A Pub With No Beer: Australian slang that foreigners* misuse

There are many very important articles floating around about vital Australian slang, such as this listicle at buzzfeed and this listicle at huffpo and and this other huffpo listicle. And they are very critical to any understanding of Australia!

In fact, why don’t you watch this video for 2 minutes before we start this post. No Award and the Friends of No Award have watched this several times and cried with laughter every time.

Okay, good, great work, everyone.

This post was mostly inspired by Mad Max fandom. What Steph loves the very most about Mad Max fandom is that it’s full of grumpy Australians being really grumpy about non-Australians (mostly Americans) Getting Things Wrong. Steph is one of these Australians, all get off my lawn and get out of my car, and definitely get out of my town of 2 million people that doesn’t have a Starbucks. She’s a little bit obsessed with an epic coffee shop AU set in a small town in Australia. It has a Starbucks and a piano bar but no pub. NO PUB. Not gonna link the AU because it’s not about making fun of fanfic, it’s about making fun of Americans in general, and revelling in our own ridiculousness.

And so, for the humour and wtf of all Australians, we present:

A Pub With No Beer: Australian slang that foreigners* misuse

The misuse: Rang

The actual use: Ranga OR Boomerang

The sitrep: American comics in the 70s, 80s, and 90s all used ‘rang’ to mean boomerang or batarang. Spoilers, that is not what this means. To call someone ‘a ranga’ is to compare their red hair to that of an orang-utan, and it is a fucken insult and you had better fucken not use it.

No Award will not be entering into arguments about whether it’s possible to be racist against white people with red hair, what is this, amateur hour?


The misuse: anything that’s not ‘fuck’ when you could be saying fuck

The actual use: Fuck. Just fucking (or farken or fucken) all over the place.

The sitrep: It’s just kind of an adjective, okay? You can also use bloody, if you want, but that’s a bit old school. A typical sentence from Steph: “It’s pretty fucking obvious that this fucking book was written by a fucker.” It doesn’t necessarily convey strong emotions, but it can.

Speaking of “bloody”, back in 2013, Liz had the edifying experience of watching an American Yanksplain to a British person that “bloody” is as offensive as “fuck” and would never, ever be used by or in front of a child.

Meanwhile, on prime time TV in 2011…


The misuse: Fanny to mean arse/buttocks

The actual use: Arse; Clacker; Bum.

The sitrep: Fanny means – well, if you’re in primary school, front bottom. I think you can extrapolate from that.


The misuse: “This thong is riding up my arse”, “My flip-flops are flip-flopping around.”

The actual use: g-string or thongs

The sitrep: your g-string rides up your arse; your thongs go on your feet. Ain’t nobody wearing flip-flops here, and a thong on your arse probably means some kind of punishment.  Or sex. Or that the sand at the beach is really hot and you forgot your towel.


The misuse: “I have to go to the bathroom.”

The actual use: “I gotta use the dunny” or, if very polite company, the loo.

The sitrep: Why would you pee in a public bathroom, that means there’s showers and shit.


The misuse: Sweater

The actual use: Jumper

The sitrep: It’s winter. We’re all wearing jumpers, Quokkas. And it’s definitely not some sort of one-piece jumpsuit or whatever (oh wow, Steph just got that).


The misuse: “I’m rooting for the Bombers” “I need to root around in the drawer for a thing.

The actual use: You’re barracking, or you’re searching.

The sitrep: Mate, if you’re rooting for the Bombers, you’re basically lying back and thinking of England.


The misuse: Mistake

The actual use: “You fucking buggered it up.”

The sitrep: It’s not a homophobic slur, I promise. It’s just about making a fucking arse of yourself.


The misuse: Anything that implies there’s not a pub in a country town.

The actual use: Pub. Pubs everywhere.

