“G’day Mate. Put another shrimp on the barbie”. Australia is as well-known for its unique turns of phrase as it is for its ubiquitous meat pie. But few realise how many terms in use around the world originated down under, writes Mark Gwynn for BBC Culture:
In 2013, ‘selfie’ became Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year. It’s become such a ubiquitous word, but few stop to think about where it came from. It may come as a surprise to learn that is has its origins in Australia: the first evidence of the word in use comes from an online forum entry by the Australian Nathan Hope, who posted a photo of his lip, which he says he cut while drinking at a mate’s 21st birthday party.
For most Australian English speakers, the ‘-ie’ suffix is a natural part of the language. Unlike similar diminutives in international English, for example ‘birdie’ or ‘doggie’, the ‘-ie’ suffix in Australian English serves as a marker of informality – providing speakers with a shared code of familiarity and solidarity. Australian English is replete with such words: ‘barbie’ (a barbecue), ‘mushie’ (a mushroom), ‘prezzie’ (a present), and ‘sunnies’ (sunglasses) to name just a few.
Mark lists other Aussie expressions with the ‘-ie’ suffix that have found their way into English elsewhere include: greenie, mozzie, pollie, budgie, surfie. Then there’s the use of the ‘-o’ suffix: ‘ambo’ (ambulance officer), a ‘reffo’ (refugee), ‘rello’ (relative), ‘demo’ (demonstration), ‘muso’ (musician), and ‘preggo’ (pregnant).