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There are multiple Australian accents, but thought of as a single accent by the world at large. Here we go, cobber:

  • Broad: Picture (so to speak) the fair dinkum (honest-to-god), prawn-barbieing (we don't call them shrimp!), dingo-complaining, ute-driving, bushwacking Australian accent of Steve Irwin and Paul Hogan. It's not nearly the most common accent and never was, but the country variation is pretty much the only accent recognised by anyone else. Sometimes called Ocker or Strine (named after a rough pronunciation of "Australian" filtered through the accent). The mental image should be Up to Eleven by this point, but if they're from the Northern Territory, turn that Eleven Up to Eleven. Often peppered with more Australianisms than the other accents and not usually spoken by the younger people of Australia. Comes in two varieties: the country variation, which is the most famous Australian accent of all, and the city variation, which is fairly similar but has different vernacularisms. If you speak the city variant, you'll probably be ridiculed for being lower-class; if you speak the country variant, you'll be considered a bumpkin/hick.
  • General: Less so than Broad, but still recognizably Australian. Often uses less Australian idioms and words and more American or British ones. As the name "General" suggests, this is the most common type of Australian accent. The accent of Cate Blanchett or Nicole Kidman. (Also the accent of Maggie in the movie of Transformers.)
  • Cultivated: Geoffrey Rush and Hugo Weaving speak with this accent. Also the "There is no spoon" Kid in the first Matrix film speaks in a (to my ear) pronounced Sydney accent.
  • Screen And Television: The accent of non-Australians attempting the accent and much more oddly the accent often assumed by Australians playing Australians. Combines an exaggerated take of the Broad accent (see above) with a touch of Mary Poppins cockney on occasion.

Common Quirks of Australian English

Although Australians have invented a lot of original words and idioms, and adopted (read: stolen) a rich set of indigenous placenames and a sprinkling of other indigenous terms, there's a rising tendency to pick up American terms but keep British spelling and grammar structure. For instance, we spell 'flavour' with a 'u' and 'tenderise' with an 's', but we call vegetables of the species Cucurbita pepo "zucchinis" rather than "courgettes".

  • A minor correction to the above. Australia did not acquire words such as "zucchini" (or "snow-pea" or "eggplant") from the USA, these words were imported from England, as they were in common usage in England at the time both of the colonies were founded. British English subsequently switched to using the French words ("courgette", "mange-tout", "aubergine") at some point after 1850. Changes to British English over time also explain why both Australians and Americans treat collective nouns as singular, eg. "the government IS taking action" vs the English "the government ARE taking action", and why each country uses words such as "reckon" and "gotten" which went on to fall out of usage in Britain.

In general, younger Australians will use less stereotypical Aussie slang than older generations, and if they do so it'll often be mockingly. Slang changes over time, as it does everywhere else. Our long national project of shortening even the briefest names to one syllable and an '-o', however, continues unabated (for those at home: when the syllable-and-'oh' combination is phonetically displeasing (Jerry to 'Jerr-o'), why not try replacing the '-o' with a '-zza' ('Jezza')? It never fails!)

  • If it does fail, try -sy. Usually the first done for names that end with an S. Eg, "Gatesy" for the surname Gates. If the "y" is already there (eg, "Kathy")... remove it!
  • For groups of people (such as bands or sports teams) try "The" followed by a shortened version of their name, possibly making it plural as well. Examples: The Oils (Midnight Oil), The Spoon (Grinspoon), The Finger (Powederfinger), The Dons (Essendon), The Woods (Collingwood).
  • Australians have a tendency to retain the 'yod' (the equivalent of the 'y' sound in the word 'yoghurt'). Put simply, most Australians continue to pronounce the words 'news' as n-YOOZ, 'tune' as 'tee-OON' or 'CHEW-n' (instead of 'tune' as TOON), but drop the yod in words such as enthusiasm (enth-YOO-siasm compared with enth-OO-siasm). On that note, emu = eem-yu, not em-mu or ee-moo.
  • As for how we refer to ourselves:
    • Aussie = "Ozzy" like Ozzy Osbourne. Not "Aw-see".
    • Often "I'm an Australian" becomes "I'm an Ostrayan." Worst comes to worst, it can be hard to tell whether someone's saying "I'm Astrayan" or "I'm a Strayan".

Other General Notes

  • There is a distinct urban vernacular evident, particularly among the working class, in places such as Sydney. People will describe awesome or cool things as 'fully sick' or 'hectic', ay? People like to end sentences with 'ay' a lot, ay? Tends to be spoken more sharply and quickly than Broad, Cultivated, or General Australian accents.
    • Remind you of another country, eh?
      • Actually, it reminds us of New Zealand. Kiwis (New Zealanders) contribute a lot to the vernacular of young people in urban areas, particularly "bro", which, though it has racial connotations, is far less fraught than in the US. Fully sick, bro.
      • Although 'bro' doesn't necessarily have racial connotations at all. Also, if someone calls you 'bra', they aren't declaiming you as a form of ladies' undergarment. That's just how 'bro' comes out in their accent. Still an evolving term, the variation 'braz' has gained widespread usage in north-eastern NSW.
      • Rather than being from anywhere in particular, a lot of the urban slang is quite eclectic, keeping some working-class British roots, and including various other influences, such as what the less politically correct will refer to as 'Lebo slang' (i.e. Lebanese-Australian slang). While sadly absent in much Australian fiction, this accent is ubiquitous in all its lyrical glory in the works of Paul Fenech, i.e. Pizza and Housos.
  • For some speakers, the pitch goes up on the end of every sentence? Often combined with turning every sentence into a question?
  • Some Australians use 'yeh' or 'yer' instead of 'your'. Especially when speaking fast.
    • And, in the General or Broad accents, there can be a decided tendency to say 'yous' as the plural form of 'you'.
      • Which in turn may evolve into 'yez' or 'yiz'.
  • "Footy" can mean any number of sports, depending on where you are: typically, it's rugby league in New South Wales and Queensland, and Australian Rules Football everywhere else. Soccer is sometimes called football, but never footy.
    • Rugby league is also commonly called just league.
    • Soccer is NEVER called football.
      • Clearly you don't watch SBS, who, ironically, are responsible for popularising football/soccer in Australia.
      • Soccer is actually called football by lots of people. Although, it is more commonly used among ethnic groups with whom soccer has generally been more popular -- Greeks, Italians, etc. -- and much more rare among Anglos.
  • The use of "Abo" to mean someone who is aboriginal is becoming common among youths populations. Like many other pieces of slang, this is either offensive or benign depending on context.

