Faces in the Street
a novel by Pip Wilson
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Incorporates 19th-Century Australian slang, not all of which is still used today.
Admiralty House: Located in Kirribilli, on the northern foreshore of Sydney Harbour, it is the Sydney residence of the Governor-General. It is located beside Kirribilli House which is the Sydney residence of the Prime Minister.
Agin: Against; opposed to.
Alko: Alcoholic; also ‘alkie’.
All the go: Popular.
All wool and a yard wide: Very good.
Alley, Toss in the: Expire; give up the ghost.
Amber liquid: Beer.
Anniversary Day: January 26, commemorating the foundation of Australia in 1788; called ‘Australia Day’ since 1946.
Antimacassar: A piece of material, sometimes elaborately decorated, to cover the backs of a chair or sofa to preserve the fabric covering from Macassar hair oil (basically palm oil), popular with men in Victorian times.
Apples, She’ll be; she’s: Everything is all right; She’ll be right (qv); from rhyming slang ‘apples and spice, nice’.
Arse about face: Back to front.
Arse over tit: Head over heels.
Arsey: Lucky, from ‘tin arse’, see ‘Tinny’.
Arvo: Afternoon. Also ‘arves’, ‘the sarves’ (this afternoon).
ASA: Australasian Secular Association.
ASB: Active Service Brigade.
ASL: Australian Socialist League.
ASU: Amalgamated Shearers Union.
AWU: Australian Workers’ Union, one of Australia’s largest and oldest trade unions, tracing its origins to unions founded in the pastoral and mining industries in the 1880s.
Back and fill: Vacillate.
Back blocks: Places beyond city and suburbia.
Back chat: Impudent repartee.
Back of Beyond: Very long way away; Outback (qv).
Back of Bourke: Very long way away; Outback (qv).
Backyard: Garden (UK), yard (USA).
Bacon, bring home the: Bring home the wages; be the money-earner of a family.
Bad lot: A dishonest, disreputable person.
Bad sort, Not a: Not an unfriendly, unkind or bad person; a good person; a good-looking person.
Bad trot: Period of bad fortune.
Bags: An expression meaning ‘claim’, as in ‘I bags the back seat’.
Bail up: Hold up to rob; earbash (qv).
Bakuninite: Follower of Mikhail Bakunin (qv).
Bally: Mild oath, euphemism for ‘bloody’ (qv).
Banana-bender: Person from Queensland.
Bandywallop: Imaginary remote town; Bullamakanka (qv).
Bang up: Make pregnant.
Banger: Sausage, an Australian delicacy.
Bar of soap: ‘Wouldn’t know him (it) from a bar of soap (or from Adam)’, refers to someone or something completely unknown.
Barfly: One who drinks at the bar for long periods.
Barmy: Foolish; silly; insane.
Barney: Argument; blue (qv); stoush (qv).
Barrack: Support and spur on one’s team, hence ‘Scab-barracker’.
Bash the ear: Talk to someone long and annoyingly; also ‘earbash’.
Bash, Give it a: Try something to see if one can do it; burl (qv).
Bastard: Often a term of endearment between males.
Bat, Go into: Act as an advocate for someone; cricket analogy.
Batch: Live as a bachelor, ie, alone, or keep house with a companion when neither is accustomed to housekeeping.
Battle: Work hard. Hence ‘battler’, someone, generally admired, who works hard but barely makes a living.
Beak: Magistrate (possibly from Anglo-Saxon, beag, a magistrate); nose.
Beans: Coins; money.
Beat: Defeated; puzzled (‘It’s got me beat’).
Beat, Off the: Out of the usual routine; off the beaten track.
Beaut; beauty: Great, fantastic.
Bebarfald’s: Sydney department store.
Beef (to beef it out): Declaim vociferously.
Belt up!: Be quiet!
Bend the elbow: Have a drink.
Bickie: Biscuit; cookie (USA).
Biddy: Old woman (derogatory).
Billabong: Waterhole caused when a river meander becomes isolated by siltation; Ox-bow (US).
Billy: Cylindrical tin container for boiling water. Sometimes enameled, and usually with a lid and wire handle. See also ‘Boil the billy’.
Billy cart: Child’s vehicle.
Billyo: Euphemism for ‘buggery’, as in ‘go to billyo’, ‘she laughed like billyo’; ‘scared me to billyo’. Also ‘billyoh’, ‘billy-oh’.
Bindi; bindie-eye; bindii: A sharp burr found in grass.
Binjy: Abdomen, from Dharrug Aboriginal bindhi; also ‘bingy’.
Bishop Barker: Late-19th-Century Sydney and/or New South Wales slang for the tallest glass of beer sold in pubs; named for Frederic Barker (qv), Bishop of Sydney, who was six feet five inches tall and a teetotaller.
Bite; put the bite on: Cadge (qv); bot (qv); bludge (qv); cadge (qv).
Bitser: Mongrel dog (bits o’ this and bits o’ that); also ‘bitzer’.
Bitumen: Macadam road surface (UK), black top (USA).
Black Stump, Beyond the: A long way away, the back of nowhere; out in the bush.
Blackleg: Strikebreaker; scab.
Blanker: Euphemism for ‘bugger’ (qv).
Blanky: Euphemistic and mild oath which derives from blank spaces or dashes used in printed matter to indicate bowdlerised swear words.
Blasted: A mild oath; euphemism for ‘bloody’ (qv).
Blazing: Same as ‘blooming’ (qv).
Blessed: A mild oath; euphemism for ‘bloody’ (qv).
Blighter: A worthless fellow.
Blimey: Euphemistic and mild oath (‘Blind me, God’).
Blind (a.): Drunk.
Blind Freddy: An imaginary person who although blind is capable of seeing the obvious, as in the expression ‘Blind Freddy could see that’.
Blinded: A mild oath; euphemism for ‘bloody’ (qv).
Blinking: A mild oath; euphemism for ‘bloody’ (qv).
Blither: Talk at random, foolishly.
Block: Head; temper, as in ‘do one’s block’, meaning ‘lose one’s temper’. To keep one’s block is to remain calm; dispassionate.
Bloke: A male adult of the genus Homo.
Bloodwood: A kind of gumtree (qv), now considered to be of the genus Corymbia, and not Eucalyptus.
Bloody: Euphemistic oath standing for ‘‘by Our Lady’.
Bloody oath: My word yes! Also, ‘my bloody oath’; ‘my colonial oath’; ‘blood oath’; ‘my oath’.
Blooming: Euphemistic and mild oath standing for ‘bloody’ (qv).
Blow: Waste (as in money); spend quickly (‘He blew his pay in one night’); speak (‘blow hard’).
Blow through: Leave in a hurry; shoot through.
Blowed: Euphemism for ‘buggered’.
Blowie: Blow fly.
Blow-in: Stranger in town.
Bludge: To do nothing at all, be lazy; live off the earnings of prostitution (obsolete); hence ‘bludger’.
Blue: A fight; embarrassing mistake. Also, a nickname for a redheaded person.
Bluey: A blue blanket, generally part of a swag (qv), usually rolled around the swag of belongings, but not the swag itself. Also, a nickname for a redheaded person.
Blue blazes: An intensifier, as in ‘What the blue blazes are you doing?’; ‘drives like blue blazes’.
Blue gum: Eucalyptus globules, a variety of gumtree (qv).
Blue Mountain Railway Station: Now called Lawson, but named for the explorer William Lawson (1774 - 1850), not for our lad.
Blue-arsed fly, Like a: Very, or too, quickly.
Blue-jacket: An enlisted person in the British (or US) Navy.
Bo-peep: A look at something; peep.
Bob’s your uncle: Said to express ease with which something might be accomplished, as in ‘to get to the shops turn right, turn left, then Bob’s your uncle’.
Bobby dazzler: Something that is wonderful.
Bodkin: (Printing term.) An awl or pick for extracting letters from set type.
Boil the billy: Make a cup of tea. Also ‘Put the billy on’. Not necessarily involving a billy (qv); these days both terms may also refer to tea making with electrical appliances.
Bolt: Depart suddenly; also ‘do the bolt’.
Bong-tong: Patrician; fine (French ‘bon ton’).
Bonza: Very good; excellent; also ‘bonzer’.
Boobweed: Prison-issue tobacco.
Boodle: Money; wealth.
Boomer: Adult male kangaroo.
Boot, Put in the: Kick a prostrate opponent.
Boozer: Hotel; person who is a heavy drinker.
