The Egalitarian Appreciation of Strine in Microcosm

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[This is a guest post by Matthew Robertson]

The 'Today' Interview With Oporto Robbery Heroes

In the United States, regional accents often carry with them negative stereotypes about class, status, intelligence, and more, making Southern versus Northern accents markers of division.

In Australia, it's largely the opposite. Regional vernacular and a broad accent (known as "Strine") is instead a unifier. Australia is, of course, much more culturally homogeneous than the United States — but the cross-class appreciation of the country's own manner of speech is another instance of a deeply entrenched ethos of egalitarianism. The comity and innocent enjoyment of all Australians with their own uneducated, unsophisticated working classes is clear in films like The Castle, or shows like Kath & Kim, among many others.

And it's also presented in microcosm in this video, an interview on the Australian morning program "Today," uploaded early this year.

In it, the well-loved impish breakfast show host, Karl Stefanovic, interviews two Australians, Cane and James, who recently foiled a robbery at an Oporto (Australia's premier Portuguese-style chicken burger fast food restaurant) in Queensland.

When asked what happened, James says in one breath:

“We’d been down at Options Tavern at a stubbies and singlets party, and got dropped off by a mate up the road, and started to walk down the servo to get some noodles and went to jump over a sign on the way, and slipped over and busted my plugga.”

Strine guide:
stubbies – very short, tight cotton shorts, beloved of bricklayers, builders, and other Aussie men
servo – gas station
plugga – thongs or flip-flops (so named because the top component "plugs in" to the foam sole; the term is used primarily in Queensland.)

He's asked to continue the tale:

“I was pretty concerned about me blowout I had, and looked up and saw a white Commodore pull up, two blokes with shirts around their faces, and yeah…sort of thought something was a bit suss. So, better go check it out."

Strine guide:
blowout – typically used for the sudden loss of pressure in a car tire or similar
bloke – male
suss – suspicious

James is asked to continue:

"Umm, grabbed the key out the ignition while they were inside the Oportos, yeah, then, yeah, I dunno, it sorta just unfolded from there. There was no plan; it was just go with it and see what happened."

The robbers hightailed it once they realized their getaway vehicle was forfeit. There's a highly amusing joke about the gym and Jim Beam, Facebook antics, and the busting of a plugga.

On the latter point, James mentions that new pluggas are kindly being provided by his fishing team, "The Mootdangas."

Stefanovic, unable to resist the opportunity for transgressive humor, makes a show of crooking his ear and asks: "What was the name of that team?" Tracy Grimshaw can see what's coming, and grimaces.

"The team moot, Team Mootdanga," James says.

Strine guide:
moot – vagina, pronounced like foot with an 'm'
danga – a small piece of dried excrement stuck to the anal hair of a sheep.
Pronounced 'dang-ah.' Shearer's slang. Also spelled 'danger.'

Everyone on the program bursts out laughing at this obviously risque, not to say disgusting image.

"It doesn't get any better!" Stefanovic declares. "Righto folks, that's our show for the year!"

Amidst all the giggling, James is asked where he works. "Mate, I work at Hinterland Mowers down at Narang."

James' final words on his stopping the robbery are: "Just had to be done. Sort out the right from the wrong." His friend Cane echoes him: "Bloody oath."

[Thanks to Geoff Wade]


  1. Pflaumbaum said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 11:39 am

    In the United States, regional accents often carry with them negative stereotypes about class, status, intelligence, and more, making Southern versus Northern accents markers of division.

    But what about the way Southern accents are sometimes deployed (or alleged to be deployed) by US politicians? Doesn't it suggest there are strong positive values associated with them as well as negative – values somewhat similar to those of Strine? Earthiness, straightforwardness, pragmatism, lack of pretension/airs etc.?

  2. Gregory Kusnick said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 11:44 am

    "Australia's premier Portuguese-style chicken burger fast food restaurant"

    One can't help wondering how many competing Portuguese-style chicken burger fast food restaurant chains Australia has.

  3. Terry Hunt said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 11:58 am

    I'm reminded (to my shame) of the obscene English folk song, to the tune of "The Ash Grove", that (referring to ". . . the hairs on her dicky-di-do [which] hang down to her knees") enumerates "one black one, one white one, and one with a bit of shite on, and one with a fairy light on to show you the way,"

  4. Andre said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 12:02 pm

    @Gregory, at least two others I can think of!

