the egg heads (academics) at the Macquarie University Linguistics Department so yes it is fettered by knowledge but at least on this occasion that was not such a detrimental thing.

The “Macq” is like no other work of its type. It is uniquely Australian but has a true international bent because Australians want the world to speak as one – or at the very least to be understood.

Australian is not a difficult language to learn so please don’t be put off by the two hundred thousand definitions in this dictionary. Even Aboriginal English is included and appropriately as the Australian Aboriginal is a past master at bridging communication gaps.

We allow anyone to purchase a copy, be it in book form or CD-ROM !

Now there are some tribes north of the equator that consider Australian rude, even crude. But that is okay because we realise they just don’t understand so there is no offence taken.

Pronunciation holds the key and in this real English pronunciation even includes body language. But not only that – Australian is an ambidextrous language because we can duck a truck or truck a duck** – very different but the simplicity of each meaning is clear.

The egg heads at Macquarie University say there is Cultivated Australian, Broad Australian and General Australian. Well that is really hocus pocus – it is all general in my view with an extreme minority in the other two categories. So-called broad Australian is more often used in fun whereas those professing to be “cultivated” probably have been. I mean that in the sense of cultivating or ploughing a field, in this case their brains.

The mob at Macquarie also notes the unusually minor variation in Australian English across the country and several hypotheses exist but none are proven. Most Australian English uses the same words as anywhere else. It is the minority of words that make the difference, not the majority.

Many words have roots in the various Aboriginal languages but usually these are modified somewhat. Australians come from a wide range of people from pretty much all over the world and that fact no doubt helped create Australian as it is spoken today.

Australians spell differently to people in England and the U.S.A., essentially preferring “s” to “z” as in realise for example. Before the official Australian Macquarie dictionary came into being spelling of some words was open to individual interpretation. The Australian dictionary now means the commonly accepted way of spelling in Australia is correct – for Australians, both in general use and even legally.

None of this means someone from outside Australia will be unable to converse effectively with Australians. What it does mean is that when a word or term is used that is not understood simply ask – as my wife and I did constantly when in the USA quite some years back!

This is essential if we are to gain some insight into any customs and culture - first we must appreciate and understand the lingo.

Macquarie have a substantial Internet site where you can easily research any terms you may happen upon and ascertain their meaning.

See Macquarie at;

“we can duck a truck or truck a duck”

To “duck a truck” means to move out of it’s way – usually quickly!
To “truck a duck” means to run over a duck with a truck. Politely put, this duck is ucked.

NB No wildlife was hurt in the writing of this piece.

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