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.