Orright you spunkrats, here’s where all our Aussie summertime language came from

Summer loving happens so fast.

Last year you were sipping quarantinis in locky down.

This year you’re hosting mates for barbies.

When we grab that snag, swag or esky, we’re doing more than celebrating summer.

We’re celebrating it in Australian ways, and with Australian words.

We don’t always agree on those words.

Queenslanders have their togs and Victorians their bathers.

And we don’t always agree with each other.

The surfies hate the clubbies, and the bushwalkers bristle at hikers.

But when summer hits, many Aussies share a love of the outdoors.

So, slip, slop, slap, and don your akubra, cabbage-tree hat or Cunnamulla Cartwheel (our sunburnt history is replete with evolving hat styles).

Let’s celebrate Australian summer slang.

The great Aussie picnic: sangers, splayds and fly-swatting

Australians deal with the summer in a very Australian way – irony, humour and idiom.

Sure, an Australian picnic might be a pleasant affair, with sangers (sandwiches), flybog (jam) or splayds (a combined fork, spoon and knife, a proud Aussie invention).

But in Australian English a picnic is also a word for “an awkward or disordered occasion”.

To be fair, a picnic might start off pleasant and then turn awkward.

Your host might turn the tall poppy and put on jam (“a pretentious display”).

Your guests might act strange, too.

Australian English abounds in words and idioms for madness or folly.

Lexicographer Bruce Moore reckons we Aussies invented the short of x idiom, and more than a few of these are picnic-related:

  • a sandwich short of a picnic
  • a few snags short of a barbie
  • a couple of tinnies short of a slab
  • a stubbie short of a six pack.

Flies also loom large in the Australian summer, and not surprisingly buzz into our idiom — no flies on you is one we’ve even exported. Blowflies are still those petty bureaucrats who act the stickybeak about trivial issues.

Popular (but certainly false) theories even link the Australian accent to flies — we need to speak with our mouths shut to keep them out.

Aussie beach life: wowsers, surfies and burkinis

Summertime life revolves around the beach for many Australians. However, beach-going hasn’t always been easy-living.

We talk about tree-changes and sea-changes these days without much fuss.

However, just as the 19th-century bush-goers had to worry about bushrangers, the 19th century beach-goers had to worry about beach-rangers or larrikin pushes (“gangs”).

The latter could be recognised by their straw nan nan hats.

The police feared the larrikins.

The larrikins feared the sun.

In the 20th century, beach-going was a battle between conservative types, and those who sought to challenge them. Australian beaches had their fair share of wowsers in the early 20th century, and those who swam on censored beaches wore neck-to-knees or Spooners (named after a politician who opposed briefer costumes).

Surf clubs emerged to guard those swimmers who sought to avoid wowserland by swimming at unusual times or in unusual places.

However, as social mores became more permissive, these clubbies ended up as the more conservative forces on the beaches.

Clubbies faced off with the surfie subcultures from the 1960s.

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