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Talking Down Under

May 28

In Friends, Fun at 12:54am

Winding down now, after a month in Australia. Heading home this week. It’s been a wonderful trip, and I’ve learned a lot. Such as…

G’day is actually one word. And when an Aussie says it, even to a total stranger, they generally really mean it.

I would be hard put, I think, to use the word “uptight” in the same sentence as the word, “Aussie.” Folks down here are pretty relaxed and easy going about most stuff, which is probably quite healthy.

They do talk a little strangely, though. Being here has been a wonderful adventure and education in language.

For instance, I went to the State of Origin Rugby match the other night, which is a huge event in the Aussie sports world. (This is referred to as “going to the footy.”) It was fun, and quite an amiable affair, with folks cheering for the home side and all. There was only one “incident” where an inebriated Queensland fan sort of danced along in front of the New South Wales fan section, his gestures suggesting to that section of the stadium that they engage him in a level of physical intimacy that would have been anatomically impossible for that many people to achieve, at least simultaneously. He was forcibly exited by security, to much cheering and a beer shower.

All my mates were cheering for New South Wales, so I sat in the blue section, and got with the program. They scored first, but ultimately lost. The Blues did, however, have a terrific cheer. “Queensland are wankers!” Pause a beat. “Queensland are wankers!”

I asked what the specifics of being a wanker entailed, and was told it meant that you know, you’re just a tosser. Okay! That explains that!

The Foster’s beer campaign in America has convinced, I’m sure, lots of Yanks that it is the brew of choice down under. Definitely not, I am assured. Most self-respecting, beer drinking Aussies (and that would be the entire country) would rather be caught dead than drinking a can of Foster’s, which is routinely referred to as “cat piss.”  Which is not, perhaps, as negative as it might sound. Beer down here is generally referred to as piss, and if you’re “sinking the piss,” you’re drinking bunches of beers.

In the beer department, the way to go (and this is an admittedly limited research sample) is Crown Lager, aka, “Crownies.” It’s a limited sample as I’ve never been able to drink lots of beer. In college they referred to me as a “two can commando.” Down here I’m a “two pot screamer.”

And, if you drink a lot of beer, you’ll have to “take the kids to the pool.” (Go to the lavatory.)

If you really, really drink too much beer, you might end up having a “liquid laugh.” Back home, we might refer to upchucking as having a Technicolor yawn, or a long talk on the big white telephone.

Went to the movies in Sydney and bought a Gold Class ticket. What a treat! You go to smallish theater and are shown to a incredibly comfortable recliner of a chair, and waiters will bring you snacks, beers, wine etc. Awesome! It was $40 for the ticket, though, which is pricey. They do offer half off on Gold Class tickets on Tuesdays, though, and their marketing slogan for same is “Tight Ass Tuesdays!” Somehow, I don’t think that slogan would fly back home. There would be somebody offended, somehow, and the results could involve placards, protests, lawsuits, and the like.

We trekked overland from Sydney to the Gold Coast and to Melbourne, so I’ve seen a bit of the country now, which of course I didn’t when I was here shooting the Olympics. When working an Olympiad, you basically see the inside of the sports venues, and the inside of your hotel room, briefly, before you pass out from exhaustion every night.

So, I’ve seen the Big Banana, and the Big Merino. (I missed out on the Big Prawn.) And, in keeping with the Aussie philosophy of everything being big, I have to say the Big Merino’s testicles are, as they might say in Aussie speak, “absolutely bangin!”

If you’re a bit loopy, or behave foolishly, you might be referred to as having “kangaroos loose in the top paddock.” Back home, I’m proud to say we have equally innovative phrases for dimwitted behavior, such as, “one or two fries short of a happy meal,” and “one sandwich short of a picnic.” You could also say someone didn’t drink from the fountain of knowledge, they only gargled.

