Thursday, December 31, 2009


Number 1. A-ok. The best. Excellent. What we should all strive to be.

Happy New Year, all!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I think it's hilariously ironic that a phrase considered so quintessentially Australian by folks on the Right (e.g. former PM, John Howard, the George Bush of Oz or Pauline Hanson, the Sarah Palin of Oz) - has its "roots" (ha) in Chinese migrants who came to Australia in the 1800s during the Gold Rush.

"Din gum" means "real gold" in Cantonese. Which is what Chinese miners would shout when they struck gold. Hence its primary usage today, to mean "For real, mate!" or "I'm not shitting you."

According to Urban Dictionary (my primary online resource for this blog along with Wikipedia and Google image), it can also express acknowledgment and/or surprise, as in "no shit!" or more likely (given the Australian tendency to end sentences as questions), "no shit?"

I wouldn't know either way, though, because I've never heard this phrase uttered by anyone I know in Sydney. So caveat to enthusiastic American tourists: don't use this phrase, or order Fosters, or make jokes about big knives, unless you want to look like a bloody wanker.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Closest US equivalent for "fully" is "totally," which as most of you know, originated in the Eighties Valley culture of California.

I actually like "fully" more. It's more intense and emphatic. Whereas a Californian might lazily affirm, "like totally, dude" to such truisms as the sky is blue, the surf is high and beer tastes good, you can see an Australian nodding and repeating "fully" with earnest conviction to the same.

E.g. Christmas is overdetermined.

(nod, swig Coopers)


**addendum: the original pic (see below in comments) was pulled by the owner so c'est la vie. I've replaced it with a better one, a Hello Kitty machine gun. Those of you who know me should get it.

Friday, December 25, 2009


This seems appropriate given all the yummy food I've been force fed since coming back to Dallas for my annual Christmas reunion with my family. Also I love stuffing. Love it. And I love turkey. I miss it in Australia, especially at Thanksgiving. (I think the equivalent must be kangaroo - both are native to the land(s) and virtually fat free though I don't think roo makes you sleepy). I had a turkey cranberry sandwich at a new cafe on campus in late November. The cranberry sauce turned out to be strawberry jam. I was so disappointed and sad ... and a bit disgusted. They really need to do something about the food choices at uni - so limited and depressing, especially when there's such excellent food in town.

Anyway, "stuffed" in the US means you're really full. I yelled this in a happily inebriated state at a very posh French dinner a few months ago (where as usual, I was the token American everyone initially mistakes for Canadian, surrounded by a cosmopolitan crowd about two decades older than me). There was utter silence for a few seconds, which was broken by my supercool British host who, with a wry smile, quietly told me that means something entirely different in Oz and England. I.e. "to be f**ked."

I guess that means I got stuffed by that faux turkey cranberry sandwich.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Means "congrats!" or "well done!"

Americans say "good for you!" Australians say "good on you!" (spoken: goodonya!) Both of these phrases sound weird to me now.

"Good for you" sounds like a commercial for broccoli or brussel sprouts. It also sounds like something that should be accompanied by a pat on the head. "Good on ya" sounds like a commercial for laundry detergent. (Can you ever get good off ya?)


The image above is from Roy Lichtenstein's painting, "Hey You," in case you didn't know or couldn't figure out from the big finger pointing at ... hey, that's right ... you.

This is how "hey" is sometimes used in the American context. Usually aggressively, as when attempting to apprehend a criminal. "Hey" is more often used as a form of greeting, followed by "you guys" in the North and the softer, more gender-neutral "y'all" in the South.

In Australia, "hey" has its equivalents in the Canadian "eh?" and the American "right?" or "you know?" It trails the end of a sentence, seeking affirmation from the person or group addressed. Very far from the Althusserian thing going on above, and very often used Down Under.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Another gem from Adrian. "No fancy dinner out for me tonight; I don't have a brass razoo." Translated into Texan: "Ahm durn broke!"