Borak, to poke: To main fun of; to ridicule; to play a joke upon.
Boshter: Very good; excellent.
Bosker: Very good; excellent.
Bot (n. and v.): Borrow, usually without repaying the favour (‘He botted a fag off me but I never get one off him’); cadge; bludge; to borrow money, to impose on others, and also ‘botting’, the practice. ‘Cold botting’ is a straight-out request for food at house-doors. In recent times, this has become ‘cold biting’.
Bottle-oh: One who collects bottles for a living.
Bottler: Very good (adj.); a very good thing (n.).
Bottoms up: A drinking toast, like ‘cheers’.
Boxing Day: December 26th; usage in most English-speaking countries except USA.
Brass razoo, He hasn’t got a: He’s very poor.
Breadbasket: Abdomen; belly.
Break (to break away, to do a break): To depart in haste.
Breast up to: Accost.
Brizzie: Brisbane, State capital of Queensland; also ‘Brissie’.
Brown: A copper coin, thus a halfpenny or penny.
Browser: Very good (adj.); a very good thing (n.).
Brum; Brummy: Poor quality; counterfeit.
Brumby: Feral horse.
Buck up: Cheer up.
Buckley’s: Forlorn hope, from ‘You’ve got Buckley’s chance’, ie, no chance at all. Derivation is debated; some have suggested the colloquialism derives from William Buckley (qv). However, the Melbourne department store of Buckley & Nunn opened in 1851, and within a few years the popularity of the store probably lent the phrase ‘You’ve got Buckley’s chance’ the additional punning sense of ‘You’ve got a slim (Buckley’s) chance or none (Nunn) at all’.
Bugger (n. and v.): The process of wrecking or wearing something out, or making a general mess of things (‘You’ll bugger it up’), or like ‘bastard’, a general purpose epithet that can range from endearment to awed surprise to outright hostility (‘He’s a good old bugger’; ‘Well bugger me’; ‘You little bugger!’). Commonly used as a word of exclamation as in ‘Bugger!’ Also, the expression ‘not give (or care) a bugger about’, means ‘not care about at all’. Originally a taboo word, quite commonly used particularly among men (especially working class men in male company) that is no longer considered quite as offensive.
Bugger all: Nothing.
Bugger me dead!: An expression of surprise or dismay. Also, simply ‘bugger me!’.
Bugger off: Go away! (usually offensive).
Buggered: Physically tired; broken (eg, ‘It’s buggered, mate’ or ‘Phil buggered it’); also ‘I’ll be buggered!’, an expression of surprise, or an intention to disallow something (‘I’ll be buggered if I’ll let that stop me’).
Bullamakanka: Imaginary location in the outback.
Bulldust: A mild euphemistic oath.
Bulletin, The: Australia’s best-known literary and news magazine. Founded in 1880 by J Haynes (qv) and JF Archibald (qv) as a nationalist and rather Left-leaning magazine, it became steadily more conservative, supporting conscription during WWI and always supporting the White Australia policy. It was purchased by the conservative Packer corporation in 1961 and in 1984 was subsumed into the Australian edition of Newsweek.
Bumper: Butt of a cigarette or cigar.
Bunch of fives: Fist; punch.
Bundy: A workplace clock which records the attendance of employees when they punch a card in it, hence ‘bundy’ (v.), to clock on or off. Invented by William Bundy in 1888, it was produced by the Bundy Manufacturing Company of Binghampton, New York, which was acquired by IBM in 1889.
Bung (adj.): Gone, ruined, dead.
Bung (v.): Be ruined or dead. Also to put, as ‘Bung it in the cupboard’.
Bunk (v.): Sleep in a bunk or rough bed.
Bunk, Do a (v.): Depart; also ‘bunk off’.
Bunyip: Mythical, frightening bush (qv) creature from Australian Aboriginal mythology. Its favourite prey is human women.
Burl, Give it a: Try it; attempt; ‘have a go’; ‘give it a bash’.
Bush: The hinterland, anywhere that isn’t in town; not necessarily the Outback (qv). However, it may refer to non-city regions generally, and thus a rural town might be referred to (especially by city dwellers) as being ‘in the bush’ or even as ‘the bush’. Sometimes capitalised as ‘the Bush’.
Bush hanky: The emission of mucus through one nostril while blocking the other with a finger. Also, ‘bushman’s hanky’, ‘bushman’s handkerchief’.
Bush Week: Fictitious week when country people come to town; a time of year when foolish things happen or yokels can be rorted (qv), usually found in expressions such as ‘what do you think this is, Bush Week?’, meaning ‘do you think I’m an idiot?’.
Bushman; bushie: One who lives in the bush (qv).
Bushranger: Outlaw who used the Australian bush (qv) as a refuge to hide from the authorities, roughly analogous to the British-American ‘highwayman’.
Bushwhacker: One who lives in the bush.
Butcher’s, Have a: Have a look (rhyming slang, ‘butcher’s hook’, which can also mean ‘crook’, ie, sick). A ‘captain’ (qv).
By jingos: Exclamation of wonder.
Cackyhanded: Left-handed person; one who is a mollydooker.
Cadge: Borrow money or things from.
Call it a day: Finish what you have been doing for the day; ‘Knock off’ (qv).
Canvass: Solicit; hawk (qv).
Caper: Jape (qv), foolish expedition or futile job; sometimes a ‘rort’ (qv).
Captain (Captain Cook): Like ‘Butcher’s’ (qv), from rhyming slang: a look at something or inspection.
Carpet snake: Carpet python, Morelia spilota, a species of medium to large arboreal pythons found in Australia and New Guinea. The average adult length is roughly 2m (6.5 feet).
Carrot top: Redheaded person.
Caser: One crown, ie, five shillings.
Cat burying shit, As busy as a: Very busy.
Century (temperature): 100 degrees Fahrenheit (c. 38 C). In Lawson’s day, Fahrenheit was the scale used in Australia; today it is Celsius (Centigrade).
Cert: Certainty; a foregone conclusion.
Chalking: Printing term meaning to sprinkle powder on paperto prevent or ameliorate the ink failing to dry satisfactorily.
Chase: Metal frame into which type and blocks are locked to make up a page or forme (qv).
Chase yourself: Depart; avaunt; get lost.
Cheque, to pass in one’s: To depart this life.
Cheroot: A cigar with square-cut ends, popular among the British during the days of the British Empire. From French cheroute, from Tamil curuttu/churuttu/shuruttu – roll of tobacco.
Chiack: Vulgar banter; coarse invective.
Chimneypot: Top hat, also called a ‘topper’.
Chin (v.): Talk.
Chin wag: A chat.
China: Friend (rhyming slang, ‘china plate’).
Chink: A native of far Cathay (derogatory).
Chip in: Intervene; join in.
Chit: Invoice, bill, receipt or other accounting paper.
Chiv: The face; phiz or phizog (qv).
Choko: Edible plant (Sechium edule), which belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, and in some countries is called chayote.
Choof; choof off: Go, move; depart.
Chook: Hen or rooster; chicken.
Chook run: An enclosure for poultry.
Choom: Englishman (‘chum’).
Chops; choppers: Teeth.
Chow: (see ‘Chink’), derogatory.
Chuck off, To: To chaff; to employ sarcasm.
Chuffed: Pleased; delighted; happy.
Chum: Friend; mate.
Chump: Foolish fellow.
Circ: Publishing jargon for circulation of a periodical.
Cleansing ale; cleansing one: A beer.
Cliner: A young unmarried female.
Clobber: Raiment; vesture.
Clock (v.): Hit; smite.
Clodhopper: Shoe; foot.
Coast Hospital: A State-owned hospital at Little Bay in south-eastern Sydney, later called the Prince Henry Hospital.
Cobb & Co.: Australian stagecoach company established in 1853 by four Americans, including Freeman Cobb, rising to prominence when bought by James Rutherford and several partners.
Cobber: Friend; mate.
Cockie: Farmer. Also ‘boss cockie’, boss.
Codger: Foolish old fellow.
Codswallop: Nonsense; lies.
Come a cropper: Have an accident; fall down; fail badly. Also ‘croppa’.
Come a gutser: Make a bad mistake; have an accident; come a cropper (qv).
Comeuppance: Just desserts; retribution.
Comp: Compositor; person whose job is to compose type or put together pages of type.
Conk (v.): Hit; smite.
Conked out: Exhausted; expired.
Cooee: A call (‘Coo-eee!’) made in the bush (qv) to attract another person.