I kept hearing that people were “absolutely wrapped,” which means they enjoyed themselves. At first I thought this condition was “rapt,” as in rapt attention, or maybe even tending towards rapture. But, then, the only time I’ve seen Aussies approach rapture has been when we’ve offered some of our subjects a case of VB beer in return for signing a photo release. I mean, they stopped short of speaking in tongues, but their eyes definitely glazed over. I later learned I was indeed wrong and the word for pleased or entertained actually is “wrapped.” Cool.

I would guess the opposite of being wrapped would be to engage in a whinge. “Whinge” is akin to whining or complaining. When I’ve gotten together down here with some fellow photogs, and we’ve imbibed a fair bit of alcohol, we’ve come quite close to having ourselves a right good whinge.

If I’m surprised by something at home, I might say, “My Goodness!” Down here, some folks express surprise by the phrase, “Holy Dooley!”

If you’re a Bogan, you apparently don’t dress particularly well.

A pash is evidently a long, passionate kiss. Caution. This could lead to rooting.

Giving it a good try, or perhaps keeping too much for yourself, is referred to as a “fair squeeze on the sauce bottle.” And if you think a lot of yourself, it might be said that “you’ve got tickets on yourself, mate!” This type of individual might also bear the nickname “Figjam.” (F**k I’m good, just ask me!)

If you play hooky from work without being sick, you are “chucking a sickie.” Men’s swimming trunks are “budgie smugglers.” (My Aussie mates did seem to enjoy the phrase “banana hammock,” which I offered in return.) A “bush oyster” is what you produce when you blow your nose. A “journo” is a journalist, an “ambo” is an ambulance driver, and a “garbo” is a garbage collector.

If you’re really, really busy, you could be “flat out like a lizard drinking,” or a “cat burying shit.”

Anyway, gotta shove off here. Going to go into Melbourne to have a Captain Cook and a walkabout. Day off today, actually, so I’m being a bit of a bludger and not doing any yakka whatsoever. Had my brekkie, and it’s London to a brick I’m not doing much today. Going to put on my trackie daks and my sunnies, and see a little of the city, and just spend some quiet time, ’cause since I came to Oz I’ve definitely been yabbering a fair bunch.

I’ve met some really nice people here, and made some wonderful friends.  It’s going to be tough to say “hooroo.” (Goodbye.) And that’s the fair dinkum truth.

More tk…

Daniel Fisher says:

on May 28, 2012 at 1:05 am

We’re not all that stereotypical :-)

Was a pleasure watching your presentation yesterday at The Digital Show in Melbourne.

Glad to see you’ve enjoyed your time here.

Andy says:

on May 28, 2012 at 1:08 am

It was an absolute pleasure to have you Joe (& Drew) and great to attend the Sydney workshop and sessions. Glad you got to have a decent Butcher’s Hook (look) around the place. It really is a bloody big country and there is plenty more to see – guess that just means you’ll have to come back sometime :)

Marcus says:

on May 28, 2012 at 1:16 am

Struth, you’ve nailed that one Joe!
Was bloody bonza to hear you speak, and to say G’day to afterwards.

Good on ya Mate!

Steve K says:

on May 28, 2012 at 1:24 am

Ripper blog post mate. Too right about all the slang you hear down ‘ere but once you get used to it you wouldn’t wanna talk any other way.

I’m just worried we’ll get too PC ourselves because our slang defines us and every tight-ass and his dog knows it.

If you really wanna get a good handle on Aussie lingo and slang and humour, you must check out the comedian Carl Baron. He’s the prime example and a funny bloke to boot.


Frank says:

on May 28, 2012 at 1:49 am

Bloody hell, looks like we made you bi-lingual in short space of time :) You’ve nailed the lingo pretty nicely.

Absolutely shattered that I wasn’t able to get to any of your presentations due to family commitments.

James says:

on May 28, 2012 at 2:27 am

He’s speaking in tongues, I think we all knew he’d snap one day..poor guy, time to put him down.