Placenames

  • Again, we are incredibly lazy in the way we speak. Repeat after me:
    • Canberra is pronounced Can-Bra, not Can-be-ra. The really lazy ones will just sort of spit out a "Cambra" and then look horrified at the person enunciating each syllable.
    • And places like Tuggeranong = Tuggra-nong, not Tugger-a-nong. Often nicknamed as 'Tuggers', though.
    • Melbourne is pronounced Mel-bun, not Mel-BORN. And Brisbane is "Bris-bun" not "Bris-BAYN".
      • However, in Queensland, you get "Mel-BIN" and "Bris-BIN". Both are derived from the Southern Queensland unique pronunciation, which according to some Mexicans (aka people South of the Queensland/New South Wales border) makes us sound inbred. In effect, Queenslanders are to Australians what Californians are to Americans (i.e. the butt of jokes to the tone of "laid back" or "drug addicted").
      • The reason why Melbourne is pronounced "Mel-bun" is because Australian accents are non-rhotic, so the R is skipped over. (Think the New England/Boston accent.[1]) If a foreigner with a rhotic accent (e.g. Midwestern American) were to say Melbourne, then "Mel-burn" would be acceptable from them. But "Mel-born" is still wrong. In fact, a person from Melbourne is a "Melburnian".
      • As a Sydneysider, I thought they were Melbourners.
        • Sometimes (rarely) we'll call youse guys Sydneyites. It sounds less awkward than you'd think.
          • A mate of mine referred to you c**ts as 'Sydmuns' once. I'm fairly (in fact, completely) sure he just pulled it out of his arse, but I think it's hilarious and as such am electing to pass it off in the mainstream.

Cursing

  • The "F" word is less taboo with some communities. In fact for some people it is a universal utility word, Noun, Verb, Adjective, Direction, Comma and Exclamation. It varies just like it does in every other English-speaking country, in other words.
    • The "C" word is the new "F" word in some areas. Calling some guy a C means he's just not really an agreeable person. Although that's fairly lower class.
    • In some circles we've made the C word a term of endearment itself, or at least relatively benign — hence TISM's song "I May Be A Cunt, But At Least I'm Not A Fucking Cunt."
    • See also: Bugger. It's milder than the "F" word but can have the same grammatical function. It's also a full stop and a sentence in and of itself (usually when discussing something bad that's happened, the long the conversation goes, the more likely the word "bugger" will be used by someone, often as a condolence).
    • "Bloody" can be used for emphasis. [2]

Regional Quirks

  • If someone ends every sentence with "aye" or "aa" (the long 'a' sound), then it's a fair bet they've spent time on the inland side of the Great Dividing Range in Queensland. It also has class connotations east of the Range: not something North Shore matrons tack on to their sentences.
    • I don't know about the other tropers here, but I run into people sticking "aye" onto the ends of their sentences a lot. Also, yeah, e.g. "We're going for dinner now, yeah?"
    • Seems like it might be common around the blue mountains, judging from my conversations with people from that area.
  • Another Brisbane thing is to phrase everything as a rhetorical question ending in "hey". "It's pretty hot out here hey?" Or so I've heard...
    • It is also common, in Queensland at least, to begin a question with "hey". As in, "Hey, watcha doin' this arvo?" ("Hey, what are you doing this afternoon?"). This will be used even when you're in mid-conversation with the person you're asking, and have no need to attract their attention. It's also largely replaced "g'day" as the standard greeting.
    • It's becoming more popular in Victoria, except people use "Yeah?" instead of "Hey?" So, for example, someone might say "It's pretty hot out here, yeah?"
      • Saying "Yeah" or "Yes" to start a conversation with someone, like American/Canadian customer service people do is still usually considered rude however.
  • Expect South Australians the strech their a's. As Danny Bhoy once described it, the way we pronounce them is like we're falling off a cliff.
    • Victorians, on the other hand, frequently use a short 'a' where the rest of Australia uses a long 'a' - the classic example is pronouncing the word 'castle' more like CASS-el than CAH-sel.
    • Sounds more Tasmanian to me, never heard a Victorian pronounce it that way.
    • It's definitely CASS-el here in Victoria, hence Castlemaine becomes casselmain.
    • Cause officially unknown, but generally thought to be because South Australia was the only part of the continent NOT orginally settle as a penal colony; a South Aussie accent will often sound a bit British to others. Plahnt not plant, dahnce not dance. Also, 'heaps', as in 'the sky's heaps blue today' or simply 'heaps' good will identify a Southern Aussie.

Notes

  1. Perhaps not coincidentally, poorly-attempted New England accents are often said to sound more like Australian than anything actually spoken in New England -- and sometimes, even more Australian than bad attempts at Australian accents.
  2. Cockneys use it just as much, along with a number of other colloquialisms we have inherited.
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