Etymology is very mysterious. I will quote at length from Wikipedia:

"There is no actual thing called a brass razoo, though some speculate that the term arises from Egyptian or Indian currency. One source describes it as 'an Indian coin, famous for being the most worthless coin ever issued.' ... 'Brass razoo' is believed to have origins with the phrase 'not a sou', a phrase meaning 'no money' or 'lack of wealth'. ... Eric Partridge, in his Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, suggests that 'razoo' is based on the Māori word, 'rahu'. In his 1997 book, Dictionary of New Zealand English, Harry Orsman makes a similar conjecture ... Another possible origin for the phrase would be during World War I, when the phrase was said to be used by Australian soldiers serving in France, and considered a joking reference used between Australian infantry and American troops. It was based on the Yankee 'raspberry' also called a 'razoo', a blurt or mouth-sound made to sound like a fart."

Saturday, December 12, 2009


A blue ass fly (no idea re genus, species, whatever) is a particular kind of fly that likes to buzz around grazing sheep and lay its eggs in the asses of these unsuspecting sheep. This is, of course, terrible for the health of the sheep; fortunately, a treatment is available for sheep infested with blue ass fly maggots, though I didn't ask for details from the Aussie friends who taught me this neat turn of phrase today (thanks Adrian and Mel!).

This colorful expression is used to refer to annoying people who hang on (annoyingly) at parties and social gatherings, much as the blue ass fly hangs around sheep: "Oy mate, why don't you go get a beer from the eskie (icebox), and stop hanging around like a blue ass fly!"

Also can refer to people running around like "chickens with their heads cut off": "Stop running around like a blue ass fly! You're in Australia, mate. You know she'll be right."

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Right. Means a completely different thing in the US.

**addendum: thanks to Georgie for pointing out this woman's shoes are sandals rather than thongs. Thongs, strictly speaking, should have the little thingee that separates one's big toe from second toe = flip flops.


For those of you who don't already know, Australia lacks an ozone layer (like our southern neighbors Antarctica and New Zealand). That's why the light is so bright here and why 9 days out of 10, walking around the city is like walking in a cartoon or a storybook or The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

The sun is intense. So intense that we must all wear our "sunnies" or risk getting cataracts and other awful eye diseases, including little kids (like the creepy looking baby pictured above - is he wearing an Australian flag?). For a person of color, I burn very easily and am totally paranoid about getting skin cancer so I slab on tons of sunscreen every day (UVA and UVB, 30 proof). It's a pity cos one of my dreams coming to Australia was to go back to the US every year looking like a tanned Hawaiian princess. Instead I'll have to be content to remain looking like a pale baby Buddha.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Bikkies, or biscuits refer to cookies or crackers here, not rolls of bread (yumm buttermilk biscuits!) as in the US. They're usually served at the ritual of afternoon tea, accompanied by, well, tea ... and maybe some bad American coffee. If you're lucky, it will be drip not instant.

Tim Tams are an iconic biscuit of Australia. According to Wikipedia, they are "composed of two layers of chocolate malted biscuit, separated by a light chocolate cream filling, and coated in a thin layer of textured chocolate." Translated - way too sweet for me. Apparently they're less sweet if you dunk them in tea, which is how, according to one Australian friend, they are meant to be eaten. Too bad I don't like tea.

Monday, December 7, 2009


It's summertime in Oz and that means mosquitos, or "mozzies." I spent most of the summers of 2008 and early 2009 bitten raw because I hadn't discovered these neat little mozzie repellent plug-ins (pictured above). I live in a pretty trendy-looking, way overpriced renovated apartment near the university where I work. The building used to be a biscuit factory, which hired intellectually challenged people to make cookies (that's another entry, which will be titled "bikkies"). The apt building (aka apt "block" in Aussie) is next door to an equally trendy motorcycle shop, which doubles as a cafe/restaurant. (Incidentally, bikers are called "bikies" here, and they are very much marginalised and considered a public menace. It's hard for me, though, as an American, to hear "bikey" and think "danger!")

