SEARCH 2000 Games

Wednesday, September 13, 2000
Fair dinkum mate, the Olympics'll be right

By MIKE CORDER -- Associated Press
 SYDNEY -- G'day, mate. Ready to talk Strine?

 English may be the official language of Australia, host of the 2000 Olympic Games, but it's a version of English unlike any other -- rich in colourful expressions and pronunciations stemming from its roots as a dumping ground for British convicts and wave after wave of migrants.

 The peculiarly Australian version of English has become known as "Strine," which is how the word Australian can sound when uttered by a fair dinkum (genuine) Aussie.

 If you hope to learn Strine by the time the Sydney Games begin Friday, you'll be flat out like a lizard drinking (very busy).

 But if you don't quite master the lingo in time, the typically easygoing Australians will likely take the attitude: "No worries, mate, you'll be right," which means "No problem, friend, everything will be OK."

 Bruce Moore, director of the Canberra-based Australian National Dictionary Center, says there will be plenty of words that could cause confusion.

 For example, if an Australian decides to go for a relaxing swim off one of Sydney's beautiful beaches, he or she might throw on a pair of trackie daks over their cozzie and head for the beach. Trackie daks are sweatpants and a cozzie is a swimsuit (unless you're in Victoria, one of Australia's six states, where a swimsuit is called a bathers). To get to the beach fast, they'll "put a wriggle on," which means hurry up.

 Many of the peculiarities of Strine came over with the first batch of convicts shipped to Australia, then Britain's new penal colony, in 1778.

 "The first thing overseas visitors will notice is the accent," Moore said. "What we have here is a mix of dialects that you had in London at the end of the 18th century."

 While the British language has evolved, the Australian one has remained closer to the original, making it a linguistic time capsule.

 Dinkum -- considered one of the most Australian of Australian words -- actually is English, Moore said. Meaning honest or genuine, dinkum comes from a now extinct dialect used in Lincolnshire, central England.

 Another import is Cockney rhyming slang. So if an Australian on the beach warns you that there's a "Noah" in the water, beware: "Noah's Ark," means shark.

 Animal names reflect an even older influence -- the nation's original inhabitants, the Aborigines.

 Three icons of the Australian animal world -- kangaroos, koalas and kookaburras -- all were named by Aborigines. So were place names such as Wagga Wagga, Wee Waa and Canberra, the capital, which comes from an aboriginal word meaning meeting place.

 Other aboriginal-originated words include "Yakka," meaning work, and "bung," meaning broken, from an aboriginal word meaning dead.

 Eating and drinking also have their own linguistic idiosyncrasies.

 Many bars, for example, are known as hotels. To make things more confusing, hotels are also known as hotels.

 Once in the hotel (bar), you don't buy drinks for your friends, you shout them a round.

 If you're bringing beer to a barbecue, buy a six-pack of stubbies (small bottles), put them in an esky (ice box) and take them to the barbie (barbecue).

 Visiting a restaurant can bring a plateful of problems. Many eateries are BYO, short for Bring Your Own, as in bottle, which will be opened at the table for a small charge.

 Tucker (food) is a subject where the influence of more recent migrants -- from Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere -- is being felt on the language.

 Yum Cha (Chinese), laksa (Malaysian noodle soup) and Middle East-style barbecue are as common and well-known as grilled chops and snags (lamb cutlets and sausages). Nothing is simple, though, and a Lebanese kebab is also known as a yiros or a gyro depending on which state you're in.

 Words and names are often hacked down to one syllable before having "o" or "ie" tacked on the end. Relatives become "relos" and garbage collectors "garbos."

 In other cases, popular symbols and personalities are given nicknames.

 Sydney's landmark Harbor Bridge is known slightly derisively as "the coathanger."

 And, if in doubt, add the word "mate" to the end of every sentence and, as a fair dinkum Aussie would say, "You'll be right, mate."
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