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25 Awesome Australian Slang Terms

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by Helena Hedegaard Holmgren 

Australian English is more than just an accent, and the Aussie vernacular can easily leave both English speakers and foreigners perplexed. Australian English is similar to British English, but many common words differ from American English—and there are many unique Aussie idiosyncrasies, slang terms, and expressions.

The term for Aussie slang and pronunciation is strine, and it is often characterized by making words as short as possible; the story goes it developed by speaking through clenched teeth to avoid blowies (blow flies) from getting into the mouth. So if you plan to visit the world’s smallest continent, this list of some of the most commonly used slang expressions is for you.

1. Arvo: afternoon

2. Barbie: barbeque

3. Bogan: redneck, an uncultured person. According to the Australian show Bogan Hunters, a real bogan sports a flanno (flannel shirt), a mullet, missing teeth, homemade tattoos (preferably of the Australian Flag or the Southern Cross), and has an excess of Australia paraphernalia. This "species of local wildlife" can be found by following their easily distinguishable tracks from burnouts or the smell of marijuana.

4. Bottle-O: bottle shop, liquor store

5. Chockers: very full

6. Esky: cooler, insulated food and drink container

7. Fair Dinkum: true, real, genuine

8. Grommet: young surfer

9. Mozzie: mosquito

10. Pash: a long passionate kiss. A pash rash is red irritated skin as the result of a heavy make-out session with someone with a beard.

11. Ripper: really great

12. Roo: kangaroo. A baby roo, still in the pouch, is known as a Joey

13. Root: sexual intercourse. This one can get really get foreigners in trouble. There are numerous stories about Americans coming to Australia telling people how they love to "root for their team." If you come to Australia, you would want to use the word "barrack" instead. On the same note, a "wombat" is someone who eats roots and leaves.

14. Servo: gas station. In Australia, a gas station is called a petrol station. If you ask for gas, don’t be surprised if someone farts.

15. She’ll be right: everything will be all right

16. Sickie: sick day. If you take a day off work when you are not actually sick it’s called chucking a sickie.

17. Slab: 24-pack of beer

18. Sook: to sulk. If someone calls you a sook, it is because they think you are whinging

19. Stubbie holder: koozie or cooler. A stubbie holder is a polystyrene insulated holder for a stubbie, which is a 375ml bottle of beer.

20. Sweet as: sweet, awesome. Aussies will often put ‘as’ at the end of adjectives to give it emphasis. Other examples include lazy as, lovely as, fast as and common as.

21. Ta: thank you

22. Togs: swim suit

23. Tradie: a tradesman. Most of the tradies have nicknames too, including brickie (bricklayer), truckie (truckdriver), sparky (electrician), garbo (garbage collector) and chippie (carpenter).

24. Ute: Utility vehicle, pickup truck

25. Whinge: whine

Good onya, mate! Understanding the Aussies should be easy as now.

Additional Sources: Urban Attitude; All Down Under - Slang Dictionary; Australian Words - Meanings and Origins; Australian Dictionary; Koala Net; Australian Explorer; Up from Australia; YouTube, 2; McDonalds.

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Big Questions
Where Does the Word 'Meme' Come From?
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Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Civic Entertainment Group

By Jenna Scarbrough

Certain fads, catchphrases, dances, and songs bombard our society—nowadays, almost all of these are either born on or popularized through the Internet. Grumpy Cat, Rickrolling, Left Shark, the optical illusion dress—all of these ubiquitous cultural sensations have this in common. Some of these stick for a while, some don’t. Those that stick are branded as memes. But what exactly is a meme?

In 1976, Richard Dawkins, the English evolutionary biologist, proposed an idea in his book, The Selfish Gene: What if ideas were like organisms, where they could breed and mutate? These ideas, he claimed, are actually the basis for human culture, and they are born in the brain.

Dawkins’s research is primarily in genetics. He has argued that all life relies on replication. But unlike cells, ideas do not rely on a chemical basis for survival. They begin from a single location—the brain—and spread outward, jumping from one vessel to another, battling for attention. Some ideas are more successful, which may be due to an element of truth they carry, while others slowly die out. Some may not be accurate, but society has accepted these ideas for so long that they are just accepted (think about pictures of Jesus or George Washington; while these may not be what they actually looked like, almost all art now portrays these men in the same way).

