There are 80 Aboriginal languages in the Australian continent and Aussies regularly use over 400 words derived from them in everyday life. Most of the words are used to describe plants, animals, and certain things, although Aboriginal slang has caught on in the vernacular of the general population.
Aboriginal Terms In Aussie English
The inclusion of Aboriginal words is probably one reason why Aussie English terms may sound foreign to other native English speakers. Sometimes, the word is familiar but the meaning is completely different. So, we’ll just give you a few interesting examples here. This list might help you out of a number of otherwise confusing situations on your next trip to Australia.
Must-Know Aboriginal Terms
#1 – Most Used Aboriginal Term – “Bung”
Aussies often use the term “bung” to refer to a state of exhaustion or to mean that something is broken or out of action. The word “bung” has a rather long history. Back in 1841, it was first recorded and the record explicitly said that “bang” meant “dead” in the Yagara Aboriginal lexicon. The current usage was established towards the end of the 19th century. When you hear someone in Australia say that the TV is bung, then you won’t have to Google the word anymore. You can react accordingly.
#2 – Not What it Sounds Like – “Deadly”
Here’s the interesting thing. When you hear the word “deadly” used by Aboriginal people down under, you’d better hold off that mournful visage. For one, everyone else will be smiling because “deadly” is slang for “awesome” and “great.” At least, that’s how Aboriginal people consider the word.
#3 – Closer to the Aboriginal Heart – “Mob”
Here’s one more tip: when someone says “mob,” do not immediately go into a fight-or-flight” mode. They are only talking about their kin or family. Locals from Aboriginal Australia are for sure most of them are peaceful and kindly folks.
#4 – Preserving Aboriginal Culture – “Gubba”
When you are referred to as “gubba,” relax and let it pass because this is not 1850 anymore. That’s the word Aboriginal Australians use when referring to non-Aboriginal people.
#5 – A Reminder of the Past – “Gubbamen”
There’s a lot more to “gubba” than meets the eye. In the 1850s, Aboriginal Australians in New South Wales could be heard crying “Gubbamen” or “Gubba Man” with real fear in their hearts. The cries meant that government people were coming to do their community harm. “Gubbamen” or “Gubba Man” were mispronunciations of “government” and in latter times, Aboriginal people used “Gubba” to refer to all people of the white race. Those were hard times and more hardships came after, but times have changed and white men ceased to be the object of fear. But evidently, some words remain even when the connotation is not the same anymore.
#6 – Liquid Courage – “Charge up”
Here is one more useful phrase from indigenous Australians to keep in mind. Being invited to “charge up” is not a vague suggestion to liven up. Neither is it a general encouragement to increase your energy level. It is actually very specific invitation to drink alcohol, and usually copious amounts of it. If you can’t hold your liquor or if you do not drink at all, then you had better learn the Aussie way to decline politely.
Aboriginal terms and indigenous Australians are at the heart of Aussie English. In many ways, it shaped modern Aussie culture and the Australian government too. Interpreting it isn’t rocket science either. As long as you have a keen sense of wit and an open head, you’ll understand them just fine!
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