    Also, agree with Pflaumbaum, the egalitarianism is played up a bit much. The social marking really isn't all that different to certain US varieties. Certain Australian varieties are marginalised too. Race is also an interesting variable. To the extent AAVE is stigmatised by White American society, we could look at how Aboriginal English or the urban Australian English of Middle Eastern-heritage people is viewed in Australia.

  5. Pflaumbaum said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 12:07 pm

    I've also heard an Aussie term of art for fecally encrusted ovine anal hair, but it wasn't danga, it was winnet.

    The human version bears the evocative name gruffnut.

  6. Dick Margulis said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 12:24 pm

    AuE danga = AmE dingleberry

  7. Ari Corcoran said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 1:00 pm

    This is all very interesting, and is a great video clip, but ignores the fact that Australian English is far more diverse than the linguists' mantra that there are but three Australian "accents": Broad, General and Cultivated. [of which the video clip demonstrates the first. This video is a great version Of "Broad"].

    Without going into the debate about who controls navies, and therefore languages versus dialects, I find this tripartite division of Australian speech in English tiresome as well as inaccurate.

    Two cases in point.

    First, it i relatively easy to distinguish, in Aboriginal English, major varieties between Aboriginal speakers of English across the continent, from Broome to the Northern Territory to Cairns and NSW.

    Second, it is also easy to distinguish various migrant versions of Englishes, down the third generation, as "Wogs out of work" demonstrated.

    I won't go that far, perhaps, but it is tempting to suggest a certain level of deafness in linguists' refusal to accept that Australian Englishes are a bit more bloody diverse than is often suggested in the canon.

  8. Ari Corcoran said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 1:06 pm

    And, sorry, "danga"? The correct term is "dag" for the shit encrusted wool near a sheep's back side.

    It also refers to the sort of person, "a bit of a dag" as a term of affection for a slightly weird person.

  9. Victor Mair said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 1:49 pm

    And now I have an opportunity to share this:

    Explainer: the largest language spoken exclusively in Australia – Kriol

    If you only want to listen to the song (Ali Mills – Waltjim Bat Matilda), it is here.

  10. Jon W said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 2:23 pm

    I don't know much about Australia, but I watched the video — is that "comity and innocent enjoyment"? It looked perhaps like condescension; when middle-class folks can't stop laughing at members of the "uneducated, unsophisticated working classes," that's not necessarily a sign of how egalitarian they are.

  11. Pflaumbaum said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 3:29 pm

    "Dag", that's right! I remember from Neighbours.

  12. Bob Ladd said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 3:51 pm

    I reacted to the video more or less the same way Jon W did.

  13. GeorgeW said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 4:00 pm

    Pflaumbaum: "But what about the way Southern accents are sometimes deployed (or alleged to be deployed) by US politicians?"

    Often pandering.

  14. Christian Saunders said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 4:07 pm

    I'm Australian (Perth), but I haven't lived there full-time since 2000. Still, I've NEVER heard the words 'moot' or 'danga' in my life. And yes, they were clearly making fun of these 'ordinary blokes' in a not-very-nice way, in my humble opinion.

  15. Michael Rank said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 4:46 pm

    ‘“I was pretty concerned about me blowout I had…”’
    Is that standard Australian syntax (SAS)?

  16. David Cameron Staples said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 7:03 pm

    Oporto's is a Sydney thing. In Melbourne there are far more of Nando's.

    "me blowout I had" … as opposed to "your blowout I had" (a blowout to your thing which affected me) or "my blowout you had" (a blowout to my thing which affected you).

  17. Anne McLaren said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 7:23 pm

    As an Australian from the southern states this comes across as a real gem from our "deep north", that is, the state of Queensland. Yes, the panel were laughing themselves silly at the innocent heroes. The boy in particular seemed to realise they were being simply laughed at. A nasty example of sneering urbanites getting a laugh out of less sophisticated plebs.

  18. Graeme said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 8:38 pm

    Jon W is close to the truth. Whilst received pronunciation died here in the 70s, acceptance of broad speech in Australia is ambivalent. In some ways increasingly so.
    Take 2010-13's Prime Minister Gillard and ongoing One Nation Party leader Senator Hanson. But are routinely mocked for their Strine. Yes, their status as leaders in a still fairly blokey milieu contributes. 1980s Prime Minister Hawke was revered for his accent (he of the world record for skolling a yard-glass of beer whilst a Rhodes Scholar). His vocal chords would be less welcome today.

    Egalitarianism is in the beholder. Yes, relative to the US, we cling to a welfare state. But Australia's has always largely been an egalitarianism of manners: Jack's as good as his master. Australia is as much an immigrant nation as the US, but its colonies went from penal, to industrialised, in a twinkle of an eye. There is little geographic diversity. Strine was (at least formerly) as much an inner city phenomenon – the voice of the larrikin.

