Australian Expressions of Pleasure

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Australian expressions of pleasure: I love traveling through different English-speaking countries. Although we all speak the same language in that we can (usually) order a burger and fries without much ado, at the same time we really don’t speak the same language.

I’ve been baffled by heavily-accented fast-talking Outbackers, confused by sayings about drinking, and stumped by terminology left right and centre.

But one thing Aussies do well is utilize a full – and fully confusing at times – collection of phrases to express pleasure. Here are just a few:

This post was originally published in 2009. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content. 
See also: Australian Abbreviations, Canadian versus Australian Coins.

Sweet As!

Sweet as what, you may ask? The expression is more about the use of “as”, since I’ve also heard “hard as”, “easy as”, “gross as”, and numerous other descriptive words to fit the situation.

And like many Aussie phrases and words, it is indeed a shortened sentence, the ending being implied. So what is the ending, you ask? Well, it depends on who you talk to and how crass they are. The tamest version I’ve heard yet is “sweet as…all heck”.

Can you imagine my shock when I learned of the meaning and realized I hear old ladies say “sweet as” all the time.

That’s Grouse

When I first heard this (after I had been enlightened on the whole “as” situation), I thought that maybe people were saying “great as”. But as different people said it, it just didn’t seem to fit. I wondered if I was hearing a slurry version of “gross”, but most people were enthusiastic when they said it. And I’m pretty sure they weren’t talking about the bird kind of grouse.

No, grouse has a definition all its own, but it basically means “great”.

Bloody Oath!

Yikes – that’s some violent stuff. People must mean whatever they’re saying if they say “bloody oath”. And they do; they mean an exaggerated version of “that’s for certain”.

Ripper, Corker

Both these words are descriptive terms for “great”. “This bottle of wine is a ripper” is the first time I heard it in action. What I love about both these words is how the Australian accent turns “er” phonetically into “ah”. “This dinner is a rippah and that dessert is a corkah”: it’s so much more fun to say it the Aussie way!

She’ll be Apples

I can’t help but smile when I hear this expression. It’s another incantation of “she’ll be right”, which carries with it a way of thinking unto itself.

Cooee!

This word is not an expression of pleasure per se, though I couldn’t help but include it for my love of its origin. It is traditionally sung in a high-pitched voice to gain somebody’s attention, and is originally an aboriginal custom (but is now used by many Aussies). Start with the “coo” at a medium to high tone, then finish off by tossing off the “ee” in a falsetto pitch. It may initially feel ridiculous, but trust me – it is infectious.

Because it was traditionally used as a way to communicate over long distances, cooee is now considered a benchmark. If something is “within cooee distance”, it is close enough for you to hear somebody cooee-ing.

Coo-ee! It’s great fun. Or maybe I should say it’s a rippah, a corkah, sweet as, or grouse. Either way, she’ll be apples. Bloody oath. Hope you enjoyed these Australian expressions of pleasure. Got any of your own to share? Leave a comment below!

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8 thoughts on “Australian Expressions of Pleasure”

  1. ‘Sweet as’, ‘she’ll be apples’ and ‘cooee!’ are all mid-20th century British sayings ad probably came out here at that time. They are still used in the UK but are slightly dated. (I used to live in the UK and am currently in Melbourne).

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  2. I love cooee. I am going to use it today. I am not joking, practicing my high pitch now. One of my favorite things is talking about favorite sayings and unique words from other English Speaking Countries.

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  3. This brings back great memories. My first trip to Australia was as a 16 year old exchange student, about 25 years ago. Reminds me of the first night at my host families house, after a plane ride from Sydney to north of Noosa. I and the other passengers had been served hot black tea and biscuits on the plane ride. I arrived very late in the afternoon, and when my host mom asked me if I’d like tea I replied “no thank you, I had some on the plane”. Didn’t realize my error until the family sat down to supper and there was no place for me at the table. In Queensland, it was common for what I thought of as supper to be called tea! I was pretty embarrassed, but we all had a laugh, and yes, they did share the meal.
    When I returned to the US a year later, I brought back a booklet in which my friends had written all sorts of Aussie sayings and their English equivalent. My 20 year old daughter loves to look at this and can’t wait to go back there some time (she went with me when she was 3 & 1/2 and doesn’t have many memories).

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  4. @Nicola – I realize that a lot of what makes Australia unique to me is seated in British customs. So it comes as a little surprise to me that some of these are originally UK sayings; amusing though that they are dated in the UK now – they’re still rampant in Oz! Then again, I hear that Australia is a touch behind “the times”….if keeping up with the world-wide Joneses is important. 🙂

    @DavenDeb – Cooee rocks. I first heard it in the context of a conversation and it flowed so nicely I almost missed out on learning about this new word!

    @Deb – I think the booklet of Aussie sayings is perfect. I keep collecting more and more….I’ll have to whip out my travel journal again!

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  5. Hey,
    Can definitely clear up “Sweet as” because it comes from “Sweet as a nut”. That’s an old one, language is as much passed on tradition as instinctive invention though and it does tend to repeat itself through succesive generations.

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    • @Martin(o) – Thank you for this clarification! It certainly beats some of the other incantations I’ve heard!

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