Cooee, Within: Nearby. ‘He lives within cooee of Sydney.’
Cook: One’s wife.
Coolgardie safe: A home-made refrigerator invented in the late 1890s and named for the Western Australian gold rush town where it might have been invented. It was made of wire mesh, hessian, a wooden frame and had a water-filled galvanised iron tray on top. It was usually placed on a veranda and where there was a breeze, and used the principle of cooling by evaporation of the wet hessian.
Coot: Person of no account.
Cop (n): Police constable; job (‘He’s on a fair cop’).
Cop (v.): Receive, seize or experience, as in ‘cop it sweet’ (take it well; take it on the chin), ‘I copped a lot of criticism (or praise) for that job’.
Copper: Police constable; penny or halfpenny.
Coppertop: Redheaded person.
Copy: Written material for publication.
Cork-tugger: Heavy drinker.
Corker: An excellent thing.
Corroboree: Aboriginal dance ceremony.
Cosme: The breakway Paraguay colony from New Australia (qv), 72 km south of the first colony. Cosme was led by William Lane (qv) after over conflicts at New Australia over prohibition of alcohol, relations with the native people and Lane’s strict leadership itself.
Cot: Bed, as in ‘hit the cot’ (‘go to bed’).
Count, To take the: In boxing, to remain prostrate for ten counted seconds, and thus lose the fight.
Counter lunch: Hotel lunch.
Cove: A chap or bloke (qv).
Cow: A thoroughly unworthy, obnoxious and despicable, person, place, thing, or circumstance.
Cows come home, Till the: A long wait.
Cracker (adj.): Excellent.
Cracker (n.): Something of little worth, as in ‘I haven’t got a cracker’, ie, ‘I am without money’. Alternatively, something of great worth, as in ‘That’d be a cracker’.
Cracking: First-rate; fine; excellent; fast; vigorous (‘a cracking pace’).
Cracking, Get: Start an activity, especially energetically.
Crackpot (adj.): Eccentric; insane; impractical.
Crackpot (n.): Eccentric or insane person.
Cranky: In a bad mood; irritable; angry.
Crikey: Euphemistic, mild oath; expression of surprise, shock or dismay. The expression was considered obsolete, or at least obsolescent, by the 1960s, but revived early in the 21st Century by TV naturalist Steve Irwin.
Crim: A criminal.
Cripes: Euphemistic, mild oath; expression of surprise, shock or dismay.
Croak: Pass away.
Cronky: Bad quality; rotten.
Crook: Unwell; dishonest; spurious; poorly made; dysfunctional; fraudulent; unfortunate. For example ‘I’m feeling a bit crook after that puftaloon’; ‘That’s a bit crook that they sacked you, Jim’. Superlative: ‘dead crook’. Also, angry or remonstrative, as in ‘Go crook on someone’.
Cropper, Come a: See ‘Come a cropper’.
Crow: (Derogatory) unattractive woman (‘an old crow’). Phrase, ‘starve (or stiffen, or stone) the crows!’, an exclamation of astonishment.
Crow-eater: Person from South Australia.
Crown: Five shillings; also ‘caser’ (qv) or ‘dollar’ (qv).
Crust: Sustenance; livelihood or the money earned thereby.
Cunning as a shithouse rat: Very cunning and underhanded.
Currency (adj. or n.): Born in Australia, as opposed to sterling, one born in Britain or Ireland; one born in Australia, as in ‘currency lass (or lad)’. The metaphor derives from the two types of legal tender in use in 19th- Century Australia.
Curry: Trouble or strife, as in ‘He thinks he’s safe but I’ll give him curry (or a bit of curry)’.
Cushy: Easy; requiring little effort (as in a job).
Cuss (n.): Person or animal; curse ‘I do not care a (tinker’s) cuss’), meaning not to care at all. Originally 18th-Century US slang.
Cuss (v.): Curse; speak profanely.
Cut: Angry or upset (also ‘cut up’). Also drunk, eg ‘He’s half cut’.
Cut it out: Omit it; discontinue it. Usually spoken in the imperative.
Dag: Simple person, or dried excreta around the anus of a sheep. Both worthy of excision.
Dago: A native of Southern Europe (derogatory).
Damage, What’s the: How much does it cost?
Damp squib: An event which people hope to be exciting but which disappoints. From ‘squib’, or ‘electric match’, a small explosive device used in pyrotechnics.
Damper: Unleavened bread made from flour and water, generally cooked in the coals of a campfire.
Darling, The: Australia’s longest river.
Dart, Old: See ‘Old Dart’.
Dash, Do one’s: Reach one’s Waterloo.
Dashed: A mild oath; euphemism for ‘damned’.
David Jones: Large Sydney department store.
Dawn and Dusk Club: Bohemian club of which Henry Lawson was a member. Founded by Victor Daley (qv). Foundation members of the ‘the Duskers’, a small and exclusive group of intemperate carousers, were Daley, Fred J Broomfield (qv), James Philp (qv), Herbert Low (journalist), William Bede Melville (a reporter for the Sydney newspaper, The Star), Bertram Stevens (qv) and Randolph Bedford (qv). It was formed at Broomfield’s home on the corner of Ice Road and Great Barcom Street, Darlinghurst, near St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney about September, 1898. Daley was elected ‘Symposiarch’ of the Duskers and the seven ‘heptarchs’ were Lawson, Stevens, Nelson Illingworth (qv), Frank P Mahony (qv), George Augustine Taylor (qv), Con Lindsay (journalist), and Philp, who drafted the rules. Artist Norman Lindsay (qv) was also a member. Truth magazine publisher John Norton (qv) called them “a band of boozy, bar-bumming bards”.
Dead: In a superlative degree; very.
Dead spit: Dead ringer (see ‘Ringer’).
Dead to rights: Rightfully accused or punished, as in ‘The police got me dead to rights as I really was speeding’.
Deck, To: To hit someone so they hit the ground.
Deener: Shilling; one-twentieth of a pound (possibly from Denarius, a Roman silver coin).
Dekko: Brief look or inspection; squiz (qv).
Derro: Homeless person (from ‘derelict’).
Devonshire tea: A mid-morning or mid-afternoon small meal generally comprising tea, scones (qv), whipped cream, and strawberry jam.
Dial (n.): Face.
Digger: Gold prospector; soldier (from WWI on); term of endearment among males (‘G’day, digger’).
Digs: Residence; accommodation.
Dill: An idiot.
Ding-dong (adj.): Strenuously fought (‘a ding-dong argument’).
Ding-dong: Fight; stoush (qv).
Dingo: Australian native dog; cunning, bad person.
Dinki-di: Fair dinkum (qv).
Dinkum: Fair dinkum (qv).
Dinkum oil: The truth (see ‘Oil’).
Dinner: The mid-day meal, less often called ‘lunch’. See also ‘Tea’. Done like a dinner means ‘comprehensively outwitted or defeated’.
Dip (n.): Pickpocket.
Dirk: A long dagger sometimes worn as a part of traditional Scottish costume.
Dirty: Angry; resentful (eg, ‘I’m a bit dirty on George’); formidable, as in ‘He has a dirty left (fist)’.
Ditch (v.): Discontinue a relationship with; get rid of; throw away.
Ditch, The: The Tasman Sea, that part of the South Pacific Ocean that keeps Australians and New Zealanders from jobbing (qv) each other.
Divvies: Dividends; profits.
DJ’s: David Jones’s (qv), Sydney department store.
Do (n.): Event, function or party.
Do a get: Go away.
Do one’s block: See ‘Block’.
Dob: Betray, report (someone) as for a misdemeanour.
Docket: Invoice, bill, receipt or other accounting paper (chit, qv).
Dog: A contemptible person; mongrel (qv); ostentation; police informer (prison slang).
Dollar: Five shillings, a crown (obsolete).
Donah: A young woman; a sweetheart or girlfriend; (specifically) a female counterpart of a larrikin.
Done like a dinner: See ‘Dinner’.
Donkeys’: Donkeys’ years, a term meaning ‘for a very long time’.
Donnybrook: Fight or argument; brawl. Also ‘donneybrook’, ‘donny’. From a fair held annually until 1855 at Donnybrook, Dublin, famous for drunken, riotous behaviour.
Doss: Sleep; stay in accommodation, often of the cheaper kind.
Dosser: One who stays in a dosshouse.
Dosshouse: Cheap lodging house, usually for men only.