Paul says:

on May 28, 2012 at 2:35 am

It’s been great following your blog Joe !
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it Sydney or Melbourne for the presentations…
Would have been good to see you venture West, but I guess given we can generally fly to Asia quicker and cheaper than flying to Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane – I fully understand.
Hopefully on the next visit to Aus :-)

Simon says:

on May 28, 2012 at 2:37 am

Bloody well said mate!

If I’d known you were partial to some traditional Aussie speak I would’ve tried far less to sound like an upity tosser, and more like myself.

I enjoyed your time Down Under too – had an absolute f#*ing bonza grouse time.

Time for you to shoot through… hope I see you again down the track somewhere.

John Wearing says:

on May 28, 2012 at 2:41 am

Really enjoyed this post Joe, you obviously had a great time in OZ, it’s a great country and the people are so friendly. I’m English but I’ve got a lot of family there in Queensland. A lot of Brits have emigrated to Australia over the years but, unfortunately, because a lot of them grumbled and whined about everything, we became collectively known as “Whinging Poms”. I’m definitely not one of them though, I like everything about Australia.

Keri says:

on May 28, 2012 at 2:44 am

Nice work Joe, i think you’ve managed to sum up the Aussies in one single blog post :)

My brother lives in Sydney and I’ve only been to Oz once, but from my experience you’ve hit the nail right on the head.


Christy Harper says:

on May 28, 2012 at 3:01 am

Beautiful images! My fav. is the kayaking one. I am also a big fan of kayaking :)

Chris says:

on May 28, 2012 at 3:07 am

Haha, a great read to start my day, thanks Joe :)


Shaun White says:

on May 28, 2012 at 3:35 am

I missed out on going to see you down at the Gold Coast due to our little man playing on the field at a Rugby League match at half time for Heart Kids.
We also call VB Beer Vomit Bombs.
Great to read that you had a great time.
Safe returns.

GlenF says:

on May 28, 2012 at 5:06 am

Next time BrisVegas Joe. Look forward to you coming back.

Jason says:

on May 28, 2012 at 6:08 am

Hiya Joe,

Sounds like you enjoyed yourself, and Im glad you did.
Just two little things… we don’t “root” for our team, we cheer, barrack or support our team.

Since you know about pashing and you know where that can lead, I reckon you can guess why we don’t root for our team (unless you are really *passionate* about them).

And while Crown is not a bad drop, I’d like to recommend a Cooper’s Pale or Sparkling Ale next time you’re down this way. Coopers is the largest Aussie owned brewery and still largely family owned. Course I’m biased as Coopers is from/based in my home state, SA.

And the way you’d describe Coopers if you came from SA is “heaps good”.

Onya Mate!

Warren Chan says:

on May 28, 2012 at 6:29 am

Nice one Joe. It was nice meeting you over the wires. Hope you get a chance to come down under again.

Martin says:

on May 28, 2012 at 6:32 am

Some great observations on Australia 😉

In relation to Fosters, I always tell the yanks that it’s so bad, Aussies don’t drink it, but we export it all…

Kurt says:

on May 28, 2012 at 6:42 am

Strewght, looks like our Eastern cousins got it all again. Next time come and enjoy the West and we’ll show you what BIG really means.

Howard says:

on May 28, 2012 at 7:46 am

LOL. This was a great read.

matthew muise says:

on May 28, 2012 at 11:06 am

best post ever! thank you!

Andrew Place says:

on May 28, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Turn it up, mate, sounds like your ready to set up camp over here. Pleasure to hear and meet you, and realise your are even more talented as a nice guy than you are as a photographer, and thats saying something. Mate, welcome back anytime, there will be a slab of Crownies in the fridge !

Mark says:

on May 28, 2012 at 4:52 pm

The sign of an experienced traveller is one who listens and absorbs the local lingo. I enjoyed your first Sydney workshop but after reading the above I suspect your last workshop would have been a lot more fun. Did you shoot any two headed locals whilst in Tassy?

