Seppo and the City

So, you wouldn’t know this but “seppo” happens to be short for “septic” or “septic tank”–the Aussie term which refers to a “Yank” or basically an American.  Yes, endearing isn’t it?  You might also be interested to know we’re referred to by another name: “know-it-alls.”

Aussies love their slang.  It’s like an entirely different dialect of English that tends to sound like a series of strange limericks.  Often I feel as though the conversations happening around me are stories between friends who have a long history of inside jokes together, when really that’s just how people talk with one another; whether it’s at a business meeting or at the pub–the tone, the jargon, the jokes–everyone speaks the same.  It’s a lot of jokes, sarcasm, and secret slang spoken at 160 kilometres per hour (or 100 mph) and slurred together into one incredible story.

Ever since I arrived, I’ve been training my ear to listen for certain words and phrases so that I don’t have to keep saying, “Wait–sorry, what did you say?” How annoying to be someone who constantly asks people to repeat simple questions.  For example: “Havehereortakeaway?” asks the frustrated girl taking my order at the local cafe.  That phrase alone took me about a week to get used to.  Have here or take away is all she wanted to know–to have my food here or “dine in” OR to take my food away as in “to go”–UGH.  Now try to imagine hearing that phrase being spoken with not just an Aussie accent, but a blend of other accents: Aussie-Italian, Aussie-Chinese, Aussie-Korean, or Aussie-Lebanese–now you get my drift.  It’s linguistic torture.

If I only knew that “haveheretakeaway” was the simplest of all, and that there would be dozens of other killer combinations of new slang phrases I would have to train my ears to get used to hearing in the coming months.  In the meantime, at least I knew what to say the next time I needed to get food: “Takeaway.”


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