Dover: Bush knife. Flash one’s dover, ‘prepare to eat’. ‘The run of one’s dover’, as much to eat as one wants. From a brand of knives and shears.
Doxie: Girlfriend; young woman.
Draughts: The game of checkers (USA).
Drink with the flies: To drink alone; do a Tommy Woodser (qv); drink on one’s pat (qv).
Drive a quill: Write with a pen; work in an office.
Drongo: Dope; stupid person; dill (qv); galah (qv).
Dud (n.): Any thing or person that proves a failure; an empty bottle.
Duds: Personal apparel, esp. trousers.
Duffer: Stock rustler; silly person (used as a mild remonstrance).
Dunny: Toilet, the appliance or the room – especially one in a separate outside building; lavvie (qv).
Durry: Cigarette, possibly from Bull Durham, a brand of roll-your-own tobacco.
Dutch: German; used of any native of Central Europe (in Lawson’s time).
Dutch courage: False or foolish courage arising from alcohol drinking.
Dymock’s: Bookshop, situated in the 1890s in George Street Sydney beneath the Royal Hotel. Founded by William Dymock (qv).
Earbash: Talk too much; nag; also ‘earbending’.
Early opener: Hotel which opens for trade before normal hours.
Eat it: Find it easy (‘You’ll eat it, mate.’)
Eh?: I beg your pardon?; excuse me, I didn’t hear you. Pronounced like the letter ‘A’.
Elbow grease: Effort applied to physical work, as in digging, painting, etc.
Electorate: Electoral district; parliamentary seat.
End up, To get one’s: To rise to one’s feet.
Eucalyptus: See ‘Gumtree’.
Eureka Rebellion (Eureka Stockade): A gold miners’ revolt in 1854 in Victoria, Australia against the officials supervising the gold-mining region of Ballarat due to many reasons, including heavily priced mining items and the expense of a digging licence. It is often regarded as being an event of equal significance to Australian history as the storming of the Bastille was to French history or the Battle of the Alamo to the history of the United States, but almost equally often dismissed as an event of little long-term consequence. Although the revolt failed, it was a watershed event in Australian politics, and is often described as the ‘Birth of Australian Democracy’.
Fair: Extreme; positive.
Fair cop: Something that is deserved.
Fair crack of the whip!: Exclamation meaning ‘Be fair!’, ‘Give me a fair go! (qv)’.
Fair dinkum: Honest; true, real, genuine.
Fair jack of: Very sick of.
Fair thing: A wise proceeding; an obvious duty.
Farmer’s: Large Sydney Department store in George Street.
Fib: Lie, speak an untruth.
Field day: A very good or successful time, from the term meaning an agricultural show or fair.
Fifty: ‘Half-and-half’, that is, a beer that is half old (qv) and new (qv); from ‘fifty-fifty’.
Fist, Make a good fist of something: To do or attempt something well.
Fizgig: Police agent.
Flabbergasted: Amazed; surprised.
Flam: Nonsense; make believe.
Flaming: Euphemistic and mild oath.
Flash: Ostentatious; showy but counterfeit (eg, ‘flash as a rat with a gold tooth’).
Flat out: Busy.
Flat out like a lizard drinking: Extremely flat out (qv).
Flies: Fly, ie, the buttons in the front of a pair of trousers where today there is usually a zip.
Float (v.): Give up the ghost.
Floater: A pea floater (qv).
Flog: Whip; sell.
Florin: A silver coin worth two shillings. Term obsolescent even before 1966 when decimal currency replaced pounds, shillings and pence.
Foot, My: A term expressing ridicule.
Footpath: Paved walkway running parallel to a street or road, and known in some other countries as a sidewalk or pavement.
Forme: Matter (type or blocks) assembled into a chase (qv) ready for printing.
Fort Denison, see ‘Pinchgut’.
Fortnight: Two weeks.
Fossick: Prospect for minerals, especially gold; search; rummage (‘fossicking in the shed’).
Four-be-two: Length of timber four by two inches.
Frame: The body.
Freeo: Fremantle, Western Australia, the port for the state capital, Perth.
Front: Bravado, courage, as in ‘He has more front than Mark Foy’s’.
Fruiterer: One who sells fruit and vegetables.
Full as a boot: Very drunk.
Full as a Catholic school (or Catholic school bus): Very drunk.
Full as a goog: Very drunk.
Furniture: Printing term for pieces of wood that hold type in place in a chase (qv).
G’day; gidday: Hello; good day.
Galah: Fool, silly person. Named after the bird of the same name because of its antics and relative lack of sense.
Galley; galley proof: Printing term for a column of typesetting.
Game (adj.): Brave; daring (‘Game as Ned Kelly’).
Game (n.): Occupation; profession; scheme; design.
Gander, Have a: Have a look.
Gasbag: Talk too much.
Gawsave: ‘God Save the Queen’, the Australian National Anthem in Lawson’s time.
Gay house: Bawdy house; brothel.
Gazob: Fool; blunderer.
Gee up: Spoken command to horses to make them go faster; giddy-up.
Gee whiz: Exclamation expressing surprise.
Giftie: Diminutive of ‘gift’, Scottish.
Gissa: Give us a (qv).
Give us: Give me.
Gizzard: Stomach; heart.
GLU: General Labourers Union.
Goanna: Australian (and to an extent Australasian) lizards belonging to the Varanus genus (monitor lizards) are called Goannas. The name presumed to be derived from ‘iguana’, as early European settlers likened them to the South American lizards. Also a playful rhyming name for ‘piano’.
Gob: Mouth, moosh (qv).
Good as gold: Very good, sometimes used as an expression of contentment or agreement.
Good job: It is just as well; it is good thing.
Good oil; dinkum oil: The truth; the necessary information; a good idea.
Good onya: Good for you, well done.
Goog, As full as a: Drunk.
Goog, googie: Egg (short ‘oo’ sound to rhyme with ‘look’); a variation of the northern English slang word ‘goggie’ meaning an egg.
Gorsake: God’s sake.
GPO, Sydney: General Post Office, in Martin Place Sydney; the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere for many years.
Grafter: One who toils hard or willingly.
Griffin, The straight: The truth, secret information.
Grill: To cook under the griller (‘broil’ in USA).
Grinning like a shot fox: Grinning very widely; smugly satisfied.
Grip: Occupation; employment.
Grog: Alcoholic beverages in general.
Groggy: Unsteady; dazed.
Grub: Food; dirty person.
Guinea: One pound (qv) and one shilling (qv). Many things were paid in guineas, such as works of art, and sometimes writer’s fees.
Gumtree; gum tree: Eucalyptus, a diverse genus of trees (rarely shrubs), almost 600 species of which dominate the tree flora of Australia; in fact, no other continent is so characterised by a single genus of tree as Australia is by eucalypts.
Gunna: Going to; same as ‘gonna’ (USA).
Gurgler: Plug hole, something has failed. Gone down the gurgler means ‘failed’.
Gutful; Gut full, To have a: To have one’s fill; to be sick of.
Gutser, Come a: See ‘Come a gutser’.
Gyp, To: To cheat.
Haggle (n.): One who haggles (qv).
Haggle (v.): Bargain; talk the price down.
Hair of the dog: Alcoholic beverage taken to relieve a hangover.
Half a mo: Please wait a moment (half a moment).
Half your luck!: Congratulations, given in a more or less envious way.
Halfpence; halfpenny; ha’penny: A copper coin, half a penny. Hence the expression, ‘He’s had more kicks than halfpence’, meaning ‘He’s had many setbacks’, ie, he (the coin) has been in more pockets (see ‘Kick’) than a halfpenny.
Hang a mouse on: Give someone a black eye.
Hang on a tick: Please wait for moment.
Hawk: Canvass (qv); sell, door to door or on the street.
Hawker: Salesman (often door-to-door); one who sells but is not a shopkeeper.
Hayseed: A rustic or yokel.
Head browns: Toss pennies in two-up (qv).
Head over turkey: Head over heels.
Heart starter: Alcoholic drink usually early in the morning often as a remedy for a hangover (see ‘Hair of the dog’).
High-faluting: High sounding; boastful.
Hit the sack: Retire to bed.
Hitch (v.): Wed.
Hitched: Entangled in the bonds of holy matrimony.
Hock: Pawn, hence ‘hockshop’, a pawnbroker’s.
Hogmanay: Scottish celebration of New Year’s Eve.
Holtermann: The Holtermann Nugget, found in 182 at the Hill End - Tambaroora gold field, NSW. Still the largest mass of gold found anywhere in the world, it contained approximately 250 troy oz (85 kg) of gold.