Tim Skipper says:

on May 28, 2012 at 5:15 pm


As Seen by Janine says:

on May 28, 2012 at 5:45 pm

OMG, Joe, you made me laugh so hard I actually snorted on this comment: [I have to say the Big Merino’s testicles are, as they might say in Aussie speak, “absolutely bangin!”] In all seriousness, I especially enjoyed this post because Australia and New Zealand remain at the top of my “bucket list” life dream destinations. I’ve never had such a great primer on Aussie Speak though. As usual, when reading your posts, your telling the tale left me “absolutely wrapped.” :-) Janine

Rodney Campbell says:

on May 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Pretty accurately done Joe I must say. There were a few sayings in there that I’d not really heard used before but by and large you’ve captured the essence of the slang :)
Glad you enjoyed your time here in Oz.

Tim Wootton says:

on May 28, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Very funny read Joe, it’s always fun introducing o/s visitors to our lingo. Especially Seppos! just as much fun hearing their take on our customs & slang!

Mike C says:

on May 29, 2012 at 12:10 am

Thanks for the giggle Joe….and the Gold Coast sessions…now al I gotta do is wipe all the snot off my screen from laughing so hard!!!

Michael Tingey says:

on May 29, 2012 at 12:56 am

Love your work Joe, though i think whoever told you about the Crownies was having a lend 😉 I dont think many of us drink that stuff voluntarily either!

It was great attending your seminar and talk last Thursday in Melbourne and meeting you in one of the breaks. Thanks for signing my book and DVD! It was a fantastic excuse for a trip to Melbourne from Perth :)

Cheers, Michael

Rob Williams says:

on May 29, 2012 at 2:21 am

And to think I respected you Joe!! NSW??? Seriously??

All jokes aside mate it was great to meet you and watch you in person. You are the kind of bloke us aussies think are great. A truly down to earth, talented, funny fella who doesn’t mind taking the piss out of himself.

Thanks for coming over, we hope to see you again.

Viveca Koh says:

on May 29, 2012 at 3:27 am

Excellent blog post, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and have learned some choice American phrases as well as Australian!

Col says:

on May 29, 2012 at 4:49 am

Great post Joe, (quick pick up on the local lingo, impressive!!)
Enjoyed your Keynote in Melbourne on Sunday.
Sounds like your trip took in just the East Coast. Next time (particularly from a photographic point of view) you will want to visit the Outback.

Paul Topol says:

on May 29, 2012 at 7:03 am

Joe, REALLY great to meet you. Today, Tuesday workshop, was fabulous. You give so much of yourself at every talk. Dunno how you do it. I am sure we all learned heaps from you. I know I did. You looked exhausted. Have a safe trip home. Maybe see ya soon again?

David says:

on May 29, 2012 at 9:38 am

Hilarious! Thanks for the great laugh :)

Jeff says:

on May 29, 2012 at 10:49 am

Hey Joe,

Yes “Tight Ass Tuesdays” is the way to go. Miser Mondays doesn’t have the same ring.

Ok that first line of the third paragraph is a bit of a challenge, surprised no one took a stab so I’ll say it:

Aussies are anything but uptight.

Ha! I didn’t even have to use not! 😉

Cheers mate,

PS thanks for the language primer, I’m ready to go down under now. :-)

Bill Bogle Jr. says:

on May 29, 2012 at 11:36 am


Just when I thought I understood what you were saying, you go and attend graduate school. Not the same accent as back in Syracuse I bet. Sounds like you had a great time. Probably won’t see the same friendliness and kind words back in New York City, I bet.

Cheer, mate. All the best.

Bill Bogle, Jr.

Rob Hynes says:

on May 30, 2012 at 2:27 am


It was wonderful to meet you at the Digital Show in Melbourne. Glad you had a great time in Oz and enjoyed reading about your experiences down under!

All the best,

Rob Hynes

Barry says:

on May 30, 2012 at 9:08 am

All I could think about as I was reading this was the “English English” scene from Austin Powers. Hilarious.

J.T. Haney says:

on May 30, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Brilliant post !!

