What is Australian English?

“Australian English tells us many things. In the first place, it makes it quite evident that our environment is vastly different from that of Britain. As we etch in the details of this environment with words that Australians have either invented or borrowed from abroad and converted to their own use, we become aware that a distinct picture is emerging which has no more than a vague English counterpart: bush, outback, back blocks, never-never, gibber plains, gully, scrub, creek, station, run, billabong, bombora, channel country, Red Heart, and so on.

“…For some reason, the Australian seems to have a notable capacity for linguistic invention. I believe this flair tells us quite a lot about the Australian character. Not only does it assure us of the Australian’s sharp-witted innovation and adaptability, which have been features of his life since the earliest days of settlement in this country, but it betrays his restless discontent with the orthodoxies of the English language. This latter point may well be one of some significance, for it is quite clearly a rebellion against established authority. Innovation is justified (and inevitable) when the environment of one linguistic community differs from that of another, but here we seem to be confronted with novelty for novelty’s sake.

“It is important to remember that [Australian expressions] are not casual neologisms, used once and then forgotten. Most of them have been long-established as part of the linguistic currency of Australia. Not only do they remind us that, in spite of English and American influences, we have preserved an identity of our own, but they suggest that the spirit of linguistic rebellion runs deep.”

– excerpt from Language and Character by Sidney J. Baker

Interested in learning a few Australian words and phrases? Check out Arvo and Other Aussie Slang.

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3 thoughts on “What is Australian English?

  1. “…the spirit of linguistic rebellion runs deep.” — I liked that one. There IS linguistic creativity among Australians with their variety of English, and we see this all throughout the world. There are many other non-native English speakers who do dare to bend English according to their own particular cultural use.

    I guess it shows us that language is meant to be dynamic.

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