Home: A term commonly used in 19th-Century Australia for ‘Britain’.
Homestead: Main residence on a sheep or cattle station (qv).
Hooligan: Aggressive young man; yobbo (qv), yahoo (qv) or larrikin (qv).
Hornsby line: A railway line from Sydney to Hornsby, about 25 km north.
Hot socks: Gaily coloured hose favoured by the larrikin (qv).
Hot under the collar: Angry.
Huey, Send it down,: ‘Bring on the rain!’ Usually said when it rains to break a drought.
Hump, The: A fit of depression.
Hump, To: Popularly, to carry as a swag (qv) or other burden. Henry Lawson denies that the term was widely used, and writes: “You do not ‘hump bluey’ – you simply ‘carry your swag’ (‘Some Popular Australian Mistakes’, The Bulletin, 1893).
Humpy: A rough shack in the bush (qv).
I-tie: Italian (derogatory).
Iguana: Goanna (qv).
Ikey Moe: A person of the Hebraic persuasion (Isaac Moses; derogatory).
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies): International labor union founded in Chicago in June 1905, currently headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. It contends that all workers should be united within a single union as a class and the wage system abolished. In 1911 it was founded as a union in Adelaide, which became its national administration centre, and was later transferred to Sydney. The Unlawful Associations Act of 1916 made membership of the IWW an offence punishable by six months in prison.
Ink table: Part of a letterpress machine; a circular plate of metal on which ink is spread.
Jack of: Fed up with.
Jape: Prank; lark (qv).
Jerry: Chamber pot.
Jerry-built: Badly constructed.
Jiff; jiffy: A very brief period.
Jim Crow: ‘Jim Crow’ Laws were enacted in the Southern and border states of the USA; in force between 1876 and 1967, they required racial segregation.
Jim-jams: Delirium tremens.
Job, Good: See ‘Good job’.
Job, To: To smite.
Joe Blake: Snake (rhyming slang).
Joes: Melancholy thoughts; depression.
Johnny cake: Simple cake made from flour and water, sometimes with salt and dried fruit added.
Josser: A simple fellow.
Jumbuck: Male of the sheep species.
Jumper: Pullover, usually woollen; sweater (USA).
Kalsomine: A kind of paint containing zinc oxide, water, glue, and colouring matter, used as a wash for walls and ceilings. Variant of calcimine.
Keen as mustard: Very keen; from Keen’s, a maker of condiments.
Keeps, For: For ever; permanently.
Kelpie: Australian sheepdog originally bred from Scottish collie, bred in Australia at the end of the 19th Century.
Kerfuffle: A confused situation; commotion; rumpus; argument. Also, ‘kafuffle’. Dates in this form from the 1940s; from Scottish curfuffle, ‘disorder’.
Kibosh: A checking or restraining element, as in ‘The boss put the kibosh on my pay rise’. Also ‘kybosh’. Rarely the word means ‘nonsense’.
Kick in: Contribute money to something.
Kiddies: Children; littlies (qv).
Kinetoscope: Edison’s pioneering movie projector. In November, 1894, a Sydney entrepreneur staged the world’s first ‘movie’ projection, about a year before the Lumiere Brothers in Paris. In the first five weeks of showing, 22,000 moviegoers paid a shilling each at the Kinetoscope parlour at 148 Pitt Street.
King pin: Leader; boss.
Kip (n.): Sleep or nap. Also ‘Kipsie’. Otherwise, small wooden chip used for tossing pennies in the game of two-up (qv).
Kip (v.): Sleep or nap. Also ‘Kipsie’.
Kiwi: Of New Zealand.
Knights of Labor: A labor union founded in secrecy in December 1869, by a group of USA tailors led by Uriah S Stephens. Originally called The Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor. The ‘Order’ was secretly brought to Australia around 1890 by WW Lyght. Larry Petrie (qv) was one of the earliest joiners, at Wagga Wagga. The Freedom Assembly, which operated secretly in Sydney and Melbourne in the early 1890s, had as members well-known Australian labor movement people such as William Lane (qv), Ernie Lane (qv), Arthur Rae (qv), George Black (qv), WG Spence (qv), WHT McNamara (qv) and Henry Lawson.
Knock back (v.): Refuse.
Knock off: Finish work; steal.
Labor/Labour: Note: In Australia, the shift from the spelling of labour’ to ‘labor’ (as in ‘Australian Labor Party’) excusively in regard to industrial matters has its origins in American influences such as the Knights of Labor (qv) and dates from about 1892.
Lagging: A term of imprisonment (prison slang).
Lair: Ostentatiously dressed young man of brash, vulgar behaviour; to dress up in flashy clothes; to renovate or dress up something in bad taste. Also, ‘mug lair’. Hence ‘laired up’.
Land of the Long White Cloud: New Zealand.
Lark: Practical joke; sportive jest (see ‘Skylark’).
Larrikin: Originally, a hoodlum member of a push (qv); in recent times, a harmless prankster.
Lav; lavvie: Lavatory; toilet.
LEL: Labor Electoral League, forerunner of the Australian Labor Party.
Lemon Syrup Case: A sensational poisoning murder trial in Sydney in 1895 which strongly divided the community. Richard Meagher (qv) and Patrick Crick (qv), defence lawyers in the case, were later charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Lie doggo: Hide away; lay low.
List to starboard (n): Lean to the right.
Litho: Lithography; printing.
Littlie: Young child; nipper (qv).
Lizard drinking: See ‘Flat out like a lizard drinking’.
Lob, lob in: Arrive; drop in to see someone (‘the rellies have lobbed’).
Lollies: Sweets, candy.
London to a brick on: Absolute certainty (betting expression: so certain of the outcome that one is willing to bet London to win only a brick).
Long Bay: Long Bay Gaol (jail), a Sydney prison.
Long drop: An outside lavatory; a dunny (qv).
Long paddock: The side of the road where livestock is grazed during droughts.
Loo: Woolloomooloo, a dockside part of Sydney.
Lord Muck: Man who puts on airs and graces.
Lout: A rough, offensive young man; hooligan (qv).
Lower (a beer): To drink a beer.
Lug (n): Ear.
Lug (v.): Carry.
Lurk: A plan of action; a regular occupation; illegal or underhanded racket or rort (qv).
Mad: Insane (rarely ‘angry’ as in USA).
Mad as a cut snake: Quite insane.
Mag: To scold or talk noisily; to chat.
Mallee: A species of Eucalypt; ‘The Mallee’ is the arid beef country in Victoria/South Australia where the Mallee grows.
Mallee bull, As fit as a: Very fit and strong.
Malone, Pat: See ‘Pat Malone’.
Manchester: Household linen, eg, sheets etc.
Maoriland: New Zealand.
Mark Foy’s, More front than: Very courageous, impudent and/or brash (see ‘Front’). Mark Foy’s was a large Sydney department store.
Marseillaise, La: A song written and composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in 192. It became the rallying call of the French Revolution and was so called because it was first sung on the streets by troops from Marseille upon their arrival in Paris. Now the national anthem of France, it was in its earliest years the anthem of the international socialist movement.
Matchgirls’ Strike: Yellow or white phosphorus, used on matches in 19th-Century Britain, caused yellowing of the skin, hair loss and ‘phossy jaw’ (a necrosis of the jaw) in the young women who worked in the Bryant & May match factory. On June 23, 1888, Annie Besant (qv), HH Champion (qv), William Booth (qv) and Catherine Booth campaigned for the workers, leading the first British strike by unorganised workers to gain national publicity, helping to inspire the formation of unions all over Britain and around the world.
Mate: Pal, friend.
Matilda: Popularly, the bedding, sleeping roll of a swagman (qv). However, Lawson wrote: “A swag is not generally referred to as a ‘bluey’ or ‘Matilda’ – it is called a ‘swag’.” (‘Some Popular Australian Mistakes’, The Bulletin, 1893).
Metho: Methylated spirits, or one who habitually drinks them.
Mick: A Roman Catholic or Irish person (derogatory).
Mix it: Fight.
Mizzle: Disappear; depart suddenly.
Mo: Moustache; also abbreviation of ‘moment’, as in ‘half a mo’ (qv).
Mob: Group of sheep or people.
Mongrel: Despicable person; despicable dog or one of mixed ancestry. Like many other such terms of abuse, ‘mongrel’ may be used between male friends as terms of affection.
Moniker: Name; title; signature.