J.T. Haney says:

on May 30, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Just like Sir Winston Churchill said concerning Americans and Britons, “Two peoples separated by a common language”

Catherine says:

on May 31, 2012 at 6:03 am

That was hilarious! So funny to hear it in your words!!!

Michael says:

on May 31, 2012 at 7:58 am

Mate sorry I found out you were in Australia too late.

Please come back soon so I can book in.

Come to South Australia and we can “suck some piss and I will cook you up some good tucker and flap our gums into the night”

Warren B. says:

on June 1, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Sounds like you’ve got a fair grip on the langauage mate!

It was a pleasure to attend one of your workshops in Sydney and meet you. Here’s hoping that you’ll come back Down Under again in the future.

All the best,

– Warren B.

Blake says:

on June 2, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Joe, I think you’d love Bill Bryson’s book, “In a Sunburned Country”!

Joe McNally says:

on June 3, 2012 at 5:56 am

just got it! thanks…looking forward to a funny read…joe

Mo says:

on June 3, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Hi everyone and Joe in particular. Just wanna say that I got back from barnes and noble and saw the special magazine issue of Life Guide to Digital Photography by Joe Mcnally. So in case you don’t have the book or don’t wanna pay more (not being cheap here), you can grab this instead. IMO the quality is as good as the book.

allen says:

on June 4, 2012 at 2:01 am

so funny…thx for posting this

Peter David says:

on June 7, 2012 at 7:46 am

Great blog on Oz mate. I’m an American living in Melbourne for 20 years now & I love it. The language took a long time to grasp & depending where you live, the slang varies quite a bit! Saw you in Melbourne. Loved it! Thanks for the lessons!

Julie Whitehead says:

on June 11, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Oh Joe, have not laughed so hard in ages. Oz really is the best place in the world and really glad you enjoyed your time here.

Come back soon

Julie W

T. C. Knight says:

on June 14, 2012 at 10:56 pm

It’s been a long time since my last “tinny” on Bondi Beach. Built a deep picture list over there, that, in the long run, never saw the light of day. I was there the year before the summer Olympics. Brings back many a memory. Thanks.

Leeann says:

on June 16, 2012 at 6:20 pm

My oh my, the beautiful photos that can be taken in Australia! I’ve always wanted to go. I need to take my own photos! Thanks for the inspiration.

chris says:

on June 17, 2012 at 8:08 pm

ah shit , i saw you lurking around sydney and though “nah thats not him my eyes are playing tricks”…. that will teach me not to keep upto date with my blog reading haha

glad you enjoyed your stay here and got to experience the great aussie trade beer for anything system ( people from other countrys seem to think im lieing when i tell them this system so cheers for backing us up)

also you will be happy to know the blues won the second round of the origin haha

Andrea says:

on June 20, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Great read – I lived in Melbourne in ’99 and my mum emigrated there shortly after with my sister, so I’ve been many times and toured around. Still, you had a few sayings I’d never heard.
“Grouse” really took me back too – one of the previous posters – must be a Melbournian. Sounds like you had a fantastic time. Hoping to catch you in Ottawa this summer!

Issac says:

on June 21, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Would have loved to run into you up at the Big Merino – I’m an ex-pat yankee living in Canberra and have just discovered that not only am I left eye dominant but that your left-eye shooter technique is a dream for stable shots where I’m my own tripod.

Come to Canberra next time!

PS Consider utilizing the phrase ‘fair dinkum’ next time and you’ll surely be a hit at the local next time down under!

Matt says:

on July 25, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Thanks for that Joe. I had a good ol’ laugh reading your post here but for the most part I think you’ve got the local speak spot on mate.

I have a friend who managed to attend your Melbourne gig and to be honest, he just hasn’t shut up about it since. Yes, I’m bummed that I missed it myself so I am secretly hoping there will be a next-time and the next time you’re in town let me know and I’ll introduce you to a real beer.

Again, thanks for the chuckle and I’m really happy that you enjoyed your time here down under.


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