This post is the definitive answer to the question I have been asked many times by non-southern hemispherians. Why do Australians have so many weird words? This question along with people ‘correcting’ my pronunciation are actually quite offensive akin to an Englishman asking a Scot why he speaks funny. This post isn’t a rant though. I aim to give the answer why we have such a unique and beautiful collection of words and phrases.
Australia is a young nation. Only being a federation since 1901 before that we were a colony. A penal one no less. The first fleet arrived in 1787 to start the first European colony in Australia. That’s a bit over a hundred years of pottering around down south before federation. In that time the full effects of isolation in a desolate land were being felt by those that had settled there. Travel to and from Europe took just under a year to undertake and was never done lightly or on a whim. It was more often than not a one way trip. Making Europe very very far away to the average Australian settler. The nature of the European mind at the time meant they looked at their Asian neighbours with a mix of fear and superiority. Further cementing a sense that they were on their own. It wasn’t until around the 1970s that this isolation was lifted and Australia finally opened itself up to Asia politically while the advert of mass commercial flight meant the West was finally only a day at the most away. That’s a bit under two centuries of language and cultural development with limited outside influence. It’s also a century and a half of inventions. Australians invented a great deal of things which we gave our our names to. These same things were often invented in other nations and given different names. Thus we name something one thing while others name it another. Many Australians don’t realise just how much of their vernacular is Australia only. I really do need to keep a list of the words I’ve been shocked to find are not universal English.
I hope this answers the question that really shouldn’t be asked. We should celebrate the different Englishes of the world instead of trying to put them down. The Australian dialect is as much a way of life as it is a different way of speaking English.