Moosh: Mouth; face.
Moth owl: The Australian Owlet-nightjar, Aegotheles cristatus, the smallest of Australia’s nocturnal birds.
Mouse, Hang a mouse on: See ‘Hang a mouse’.
Muck: Manure; mess.
Mud map: A roughly hand-drawn map.
Mug (n.): A fool (often as a friendly insult); also the face.
Mulga: Bush; wilderness regions, (‘up the mulga’).
Mullock: Earth dug up from a hole or mine.
Mullock, Poke: Deride; tease; poke borak (qv); chiack (qv).
Muster: Round up sheep, cattle, people or things.
My oath: A mild oath meaning ‘certainly’; ‘my word’ (qv).
My word: A very mild oath meaning ‘certainly’; ‘indeed, yes’.
NACSA: New Australia Co-operative Settlement Association.
Nark (n.): Spoil-sport; a churlish fellow; possibly a wowser (qv).
Nark (v.): To annoy; to foil.
Narked: Angered; foiled.
Narky: Short tempered.
Navvy: Manual labourer; ditch-digger.
Never Never: The Outback; distant and mythologised interior of Australia.
New: New beer; a light-coloured lager.
New Australia: (Colonia Nueva Australia), utopian socialist community or colony founded by William Lane (qv) and some 238 followers in Paraguay on September 28, 1893. Kropotkin (qv) wrote: “The fact that men and women, who have made Australia what it is, are compelled to migrate from it, speaks volumes in itself. ‘Make the land, be the dung which renders it productive, build the centres of civilisation which render it valuable – and go away!’ That is the true picture of modern capitalist management. The same here, the same at the antipodes – always the same!” Colonist Tom Westwood wrote: “I can’t help feeling that the movement cannot result in success if that incompetent man Lane continues to mismanage so utterly as he has done up to the present”, and indeed the colony split, resulting in the foundation of Cosme (qv), founded by Lane and those loyal to him. Both settlements petered out over some years. Some descendants of the New Australia colonists still live in Paraguay.
Newchum: Inexperienced newcomer. Often a Briton.
Newt: See ‘Pissed as a newt’.
Nip: Glass of spirit; shot (USA).
Nipper: Small child, usually a boy.
No-hoper: Somebody who’ll never do well; an annoying person.
Nob, Big: A rich or prominent person.
Nod, The: Assent.
Noggin: Head; brains.
Nong, or ning-nong: Idiot, moron.
Nosebag: Food; a meal.
Nosh: Food; eat (Yiddish via Cockney).
Nosy parker: Prying person; meddler; stickybeak (qv).
NSW: The State of New South Wales, Australia (or, colony prior to 1901).
NSWR: New South Wales Railways.
NSWTA: New South Wales Typographical Association.
Oath, My: See ‘My oath’.
Offsider: Assistant, helper.
Oil: Information. See also ‘Good oil’.
Old: Old beer; a dark-coloured lager.
Old cheese: One’s mother.
Old Dart: England.
Old Nick: Satan.
Oopizootics: An undiagnosed complaint.
Out, All: Quite exhausted; fully extended.
Out, Tea: See ‘Tea out’.
Outback: Interior of Australia; desert country, not just ‘the bush’ which may refer to country not far from cities and towns.
Overlander: Stockman; drover; one who drives sheep or cattle overlong distance in the Outback.
Paddock: Fenced field or meadow.
Pakapoo (pak-a-pu) ticket: A term applied to illegible handwriting or any document difficult to read. A worthless or messy piece of paper, or something that is confusing, from Chinese bai ge piao ‘white pigeon ticket’ in Australia gaming, a Chinese version of lotto, in which betting tickets were filled in with Chinese characters.
Pal: Friend; mate.
Palaver: Blither; nonsense.
Pannikin: Small pan or cup (usually of tinplate).
Pat Malone, On one’s: Alone (rhyming slang); single-handed. Also simply ‘on one’s pat’.
Pat, On one’s: See ‘Pat Malone’.
Patch, It’s not a patch to: It does not bear comparison well, as in ‘They sold me English peas but they weren’t a patch to the Australia ones’. Also ‘Not a patch on’.
Pea floater: An Australian delicacy comprising a meat pie, mashed peas or pea soup, sometimes mashed potato and usually gravy poured over the top to deaden the pain.
Pearler: An excellent example of something.
Pelf: Money, wealth, or riches, especially if obtained dishonestly (archaic).
Phiz, phizog: The face (physiognomy).
Pick: Begin a fight with someone.
Picker-up: Shearer’s assistant who carries the fleeces.
Pie eyed: Drunk.
Piece: Article, as in a newspaper.
Pike; pike out: Behave as a piker (qv).
Piker: Coward; sometimes, one who lets others down by not joining in, one who opts out of an arrangement or challenge or does not do their fair share.
Pimp: Older slang for a police informer; one who lives off the immoral earnings of a woman; dobber (qv).
Pinch (n.): An arrest.
Pinch (v.): Steal; place under arrest.
Pinchgut: Fort Denison, in Sydney Harbour, a former penal site and defensive facility occupying a small island located off the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Pipe-opener: Alcoholic drink, especially one taken early in the day, often as a remedy for a hangover.
Pissed as a parrot: Very drunk.
Pissed as a newt: Totally drunk.
Pitt Street farmer: (NSW) one who owns a country property but lives in Sydney.
Platen: The exterior part of the printer on which the printing material rests before going into the printer.
Pleased as Punch: Extremely happy; tickled pink (qv).
Plummy: High class; affected as in ‘plummy accent’.
Plurry: Euphemism for ‘bloody’ (qv).
PM-G: Postmaster-General (both the official and the government department).
Po: Chamber-pot; jerry (qv). Phrase, ‘full as a family po’, extremely full or drunk. From French pot de chamber.
Podgy: Fat; plump.
Poison: Alcoholic beverage, as in ‘What’s your poison?’, meaning ‘What are you drinking?’.
Pom, pommy, pommygrant: English person.
Pong: Unpleasant odour; to smell badly.
Pony: A seven-ounce beer glass.
Poonce: Male homosexual; effeminate male; sometimes, idiot. Also, ‘ponce’; ‘poon’.
Pork chop: Silly, as in phrase ‘silly as a pork chop’.
Port Jackson: Sydney Harbour.
Posh: Wealthy or striving to appear so. First known written use of the word: Blackwood’s Magazine, CXCVIII, 1915; 255/2: ‘Posh may be defined, very roughly, as a useless striving after gentlemanly culture’.
Postie: Postman, mail delivery person.
Pot: Considerable amount, as a ‘pot of money’; also, a glass of beer.
Pound: A sum of money equivalent to twenty shillings. Approximately half a working man’s wages in the 1890s. A pound may be a bank note or gold coin (sovereign). In prison slang: the punishment cells in a prison.
Pozzy: Position (‘Let’s get there early so we can get a good possie’). Also, ‘possie’, ‘pozzie’.
Precious: Very, as in ‘Precious little to eat’.
Press ganger: One who forces another into naval service.
Printer’s devil: An apprentice in a printing establishment.
PSL: Progressive Spiritualist Lyceum.
Pub, public: Public house, a hotel or tavern.
Public Circus: Public service; civil service.
Public servant: Government employee, or (in British English) a civil servant.
Publican: The licensee of a hotel.
Pudding: In Australia, any dessert.
Puftaloon: A scone (qv) made from plain damper (qv) dough fried in fat.
Pull: Printing terms for a page or galley (qv) proof.
Pull the other one: ‘You don’t fool me, pull the other leg’.
Push: A company of rowdy fellows gathered together for ungentle purposes.
Put that in yer pipe and smoke it: Take that.
Put the wind up: Frighten or intimidate.
QSU: Queensland Shearers Union.
Quid: Slang term for a sovereign (qv), or pound (qv). £1 (one pound) became $2 (two dollars) when Australia converted to decimal currency on February 14, 1966. A dollar became a ‘buck’, but the term ‘quid’ survives to a certain extent, usually in metonymy.
Quid, Pull a; Make a: Earn a living.
Quoin: Expandable metal or wooden wedge used by letterpress printers to lock up a form within a chase (qv).
Rabbit, Run the: Convey liquor from a public-house.
Rafferty’s rules: No rules at all; a shemozzle (qv).
Rag (n.): Newspaper.
Rag, Sky the: Throw a towel into the air in token of surrender (pugilism).
Rat: Street urchin; wharf loafer; despised fellow.
