11 Delightful 19th-Century Australian Slang Terms


In 1892, German linguist Karl Lentzner published Dictionary of the Slang-English of Australia and of Some Mixed Languages, likely the first compilation of its kind. “The English language has of late years incorporated a vast store of words and phrases generally known as ‘Slang,’ which, with marvellous rapidity, have taken root in all sections of the community,” Lentzner writes. “America especially has proved a fertile soil for colloquialisms of this kind; and so has Australia. To collect, and to some extent tabulate, an interesting class of these unorthodox accretions—Colonial Slang, is the purpose of this work.”

You won't find crikey in this book, but there are plenty other weird and wonderful words worth incorporating into everyday conversation. Here are just a few of them, from the first section of Lentzner’s book, “Australian and Bush Slang."

1. Boomah

This word for a very large type of kangaroo, Lentzner says, likely sprang from a misunderstanding by British Colonel Godfrey Charles Mundy, who wrote in Our Antipodes,

An officer from Van Diemen's Land told me that he had once killed in that colony “a kangaroo of such magnitude, that being a long way from home, he was unable though on horseback to carry away any portion except the tail, which alone weighed thirty pounds. This species is called the boomah, and stands about seven feet high.”

“The word was strange to him,” Lentzner says, “and he imagined it to be a variety of kangaroo, and not a slang word expressive of size.”

2. Cornstalks

These are Australian settlers, particularly girls. They get that nickname “because their average height is very great, though they are fragile,” Lentzner writes.

3. Dead Nuts On

This term, which means “very fond of,” is a more emphatic version of the English “nuts on.”

4. Happy Returns

This is a pleasant term for a rather unpleasant thing: Someone who has happy returns is throwing up his food.

5. To Hump the Swag

To carry your luggage on your back. An example, from the article "Impressions of Australia," which appeared in Blackwood's Magazine: "And you may often have to hump your own swag, for the able-bodied fellows who are standing about are probably too well off to care to earn your shilling."

6. Kokum

Prison slang for sham kindness.

7. Leanaway

Someone who is tipsy. “The metaphor is of course,” Lentzner writes, “from the drunk person’s reeling.”

8. Off his kadoova

Someone who is insane. “Off his kadoova, ‘off his head,’ ‘off his chump,’ or simply ‘off,’ all convey the same idea—as a train being off the rails, or a man off his play,” Lentzner writes.

9. Promossing

“Talking rubbish, playing the fool, mooning about.”

10. To have one’s shirt out

To be angry. “Probably this expression has arisen from the shirt working out between the breeches and waistcoat during a struggle,” Lentzner writes. “To have one's shirt out, therefore, denotes excitement and thus anger. Another possible derivation is from the provincial shurty, to bustle about.”

11. Simply throwing up buckets

A way of saying you are very disappointed. "When a person means to say that he is as disappointed as ever he can be, he sometimes says, 'Oh! I am simply throwing up buckets,' Lentzner writes. "This expression is of course considered very vulgar—used by school boys, and the like."

From Snoopy to Shark Bait: The Top Slang Word in Each State

There’s a minute, and then there’s a hot minute. Defined as “a longish amount of time,” this unit of time is familiar to Alabamians but may stir up confusion beyond the state’s borders.

It’s Louisianans, though, who feel the “most misunderstood,” according to the results of a survey regarding regional slang by PlayNJ. Of the Louisiana residents surveyed, 72 percent said their fellow Americans from other states—even neighboring ones—have a hard time grasping their lingo. Some learned the hard way that ordering a burger “dressed” (with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo) isn’t universally understood, nor is the phrase “to pass a good time” (instead of “to have” a good time).

After surveying 2000 people (with proportional numbers from each state), PlayNJ created a map showing the top slang word in each state. Many are words that are unlikely to be understood beyond state lines, but others—like California’s bomb (something you really like) and New York’s deadass (to be completely serious)—have spread well beyond their respective borders thanks to memes and internet culture.

Hawaiians are also known for their distinctive slang words, with 71 percent reporting that words like shaka (hello) and poho (waste of time) are frequently misunderstood. Shark bait, one of the state’s more colorful terms, refers to tourists who are so pale that they attract sharks.

Check out the full list below and test your knowledge of regional slang words with PlayNJ’s online quiz.

A chart showing the top slang words in each state
20 States With the Highest Rates of Skin Cancer

They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing. Floridians get to soak up the sun year-round, but that exposure to harmful UV rays also comes with consequences. Prevention magazine reported that Florida has the highest rate of skin cancer in the U.S., according to a survey by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).

BCBS surveyed 9 million of its insured members who had been diagnosed with skin cancer between 2014 and 2016 and found that Florida had the highest rate of skin cancer at 7.1 percent. People living in eastern states tend to be more prone to skin cancer, and diagnoses are more common among women.

Here are the 20 states with the highest rates of skin cancer:

1. Florida: 7.1 percent
2. Washington, D.C.: 5.8 percent
3. Connecticut: 5.6 percent
4. Maryland: 5.3 percent
5. Rhode Island: 5.3 percent
6. Vermont: 5.3 percent
7. North Carolina: 5.2 percent
8. New York: 5 percent
9. Massachusetts: 5 percent
10. Colorado: 5 percent
11. Arizona: 5 percent
12. Virginia: 5 percent
13. Delaware: 4.8 percent
14. Kentucky: 4.7 percent
15. Alabama: 4.7 percent
16. New Jersey: 4.7 percent
17. Georgia: 4.7 percent
18. West Virginia: 4.5 percent
19. Tennessee: 4.5 percent
20. South Carolina: 4.4 percent

It may come as a surprise that sunny California doesn’t make the top 20, and Hawaii is the state with the lowest rate of skin cancer at 1.8 percent. Prevention magazine explains that this could be due to the large population of senior citizens in Florida and the fact that the risk of melanoma, a rare but deadly type of skin cancer, increases with age. People living in regions with higher altitudes also face a greater risk of skin cancer due to the thinner atmosphere and greater exposure to UV radiation, which explains why Colorado is in the top 10.

The good news is that the technology used to detect skin cancer is improving, and researchers hope that AI can soon be incorporated into more skin cancer screenings. To reduce your risk, be sure to wear SPF 30+ sunscreen when you know you’ll be spending time outside, and don’t forget to reapply it every two hours. 

[h/t Prevention]


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