Saturday, September 8, 2007

Giving Aussie slang a burl

Using slang of any sort is a tricky thing. It usually requires years of practice and an ear attuned to the nuance of the language of your environment. So, when the lovely ladies of America's Next Top Model, Cycle 8 came to Sydney and were set the challenge of interviewing locals using Aussie slang from a list they were given, it was bound to make for some excruciating television.

As the girls yabbered their way through their vox pop pieces, an on-screen "slang-o-meter" toted up their scores, and subtitles defined the words they used for non-Aussie viewers, which was an education in itself. Dag, for instance, was defined as "funny person". So all those times I've called people dags for their unfashionable clothing sense, or their dorky nature, I was actually commenting on their comedic timing? I don't think so.

The part where I nearly fell off my chair however, was when one of the girls started using the word "avro" as an abbreviation of afternoon, and it appeared on the subtitles as well. As any good Aussie knows, it's arvo, not avro. A researcher prone to typos, or a bad source of slang information?

It all got me thinking (yes, I know that is not always a good thing), and I wondered where aspiring Aussie slang learners would turn to for a source of vernacular to spice up their English.

So I googled "Aussie slang dictionary" and perused the results. Based on the first few sites I looked at, I constructed the following dialogue:

G'day you old bastard! It's ripper to see you. I'm stuffed. I went with a cockroach and a croweater to the aerial ping-pong, sunk a gutful of piss, stripped down to my grundies and ended up going home in a divvy van. Feel like a bit of a galah now.

Now this may be fine if my slang-loving gentleman (bloke) is speaking to his long-time friend (mate) who has come to collect him from the police station (cop shop), not so fine if he's addressing his South Australian lawyer, or his Sydney-born wife (trouble and strife)!

While bastard may be a term of endearment in some circles, it's probably not one you would want to use in a professional environment, and not usually used with women. And yes, while cockroach and croweater are terms used to describe people from New South Wales and South Australia respectively, they are usually somewhat derogatory terms. And heaven help anyone describing Australian Rules Football (footy) as aerial ping-pong in Melbourne, particularly during finals season. It's a put-down term usually used by rugby lovers.

When it comes to slang, it's all about context. Proceed with caution.