Long story short - I discovered to my dismay that all the many sliding windows to the flat lacked something really crucial for insect-ridden Sydney summer - and that is fly screens. Apparently they have fly screens in the bush (=countryside), but not in the city. I don't get this. Is it because fly screens are not chic? To make it worse, this super trendy apt doesn't have air conditioning, so one can't - especially in Jan-March while trying to survive extremely humid upper 30s-40s Celsius = 90-100 Fahrenheit temperatures - keep the windows closed.

I was at the point of buying a mosquito net and camping out in my own bedroom when a friend (British expat) told me about these plug-ins. You stick the blue slab o mozzie poison into the plug-in, which you then stick into the wall. Simple. It's odorless, lasts 10 hours, and seems to keep most of the mozzies away. Yay for technology! Though I still think it makes more sense to use fly screens, chic or not.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


My friend Kane called me this a couple of weeks ago, and I thought he was insulting me. Actually it's kind of a compliment for faghags and pretend-divas like myself. Closest US equivalent is "rabblerouser" - someone unafraid to speak their thoughts even (especially!) if those thoughts don't support the status quo. Sadly, I'm not quite there yet. I still care too much what people think of me. But some filtering might be a good thing.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Just went to my first holiday party of the year - incidentally, Australians say "happy" rather than "merry" Christmas - neither here nor there. Just like they always end the happy birthday song with "hip hip hooray" (uttered thrice, must be a Britishism).

"She'll be right" is an expression I learned from Elia, the assistant to our Head of School (I can't think of the American equivalent - maybe dean? He's Canadian, btw). I was completely frazzled from all sorts of bureaucracy when I first arrived last year and we were having crepes at this Mexican place on campus (more on Mexican cuisine in Oz another time; suffice to say, they use pineapples as garnish) - and she just smiled and said "she'll be right." I was like - who is "she?"

This is a more ocker(? help me Aussie friends! American friends: "ocker" = country) version of "no worries." It beautifully sums up the super chill attitude one has in Australia or soon learns to adopt. Liquor helps. As does nice weather, good food and gorgeous beaches.

And lovely lovely friends.

Did I mention liquor?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


spoken: dahl. Abbreviated version of "darling." By the way, EVERYTHING is abbreviated here. Aussie patois is the sonic love child of _A Clockwork Orange_ and Dr. Seuss. Hang out in Newtown or Darlinghurst on a Friday night. You'll hear what I mean.

Anyway, for the longest time, I was getting really offended because older men - especially bus drivers - kept calling me "darl," which I heard as "doll." As in deeply sexist, but hey I played along cos I figured: cultural difference. Only about six months into living here did I realize they were calling me "darling" - sort of the Aussie version of the Texan "darlin'".

I guess that's slightly less infantilizing.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


This is a shortened version of the colorful expression, "flat out like a lizard drinking." I don't know why this particular image is used to convey how I am feeling right now as the semester and year officially end: hellishly busy, juggling a million things, exhausted. Also a great, noncommittal way to flake out of boring events. "Sorry mate, I'd love to make your book launch, but I'm flat out."


alternate spellings: streuth or strewth - thanks to the Anonymous poster for the latter spelling and apologies for accidentally deleting your comment! An Aussie surfer taught me this expression in Manly Beach after he showed me around the area and bought me lots of beers. Somewhere between "Dude!" and "Right on!" - would seem to be an abbreviated version of "It's the truth." The surfer texted me a few days after our impromptu date, inviting me to cook him dinner sometime, apropos of nothing. More on lame Aussie pick up lines in another entry ... PS I haven't heard anyone in the Inner West (where I live) use this expression; it must be exclusive to sleazy surfers and/or Northern Sydney.

**addendum: according to my friend Brian, "struth" in the English context is derived from "God's truth." Thanks Brian! Though given the pronounced lack of interest in God here (compared to the US or my first homeland, Korea, for that matter), I think it's safe to say the term has deteriorated to basic blokey bloke slang in this new new world context.