The sitrep: The thing that struck me about this world-building, the thing that stuck out more than the Starbucks in this country town, the thing that made me shriek and slam my hand against the table, is the lack of a pub. The town as described has a fire station (though fails to mention the CFA), a little school, and a “Provisions,” which, it’d be an IGA but let’s not quibble. But it hasn’t got a pub, and if you think a town would have more than one street but no pub, well. Mate. (It should also have a church tbh, but that’s neither here nor there).


The misuse: The idea that ‘dag’ is derived from Scandinavian and means day. (Thanks, MMFR fandom.)

The actual use: Dag

The sitrep: This is probably my favourite part of MMFR canon. Here, from urban dictionary:

An Australian slang term.

A dag is technically the matted wool on a sheep’s tail, but in typical usage throughout Australia, it refers to people who don’t have a neat, tidy or cultured appearance. It can also refer to a person who tends to be quite informal.

It is not an intrinsically derogatory term in modern useage, no matter what Wikipedia says.

I’m a bit of a dag today, I’m wearing my trackie-daks

Yes, The Dag. Love you and your furious vexation.


The misuse: “He’s got a lot of swag.”

The actual use: If he’s got a lot of swag, he’s got a bag with some stuff in it, including sleeping gear.

The sitrep:

(YOU’LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE, CRIED HE, flipper over heart)


The misuse: to even think the word ‘hookie’

The actual use: wag

The sitrep: “I’m wagging work today.” Good work, team, I approve. Wagging for everyone. (See also: chuck a sickie).


The misuse: Yes. No.

The actual use: Yeah, nah. Nah, yeah.

The sitrep: Just don’t use it. You’ll probs get it wrong.


The misuse: fall

The actual use: AUTUMN

The sitrep: Mate, if it’s fall, that means something terrible has happened


The misuse: “Can I get the check?” or, “I’ll give you a check for that.”

The actual use: cheque or bill or BPay

The sitrep: Things aren’t paid here by cheque, not really. You can’t leave cheques unpaid. They’re bills, and you pay them using BPay or at your local Australia Post. Wages are paid via direct credit. If you’re in a restaurant, you’re getting the bill.


The misuse: “She’s crazy. She’s mad as a cut snake.”

The actual use: “I lost us the trivia night, and she’s so angry, she’s mad as a cut snake.”

The sitrep: Imagine you cut a snake. Now imagine how angry that snake is.  (See also “mad as a frog in a sock,” used correctly by Hugh Jackman in Chappie.)


The misuse: “I need a coffee. Where’s the nearest Starbucks?”


The sitrep: So Australia is the only country where Starbucks nearly went out of business and had to downsize. Starbucks is so unsuccessful that there aren’t any at all in Perth, a city with 1.83 MILLION PEOPLE. A city with almost 2 million people and it doesn’t have a Starbucks, because Starbucks can’t get a foothold in Steph’s hometown.

Just to put that in perspective for Steph’s favourite coffee shop AU, which suggests there’s a Starbucks in a town so small it don’t have a fucking pub.

Some of the reasons why Starbucks can’t get a hold in Australia are to do with the Australian relationship with coffee. The only time Aussies say yes to coffee with no qualifiers is when they’re on a plane (and they’re not happy about it). Otherwise, every coffee drinking Australian knows their coffee order and its acronym, even if it’s just a long black (lb) or a short black (sb). Stephanie and Liz both drink a soy flat white (soy flat).

Nobody calls it joe, ain’t nobody using drip filter coffee. You’ve never got a new pot on that you have to wait for, unless you’re boiling the kettle to make something using instant. And nobody is going to pay for instant, but if you’re in the office or at a conference and can’t be bovvered heading out of the building, then you’ll probs drink it.

It’s called an espresso machine. It makes espressos and everything else our little Australian hearts desire.


The misuse: Hardware Store

The actual use: Bunnings

The sitrep: It’s not that Bunnings has a monopoly on hardware stores in Australia, but Bunnings has a monopoly on hardware stores in Australia. You probably know where your nearest one is at any given moment. (Steph does) (Aside: the new Bunnings in West Foots is AMAZE, it’s got undercover parking and is 100 metres from a traino, acknowledging sometimes you wanna Bunnings but can’t drive there, what a time to be alive).