Ratbag: Crazy or unworthy person; mild insult.
Rats, ratty: Mentally unbalanced (‘He’s rats!’ or ‘She’s ratty.’).
Rattled: Excited; confused.
Ream: A quantity of paper; 480 or 500 sheets; one ream equals twenty quires.
Rellie or rello: Family relative.
Rhyming slang: A form of English slang which originated in the East End of London. Many of its expressions have passed into common language, and the creation of new ones is no longer restricted to Cockneys. Australian English shares some Cockney rhyming slang and also has many of its own terms. In United States some common slang seems to have had its origin in Cockney rhyming slang: ‘raspberry’, for example, shortened from ‘raspberry tart’ means ‘fart’. Rhyming slang, however, was popularised in Australia the 1900s and relatively few examples are found earlier.
Ribuck: Correct, genuine; an interjection signifying assent; okay. Also, ‘ryebuck’. Earlier in British slang rybeck, meaning ‘profit’, from Yiddish or German reibach, profit.
Ridgy-didge: Original, genuine. Also, ‘ridgie-didge’.
Right, She’ll be: It’ll be all right.
Right, That’d be: Expression showing acceptance of bad news as inevitable. (‘I went to Melbourne but it was raining.’ ‘Yeah, that’d be right.’)
Rightyo: Interjection indicating approval, agreement or readiness (as, for example, calling on a building site when the concrete mixer may finish pouring). Also, ‘rightio’, ‘righto’, ‘right-oh’, ‘righty-ho’.
Ring-in: Replacement for the real thing (as with a racehorse); impostor.
Ringer; Dead ringer: Person or thing that closely resembles another, as in ‘He was a dead ringer for Geoff’, also ‘dead ring’, ‘dead spit’.
Rise, A: An accession of fortune; an improvement; pay raise (USA).
Robert’s your avuncular relative: Bob’s your uncle (qv).
Robinson Crusoe: The only one, as in ‘So he has money problems? Well, he’s not Robinson Crusoe’.
Rocks, The: A dockside locality in Sydney.
Rocky: Rockhampton, Queensland.
Ron: Later on (elision).
Roo: Kangaroo, as in ‘She’s got a few roos loose in the top paddock’, meaning slightly insane.
Rookwood: Sydney’s main cemetery. To be ‘crook as Rookwood’ means to be very ill.
Root (v. and n.): Synonym for ‘fuck’ in nearly all its senses. For example, ‘rooted’ means very weary.
Ropeable: Very angry.
Rort (v. or n.): Cheating, fiddling, defrauding (expenses, the system etc.). Often used of politicians. A sly deal; cheating.
Rotten: Very inebriated.
Roundback: One of the four cast-off parts of a log when it has been sawn for square timber, used for fencing or wall cladding.
Rouseabout: Jackaroo (qv); roustabout (USA).
Rub-a-dub-dub: Pub; hotel. Also ‘rubbidy’.
Run against: Meet more or less unexpectedly; bump into.
Run the rabbit: See ‘Rabbit, Run the’.
Runs on the board: Achievements; feathers in the cap.
Rust and smut: Two diseases of wheat.
Sallies: Salvation Army, bless them.
Sandgroper: Person from Western Australia.
Sandy blight: Ophthalmia; a condition of the eyes contracted in the desert.
Sarvo, The: This afternoon (‘this arvo’).
Sassenach: Word used chiefly by Scots to designate an Englishman. It derives from the Gaelic Sasunnach meaning, originally, ‘Saxon’.
Saveloy: Vividly red and highly seasoned pork sausage; the word was used in 1890s Sydney and remains in parts of Australia, but rarely in Sydney.
Scab: Strike-breaker; blackleg.
School: Club; clique of gamblers, or others, particularly players of two-up (qv).
Schooner: Large beer glass in Queensland and NSW; medium beer glass in South Australia.
Scone (pron. ‘scon’): Cake made of wheat flour, usually with baking powder as leavening agent. It may be served alone or in a ‘Devonshire tea’ (qv). Also, colloquialism for ‘head’.
Scratch: Delete; remove, as in horseracing.
Scrounge: Borrow; sponge; scavenge.
Scrub: The bush (qv).
SDF: Social Democratic Federation (of Australasia).
SDL: Social Democratic League.
Selection: A block of land obtained under the provision of free selection laws.
Serve: Harsh critical comment.
Settle up: Repay a debt.
Shag on a rock, Like a: Incongruously and conspicuously alone, like a shag (cormorant).
Shaky Isles: New Zealand.
Shanghai: Involve someone in an activity, usually without their knowledge or against their wishes; unexpected prison transfer to another institution; a child’s catapult (‘slingshot’, USA); steal.
Shank’s pony (or shanks’s pony), Go by: Go by foot; walk.
She-oak: Casuarina tree.
She’ll be right: It’ll turn out okay.
Shed: Outside building; shearing building; barn, often open sided.
Sheila: Woman or girl.
Shellacking: Beat in a fight; polish off, as in ‘I gave him a good shellacking’. From ‘shellack’, a lacquer.
Shemozzle: A mess (Yiddish shlim mazel ‘a person who always has bad luck’, via Cockney).
Shenanigans: Nonsense; deceit; trickery. Also, ‘shenanigan’. Possibly from Irish sionnachuighim, ‘play tricks’.
Sherang: Chief; leader. Also ‘serang’.
Shick, shickered: Intoxicated.
Shicker: Intoxicating liquor, from Yiddish shiker, ‘drunk’, via Cockney.
Shiralee: Swag (qv).
Shivoo: A party or special event; a ‘do’ (qv).
Shot, Have a: To criticise or ridicule.
Shout: Turn to buy – a round of drinks, usually (‘It’s your shout’).
Show, Could not get a: Could not get a chance, or a job.
Skerrick: Tiny amount; particle.
Skewiff: Out of kilter; out of order; awkwardly placed; askew. Also, ‘skew-whif’.
Skint: Completely without money; broke.
Skirt; bit of skirt: A female.
Skite (n.): A boaster. Also ‘skiter’.
Skite (v.): Boast, brag.
Sky the wipe: Die. See ‘Rag, Sky the’.
Skylark: Engage in harmless horseplay.
Slab hut: Shanty built from slabs of sawn or split logs, often with a roof of bark.
Slap-up: Admirable; excellent, eg a ‘slap-up meal’. Rarely used in any other context.
Slater: Small (less than 1cm long) terrestrial crustacean which forms the suborder Oniscidea within the order Isopoda; woodlouse (USA).
Sleever: Tall beer glass.
Slog: Work, especially hard work.
Slushy: Toiler in a scullery.
Smoko: Rest from work; tobacco, tea or coffee break; any informal gathering. Also, ‘smoke-o’, ‘smoke-oh’.
Snag: Sausage; formidable opponent; a hitch, or a submerged obstacle such as a tree branch that catches a fishing line.
Snake juice: Strong drink.
Snuff; snuff it: Expire.
Soft touch: Person who is easy to borrow from due to a generous nature.
Soused (adj.) : Intoxicated. From souse, ‘to steep in pickling liquid’.
Southerly buster: Strong, cooling wind that occurs in NSW, mainly on the coast, particularly after hot Summer days.
Sovereign; sov: Gold coin worth one pound (qv).
Spare me days: A pious and mild ejaculation.
Sparra’s; sparrow’s fart; sparra’s fart: Dawn; very early morning: ‘They awoke at sparrow’s’.
Specked fruit: Inferior, blemished fruit.
Spell-oh: Spell; break from work.
Splice, To: To join in holy matrimony.
Spruik, To: To deliver a speech, as a showman.
Spruiker: Person, generally male, employed to call out advertisements, for example, for the business outside which he stands. Probably from Yiddish shpruch, ‘a saying or charm’.
Squatter: One who settles on Crown land to run stock, especially sheep, initially without government permission, but later with a lease or licence; one of a group of rich and influential rural landowners.
Squib: See ‘Damp squib’.
Squiz: Brief glance, as in ‘Take a squiz at this’; dekko (qv).
Staggerjuice: Strong drink.
Stand-offish: Aloof; also retiring or reticent.
Starve the lizards/crows! Mild oath, possibly a euphemism for ‘strewth!’ (qv); ‘stone the crows!’ (qv).
Station: A large grazing property.
Steak-and-Kidney: Sydney. Rhyming slang.
Steerage: Section of a passenger ship, originally near the rudder, providing the cheapest passenger accommodations.
