Friday, 26 January 2018

Where Did That Come From? The Aussie Edition

This time I'm sharing some Australian sayings and trying to explain what they mean and why they are what they are.  Expect a little bias here – I am a New Zealander and we have a big brother, little sister type of relationship with our closest neighbours (still a 3 hour flight away to their closest coast).

No it has nothing to do with Burl Ives – but I just liked the picture. Give it a burl – this means go on, give it a go or a try – this one works in NZ as well.  I always thought that 'burl' might be a distortion of 'whirl' but according to various online dictionaries 'burl' was actually 'birl' and related to putting something into a rotary action – such as flipping a coin.

It's gone walkabout – as in my phone's gone walkabout ie it's missing, I don't know where it is.  This one's very Australian – it refers to the Aboriginal peoples – as part of becoming a man teenagers would go out into the bush/wilderness for a period. 

He's a few sandwiches short of a picnic – if someone says this about you – be offended – it suggests that you are either dumb as a brick or mad as a hatter.  Why sandwiches?  Sandwiches to Australasians are 2 pieces of bread around a filling like a slice of ham with mustard.  My best guess is that if you were a proper picnic you would have more food – but you come up short so the picnic is inadequate.

Budgie Smugglers – you can see from the pic what are called budgie smugglers.  And it doesn't take too much imagination to work out why the saying applies – when walking along in these you look like you are smuggling little birds.  Poor birds!  The guy in the pic was the Australian Prime Minister at the time….sigh….

Happy as Larry – who the heck is Larry?  One theory is that Larry was Larry Foley (an Australian boxer) who won a large prize fight – and a newspaper headline was 'Happy as Larry'.  Another possibility is that it was a shortening of the term 'larrikin' – which means someone who is out for a lark, a bit of a rough diamond.  So if you are as happy as Larry, you are very happy indeed.

Spit the dummy – we would say 'throw his toys out of the cot' instead but the meaning is the same.  It refers to someone who in a fit of temper does something childish or silly.

He doesn't know whether he's Arthur or Martha – Like Larry, we don't know who either Arthur or Martha is.  The original phrase has nothing to do with not knowing your gender – it means not knowing whether you are coming or going ie you are totally confused.


  1. too funny. I'll have to use these on my Aussie neighbor and surprise him.


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