    I think what has changed, since Received Pronunciation died as the 'desirable' speech in the 70s-80s, is a simultaneous shift away from egalitarianism of class. Thus, we can laugh at and with "Kath and Kim" and "The Castle". They are easy fictional figures. But more relevant is the reception of "Sylvania Waters" – an early reality tv documentary about the newly well-off of Sydney's sprawling waterside suburbs. Australians and the Brits only laughed AT these people.

    So the cultural sneer is at 'the bogan'. Who tends to be someone whose voice is broad, but who is a suburban seen as having few cultural roots but not at economic risk. Whereas the Strine of the farmer in a drought affected township, or the kid from the wrong side of the tracks, is not remarked upon.

  19. Jim Breen said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 9:36 pm

    To me (southern states Australian) moot, plugga and danga were all quite new. The latter is "dag" around here. This is not surprising – the main regional differences in Australian English concern vocabulary; not accent. There some interesting frequency maps showing, for example, the prevalence of "peanut paste" in Queensland (peanut butter else where) and "swimmers" around Sydney ("bathers" or "cozzies" elsewhere.)

  20. Dan Lufkin said,

    July 23, 2016 @ 11:06 pm

    I went fossicking around on YT for more on the AUS Morning show and found a segment about the host saying "Are the cookies good here" on the air. Everyone was in hysterics but it sounds totally innocuous to me. Search YT on cookies good.

    The AUS embassy once advertised an exhibit of "the lightest in mobile radios."

  21. peterv said,

    July 24, 2016 @ 1:55 am


    Bob Hawke shifted his accent to suit his audience, from very broad Australian to RP. So I am not sure what his example demonstrates.

    Regarding sneering at supposed unsophisticates: this is a long-standing feature of Australian comedy, dating back at least as far as Dad and Dave Rudd. The first (silent) movie version of "On Our Selection" dates from 1920, based on stories published in The Bulletin in the 1890s. The scene in "Crocodile Dundee" where Paul Hogan in New York wonders how to use a bidet is a direct descendant of one where the Rudds encounters a bathtub for the first time.

    I don't think Sylvania Waters is at all novel or unusual in that regard.

  22. Lynne said,

    July 24, 2016 @ 2:26 am

    The original footage (un-bleeped) made me proud to be an Aussie for the first time in a long, long while.

    Theirs is indeed the "Broad" dialect. Some three-odd years ago I moved to a broad area of a broad suburb. It was about two months ago that I proudly announced via facebook that getting up and putting on street clothes just to march out to the car park and scream something astonishingly rude "means that I'm pretty well full on Dandy now."

  23. David Cameron Staples said,

    July 24, 2016 @ 2:27 am

    As far as the presentation of Strine in a non-patronising way, I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the ur-example: The Sentimental Bloke

  24. Victor Mair said,

    July 24, 2016 @ 5:25 am

    I thought the hosts were laughing good-naturedly WITH James and Cane, not AT them, and was actually quite touched by the camaraderie and bonhomie in the studio.

  25. leoboiko said,

    July 24, 2016 @ 7:56 am

    This is all very well, but when reading about how Australia is a "homogeneous" land with a "deeply entrenched ethos of egalitarianism" and where diatopic variation is a "unifier" between classes, I can't help but think that the native peoples and their hundred-something endangered languages are kind of being brushed aside.

  26. Jerry Friedman said,

    July 24, 2016 @ 9:11 am

    Michael Rank: ‘“I was pretty concerned about me blowout I had…”’
    Is that standard Australian syntax (SAS)?

    It's not standard in America, but I hear such things fairly often in New Mexico (with "my", not "me", of course). Also "Use your same one that worked before."

  27. Ari Corcoran said,

    July 24, 2016 @ 9:51 am

    @Victor Mair and mention of Kriol in northern Australia.

    Forget the arguments about navies, Northern Territory Kriol (and it crosses borders) is a separate language. And there are other kriols in the north, for example in the Torres Strait islands, where it has the unfortunate nomenclature "Broken". Mind you, there was a great rock band, "Broken English" from Ngukurr, arguably the epicentre of Kriol (and nothing to do with Marianne Faithfull's song, but no doubt a nod in her direction). Mind you again, another Aboriginal band, Kulumindini, did an extraordinary version of "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" … from Tennant Creek of all places! The warm wind in her hair in Paris??