Stick: (Printing term.) Composing stick, a wooden hand tool used in composing lines of type.
Stick, Not a bad: A good person.
Sticks: See ‘Woop-Woop’.
Stickybeak (n.): Nosy person; nosy parker (qv).
Stickybeak (v.): To inspect; go and have a look.
Stiffen the crows! Mild oath; ‘stone the crows!’ (qv).
Stock: Paper for printing.
Stone (starve, stiffen) the crows!: Mild oath, an expression of surprise.
Stonkered: Drunk; defeated; destroyed; overthrown; exhausted.
Stop a pot: Quaff ale.
Stormstick: Umbrella. Also ‘storm-stick’.
Stoush: To punch with the fist; a fight (? Scottish stashie, stushi, ‘uproar, commotion’).
Stow it: Impolite request to someone to be quiet.
Straight: Upright, honest.
Straight-up: Honest; fair.
Stretch: Term of imprisonment; lagging (qv).
Strewth!: Exclamation, mild oath (originally ‘God’s truth!’). Also, ‘struth’.
Strike: The innocuous remnant of a hardy curse; to discover; to meet; also to find gold.
Strike a light! Mild oath, possibly a euphemism for ‘strewth!’ (qv).
Strike-through: Printing term for visibility of print on the other side due to ink soaking through the sheet.
Struth: See ‘Strewth’.
Stunned mullet, Like a: Dazed, confused or bewildered.
Suds: The head of glass of beer; beer.
Swag: Rolled up bedding, etc, carried by a swagman (qv); a large number or unspecified number.
Swaggie: Swagman (qv).
Swagman: Itinerant labourer; a man walking long distances in search of work. Probably originally more an urban term for a rural phenomenon during 19th-Century times of depression. Lawson, who carried his swag (qv) hundreds of miles through desert country in search of work in shearing sheds (qv), wrote: “Men tramping in search of a ‘shed’ are not called ‘sundowners’ or ‘swaggies’; they are ‘trav’lers’” (‘Some Popular Australian Mistakes’, The Bulletin, 1893).
Sweater: One who runs a sweatshop.
Sweet Fanny Adams: Very little; next to nothing. Also, sweet FA (euphemism for ‘sweet fuck-all’).
Swell: Exalted, rich or conceited person.
Sydneysider: Native of Sydney, the capital city of the State of NSW, Australia.
T’otherside: The other side of the continent of Australia.
Ta: Thank you.
Tabbie: A female.
Tanglefoot: Alcoholic beverage.
Tea: The evening meal; less often called ‘dinner’ (qv). Tea out: An evening meal at a restaurant or home of another; eg, ‘We’re having tea out on Satdy night.’
Tea-time: Dinner time.
Tenner: Ten-pound note.
Three sheets to the wind: Inebriated.
Throw in the towel: See ‘Rag’.
Throw, A: Per item, as in ‘They cost three bob a throw’.
Tick: Credit or trust (‘to buy on tick’ or ‘to tick up’).
Tick: Moment or instant, as in ‘Hang on a tick’. Also, ‘what makes one tick’, what motivates one’s behaviour. See also ‘Tight as a tick’.
Tickled pink: Pleased as Punch (qv).
Tight; tight as a tick: Three sheets to the wind (qv).
Tin lids: Kids (rhyming slang).
Tip: Rubbish dump.
Tivoli; Tiv: Sydney music hall.
Tizz: State of confusion and anxiety, often expressed in frantic but ineffectual activity: ‘Don’t get in a tizz’. Also, ‘tizzy’.
TLC: Trades and Labour Council.
Toff: Rich, upper-class person.
Tommy Woodser: See ‘Woodser, Tommy’.
Too right!: Definitely!; Indeed!
Top: Commit suicide (‘To top oneself’); sometimes ‘to murder’.
Topper: Top hat (see ‘Chimneypot’).
Toss in: Discard.
Tosspot: Enthusiastic imbiber of spirituous and fermented liquors. The nickname of Edmund Barton (qv), for example, was ‘Toby Tosspot’.
Track: Bush path; trail (USA).
Traps, Around the: Around and about; in various places that one frequents.
Trey: Threepence; a threepenny silver coin.
Trizzie: Threepenny piece; trey (qv).
Trolley, Off one’s: Insane.
Trooper: Member of the constabulary.
Trot: Run of good or bad luck as in ‘I’ve had a bad trot’.
Tucked away: Interred.
Turps: Spirit of turpentine; general name for alcoholic beverages.
Two bob: Two shillings; a florin.
Two-bob watch, As silly as a: Very silly.
Two-up school: Gambling den (see ‘School’).
Two-up: Popular Australian illegal gambling game played by throwing two coins in the air and betting on the outcome, heads and tails.
Umpteen; umpty: Indefinite numeral; many.
Up stumps; pull up stumps: Move home, change address.
Uppers, To be on one’s: To be impecunious. The uppers are the upper part of a boot or shoe, with the implication that the soles have worn out.
Wag: Playful or mischievous person.
Wallaby: Australian marsupial that looks rather like a small kangaroo.
Wallaby, On the: Walking in search of rural work. However, Henry Lawson wrote: “No bushman thinks of ‘going on the wallaby’ or ‘walking Matilda’, or ‘padding the hoof’; he goes on the track – when forced to it” (‘Some Popular Australian Mistakes’, The Bulletin, 1893). He wrote two still-famous poems, ‘On the Wallaby’ and ‘Freedom on the Wallaby’, both in 1891, before he set out on foot in late-1892 in search of rural work.
Wallop: Beat; chastise.
Walloper: Member of the constabulary; also ‘dog’, ‘cop’, ‘jack’ or ‘trap’.
Wash up (v.); washing up (n.): Australians don’t ‘do the dishes’ or ‘wash the dishes’, they ‘wash up’ and ‘do the washing up’.
Waster: Reprobate; utterly useless and unworthy person.
Watch: Look out (imperative).
Watch it: Be careful, your behaviour is becoming annoying.
Waterworks, Turn on the: Shed tears.
Waverley Cemetery: A major cemetery at Bronte in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. Founded in 1877 it was devised along similar lines to Père Lachaise in Paris and General Cemetery Company’s Kensal Green Cemetery in London. Many famous Australians were buried there, including Henry Lawson.
WC: Toilet. Also, ‘wc’ (‘water closet’).
Weatherboard: In British usage, weatherboarding is the cladding or ‘siding’ (USA) of a house consisting of long thin boards that overlap one another horizontally on the outside of the wall.
Well-hung: Well built; 19th-Century term to describe a man of good physique.
Welt: A blow.
Whacko!: Interjection expression denoting pleasure, delight, etc. Also, ‘wacko’, ‘wacko’, ‘whacko-the-diddle-oh’, ‘whacko-the-did’.
What do you know?: Expression used to express surprise.
What do you know?: Expression used to open a conversation; ‘What’s new?’; ‘What’s up?’.
Whinge: Complain, whine.
Whip-around: Money collection.
White (white man): A true, good fellow.
White lead: Heavy, white substance extensively used as a white pigment and base in paints.
Wicket, On a good: Doing well; making a good income.
Willy-willy: ‘Dust devil’ (USA); minature tornado.
Wobblies: Members of Industrial Workers of the World (qv).
Wog: Southern European (derogatory). Also, illness.
Wolf: Eat quickly.
Wonky: Unstable, unsteady or shaky.
Wood-Coffil: Australian firm of undertakers.
Woodser, Tommy, To do a: To drink alone. Quite often ‘Jimmy Woodser’.
Woop Woop: Invented name for any small, distant and unimportant town; the back of Bourke (qv) or beyond the Black Stump (qv).
Word, To: To speak to.
Wowser: Straight-laced person, prude, puritan, spoilsport, teetotaller. John Norton (qv) claimed the coining of the word which has since the 1890s been widespread in Australia.
Wriggle: Phrase ‘get a wriggle on’, to hurry.
Wrigglers: Mosquito larvae.
WSL: Womanhood Suffrage League (of New South Wales).
Yabbie: Australian freshwater crayfish (Cherax destructor). Also, ‘yabby’.
Yakka: Manual labour; work. Also, ‘yacker’, ‘yakker’.
Yank; Yankee: In Australian usage, an American from any State.
Yap: Talk volubly.
Yarn: Story (n.); to tell a story or to chat (v.).
Yesty: The day before today.
Zack: Sixpence; a sixpenny silver coin.
Sources include the glossary from The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke by CJ Dennis (1915).
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