You say vanilla slice, I say snot block
As the 26th of January rolls around, some of us might take time out to reflect on what it means to live on the largest island on earth. We might come to the realisation that the ‘average’ Australian can’t be easily defined and that the greatest benefit to our nation is the diversity of our citizens.
Considering the variances in climate and lifestyle, religion and beliefs, it is amazing to think that we are a thriving, collective nation. So we must have something in common?
Perhaps with just a few exceptions, Kath and Kim notwithstanding, there is one thing that brings us all together: our language.
Our accents may differ from region to region and we’ve all got our own regional idiosyncrasies, but generally speaking, whichever part of the country we’re from, we understand each other’s verbal and written communication.
Australia recognises English as the official language of our country, but is there such thing as the Australian language?
In 2016, the Oxford University Press added more than 6000 words and phrases to the existing base of unique Australian terms¹. That adds up to over 16,000 Australian-specific words and phrases that have evolved from things like culture, immigration, regional dialects, advances in technology and globalisation².
We welcomed the long black, rangas, firies, fairy bread, pubes, the tent embassy, and what it means to send something straight to the pool room.
It is now acceptable for a politician to publicly accuse a colleague of carrying on like a pork chop. Or for a workmate to announce they’re headed out to get a snot block, and would anybody else like one?
Phonetically, grammatically and lexically all languages continually evolve³. Much like shoulder pads in the 80’s, some words simply become outdated. Others are repurposed and completely new words are invented to accommodate the changes to our lifestyles.
The English in Australian English will never disappear, however the Australian language is building its own unique style, much like the diversity of the citizens who call Australia home. This is a part of what makes our country such a great place to live.