Dawkins needed a name for this concept. He proposed calling it mimeme, from the Greek word meaning “that which is replicated.” He wrote in his book, “I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme.” He felt the monosyllabic word would be more fitting because it sounds similar to "gene." “If it is any consolation,” he continued, “it could alternatively be thought of as being related to ‘memory,’ or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream.’”

Although he probably couldn’t imagine the possibility of Internet memes during his initial research in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Dawkins has now accepted the appropriation. Because it’s still viral, he said in an interview with WIRED, this popularity increase goes right along with his theory that ideas are similar to living things.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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8 of History's Greatest Cat Ladies
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by Kalli Damschen

When most people think of the stereotypical cat lover, they may picture someone resembling the character from The Simpsons known simply as the Crazy Cat Lady—an insane, grizzled old woman who speaks in gibberish and throws cats at innocent passersby. And although the stereotype of the crazy cat lady is far from flattering, several of history’s most successful women were devoted to their furry friends. Here are eight of history’s greatest cat ladies.

1. Vivien Leigh

Vivien Leigh, the English actress who starred in the 1939 adaptation of Gone with the Wind, owned multiple cats throughout her life. She was particularly fond of Siamese cats, and she is quoted as saying, “Once you have kept a Siamese cat you would never have any other kind.” Leigh’s first Siamese, called New Boy, was a gift from her husband, actor Laurence Olivier. New Boy (named after London's New Theatre) wore a custom collar imported from Paris and appears in many photographs with Leigh. Poo Jones, the seal point Siamese she adopted after New Boy's death, was Leigh's favorite cat. He traveled with her everywhere (with his own luggage) and napped in her dressing room whenever she was working onstage or in front of the camera.

2. Clara Barton

Wikimedia Commons (Barton) / iStock (Cat)

Clara Barton, the famous nurse and founder of the Red Cross, was an animal lover with a particular affinity for felines. During the Civil War, Barton earned the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield,” and in appreciation for her selfless work, U.S. Senator Schuyler Colfax sent Barton a kitten. Barton’s most beloved cat was the black and white Tommy, who kept her company for 17 years. A portrait of Tommy painted by Barton’s friend and fellow nurse Antoinette Margot still hangs in the Barton house in Glen Echo, Maryland.

3., 4., and 5. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte

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The famous Bronte sisters not only shared a love of writing, but also a love of cats. Felines are featured in many of the sisters’ writings, including Agnes Grey and Wuthering Heights, as well as in the personal diaries of Anne and Charlotte. Emily Bronte even wrote a French essay entitled “Le Chat” (“The Cat”), in which she defends cats against those who argue that they are selfish and cruel, asserting that the disposition of cats is quite similar to that of humans and even arguing that the self-reliance of cats is better than the hypocrisy of humanity.

6. Florence Nightingale

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Florence Nightingale, often regarded as the founder of modern nursing, took the term “cat lady” to new levels. Nightingale once said that “cats possess more sympathy and feeling than human beings,” and throughout her lifetime she owned over 60 cats—perhaps as many as 17 at once. Nightingale was a devoted caretaker for her feline friends, who ate specially prepared food off of china plates in her room. Evidence of Nightingale’s affection for her cats can still be seen today, as some of her kitties left ink paw prints on her letters.

7. Louisa May Alcott

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Louisa May Alcott once jokingly listed an “inordinate love of cats” among her vices, and her fondness of felines shone through her writing. In Little Women, the March sisters have a pet cat, and at one point in the story Beth is seen playing with the cat and her kittens. The book even includes a poem called “A Lament (For S.B. Pat Paw)” eulogizing a beloved pet cat: “We mourn the loss of our little pet, / And sigh o’er her hapless fate, / For never more by the fire she’ll sit, / Nor play by the old green gate.”

8. Harriet Beecher Stowe

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The famous author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin owned an assertive Maltese cat named after her husband, Calvin. According to Stowe’s friend and fellow writer, Charles Dudley Warner, Calvin “walked into her house one day out of the great unknown and became at once at home.” Stowe was immensely attached to Calvin the cat, and supposedly she even allowed him to perch on her shoulder while she wrote. When Stowe and her husband had to move, she gave Calvin to Warner, and the cat went on to become the star of Warner’s essay, “Calvin (A Study in Character).”

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