(Liz would like to make it clear that she has never heard the term “traino” in her life, and is pretty sure Steph made it up on the spot.  But she, too, endorses the West Footscray Bunnings.)

(EXCUSE STEPH whilst she makes a survey to prove Liz wrong. Next thing Liz is going to say she never heard of bottleo or servo, either.)


The misuse: Swimsuit

The actual use: Bathers (SA), Togs (QLD), Cossie, Swimmers (everywhere else)

The sitrep: Straya has some of the best beaches on the planet, ain’t no fucker going into the ocean in a bloody swimsuit. They’re your togs. Or bathers, or cossie, or swimmers. Regional differences abound.


For further local hilars, please go through the timeline of @ottomanscribe who was on a fucking roll yesterday:


*lbr, it’s USAmericans

25 thoughts on “A Pub With No Beer: Australian slang that foreigners* misuse

  1. I swear I’ve only read the word cossie in Australian Books never said IRL.

    The pub thing is weird so is the Starbucks but I still really like that fic ok.

    Chuck a sickie is way more satisfying to say thank wag tbh

    Lost my shit reading the last tweet OMG amaze

    1. GO CHECK OUT THE HIPSTORIAN’S HISTORY FOR YESTERDAY. LOSING MY SHIT. My dad used to say cossie, I think it’s an older word.

      Chuck a sickie has slightly different connotations from wag, though.

      I fucking knew you’d like that bloody fic. It’s like literally 100K of terribleness, it’s totally your jam.

  2. I swear I’ve only read the word cossie in Australian Books never said IRL.

    The pub thing is weird so is the Starbucks but I still really like that fic ok.

    Chuck a sickie is way more satisfying to say thank wag tbh

    Lost my shit reading the last tweet OMG amaze

    1. I think “cossie” is highly local. Growing up in NSW, I said “swimmers”, and then moved to Queensland, where everyone else said “togs” and I refused to let such a stupid word pass my lips.

  3. Argh, I hate that term “playing hookie”… I had never heard of it, but it kept popping up in translated stories and it took me ages to work out what it meant. It takes me out of a story when weirdo US slang is used in translating, for example, a conversation by monolingual speakers of Arabic in Cairo…

  4. On coffee culture… I don’t know what you’re talking about with the acronymn thing…? But, ha ha, I was on the plane just yesterday and when they asked me if I would like a coffee “yes, a long black please” just slipped out… they still gave me milk though…

    Starbucks failed in Adelaide as well. The only people that ever used it was Chinese international students, apparently there weren’t enough in the city to maintain the business. My experience with coffee in China is that it seems to be a very different culture, and usually US-style… nowhere I found in Beijing does cappucinos, and the quality is invariably awful. You can even buy coffee with “cream,” which is some kind of room-temperature white chemical slime that yanks put in their coffees to make them even more undrinkable.

    I have drip coffee at my parents place, though, and that’s usually the coffee that’s served at conferences that I’ve been to. Never seen it at a cafe or restaurant, though – ever.

    Small towns also seem to struggle to have decent coffee, they tend to have little cafes similar to those in the dingier suburbs – usually awful coffee, but friendly staff up for a chat. Suburban cafes are more likely to have pierogi or something interesting to eat, at least. Caveat for the Adelaide Hills and the Barossa Valley, where the coffee is actually better than most hipster places in the city.

    Final comments on coffee, I was very disappointed in my recent trip to Melbourne that I didn’t get more of a chance to explore the “cafe scene” – I had some great cups there, though, when I did.

    Sorry for waffling on a bit.

  5. The misuse: “He’s got a lot of swag.”

    Ah, someone has thought that Brit-picking will substitute for Aussie-picking.

    No. It won’t.

    British English and Australian English formally parted company back in 1901, although they’d informally diverged long before then (probably on the first boat out on the First Fleet, so about 1787-ish, or thereabouts). While a lot of Australians speak British idiomatic English as a second dialect (as a result of years of watching the ABC, I’m one of them, although I’m probably about 20 years out of date by now), the two dialects are not interchangeable.

    The British use “swag” as an adjective to mean “possessions, subtype fancy”. The Australians use “a swag” as a noun to mean “a very rough improvised bedroll consisting of one, maybe two, coarse woollen blanket(s)”, or more generally to indicate any form of bedroll.

    PS: On the coffee situation – if you’re anywhere west of the South Australian border, you’re probably looking for the nearest Dome coffee shop, which doesn’t serve fancy coffees, but does serve meals. Everywhere else, if you’re looking for fancy, syrupy coffees, or frozen coffee drinks served by a chain provider, you’re looking for the nearest Gloria Jeans. But if you’re desperate and you’re in the country, you’re looking for the next roadhouse, which is a petrol station (not a gas station, a petrol station) with a cafe attached, generally supplying cold and hot drinks, and food in various varieties of heart attack or incipient upset stomach.

  6. Vic: it’s totally bathers.

    By the way, my coffee experience in WA was exceptional. The only bad coffee I had was at Dome at the airport – v. disappoint.

  7. I’m actually from a town too small to have a pub 🙂 It’s got The Shop, The Fruit Shop (which, as of 7 years ago, did a great flat white), The Hall, The School, The Sawmill and The Church. I think there’s actually a cafe type place there too these days, but that won’t last.

    As a Queenslander, I’m very proud that one of C’s early words was ‘togs’. Now if I can get him to talk about putting his port in the port rack we’ll be set for life.

  8. I feel we also need to notify our American friends of the distinction between pissed and pissed off!

    Starbucks failed in Hobart, too. Our mighty espresso machines are legion.

    (I greatly love the Mad Max AU to which you refer, and to be fair the Starbucks in their town DID INDEED go out of business, but you are completely right about the lack of pubs. I once visited a tiny one street town on the far west of Tassie which had three pubs. No other shops of any degree.

  9. This is a work of genius.

    It’s also vitally important to make sure our American friends know that melbourne was founded by Batman and that he came here on the Enterprise.

    Which is why I live near Batman traino.

  10. I was a little surprised at your coyness but welcome your use of ‘front bottom’, which is never not hilarious.

    NOPE to ‘traino’.

  11. Another word for “looking for something (might be an unspecified something)” or “rummaging around” that people don’t really use outside Australia is “fossicking” / “to fossick”.

    (Also agree with fionakills up-comment: bathers in Vic, as well.)

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  13. B

    I’ve used traino all my life growing up in WA, and I’m not the only one. But perhaps it’s just in the more dero places. Oh, there’s another one, dero.

  14. I have lived my whole life in Victoria and we’ve always called them bathers. I was confused when I first heard ‘swimmers’. I was like ‘no, that’s what you become once you’re in your bathers and get in the water’.

  15. wait wait wait

    the BEST NEWS to have come out of this post for me is the news that there’s a BUNNINGS NEAR [WEST?] FOOTSCRAY NOW?????!!!!!!?????????

    i move out of the country for 8 months and this amazing thing happens

    (once i had to go to the one that is VAGUELY near batman station and man, was that a pain) (mostly because my house was near a tram line not the train line)

    ((also definitely bathers in victoria too))

    (((more on starbucks in melbourne: there are 5 starbucks in melbourne, home of australia’s coffee culture, last time i checked. they are always only filled with international students and 4 are in the CBD and one is in hawthorn near the swinburne campus. they did NOT work here and now 711 has bought them in australia and is going to put them in their stores in their instant $1 coffee machines. no one buys 711 $1 coffee unless it is 3am. even then, go to a fucking mccafe. WHICH, did you know, started in melbourne/australia as maccas way to try to be competition to the ingrained coffee culture??? no one but old people bought their coffee and only cause they get free refills/it’s free in general)))

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