  28. Dan Lufkin said,

    July 24, 2016 @ 10:37 am

    You might want to enjoy some Kriol in Waltjim Bat Matilda. YT link here.

  29. Rosie Redfield said,

    July 24, 2016 @ 12:09 pm

    The term 'strine' comes from 'Let Stalk Strine', a hilarious guide to Australian pronunciation published in 1965 by Alastair Ardoch Morrison under the pseudonym Afferbeck Lauder ( It seems to be out of print, but the text is here:

  30. Jerry Friedman said,

    July 24, 2016 @ 3:56 pm

    For "blowout", compare Jimmy Buffett's "I blew out my flip-flop,/ Stepped on a pop-top".

  31. Jonathan D said,

    July 24, 2016 @ 6:56 pm


    My completely amateur impression was that the tripartite division of Australian speech is a mcuh better statement of how things used to be. As well as, neglecting Aboriginal English and differences between ethnic groups, it seems to me that the three strains themselves are less distinct than they used to be. Am I completely offbase?

    Apart from that, I've never heard of the band Kulumindini, but their name suggests that they are from the town known in English as Elliot, rather than Tennant Creek.

  32. Daniel Kane said,

    July 24, 2016 @ 11:41 pm

    Ha ha! I can guarantee the dialogue is pure native Strine (the version without the beeps) – I hear it all around me though I can't speak it myself. Teenagers speak a language of their own apparently inspired by American slang. They seem to understand each other but it is beyond me. The origin of dag has to do with sheep, but most Australians nowadays would never get that close to a sheep to find out. It is commonly used in "what a dag" (as someone remarked, which means slightly eccentric, but is often a term of affection, not usually abuse), or someone a bit disheveled, a bit unkempt, of a certain age, wearing clothes out of fashion even 50 years ago … Many professors are a bit daggy ….
    There is a wonderful book on Strine by Afferbeck Lauder (Strine for alphabetical order) which records the Strine of the 1960s, still common among that generation. Recently reprinted. It has such gems as (A) Carmen F T Withers, We revving ching liffis. Jellike ching liffis? We F.N.B. Neffen roe smeal slightly wither tellion the kitster nawl. Yeckered calm strife rom work. (B). Theng Saula Syme butter monner diet. I fed a bitifer garistrick stummick lightly. Spin plier nuppagenner bit. Arlga mauve rafter. Oliver bye tweet first". And so on. A variety of this is still spoken by Upper Middle Bogans.

  33. Daniel Kane said,

    July 24, 2016 @ 11:46 pm

    Just read the post by Rosie Redfield. You can even get it on the web! As far as I know there is no translation of it into any known language. There is a related language known as Fraffly, from the expression Fraffly Well Spoken. The opposite end of the social scale, with gems like Sholleh yoi compy sirius and so on.

  34. Ari Corcoran said,

    July 25, 2016 @ 12:24 am

    @ Jonathan D. You are quite right, Elliott

  35. Victor Mair said,

    July 25, 2016 @ 7:16 am

    From David Holm:

    Thanks for this, mate. They're a bit troppo* up in Queensland. You'll be glad to know the computer came up with a pop-up that said 'View this Message in English'. 'Struth.


    *VHM: "a condition of mental disorder or tension occurring in troops on tropical service" (Merriam-Webster)

    fuller definition, etymology, sample sentence, usage notes, etc. in Wiktionary

  36. Victor Mair said,

    July 25, 2016 @ 7:24 am

    @Jerry Friedman

    Good one — about Jimmy Buffett blowing out his flip-flop. I've heard that song hundreds of times and always vaguely understood what he meant by that, but at the same time felt that it was a strange expression (for an Ohioan). Ditto for stepping on a pop-top.

    Jimmy Buffett was born on December 25, 1946 (age 69) in Pascagoula, Mississippi, U.S.A. and spent his early years in Mobile and other Alabama towns. So, may we say that there are parrotheads (Jimmy Buffett fans) in Australia, or did Jimmy Buffett learn about blowing out flip-flops from Australians?

  37. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 25, 2016 @ 12:00 pm

    Re "unfortunate nomenclature," the reasonably standard name (i.e. that used by speakers of the language variety) of the predominant Nigerian creole is Broken. Nigerian Broken may well have more speakers than all varieties of AustEng put together. I'm not sure that it is constructive for well-meaning outsiders to tell them to call their own language something different, and it seems a bit etymological-fallacy to assume the negative semantic baggage is internalized. (And obv. "pidgin" and "creole" historically had plenty of negative semantic baggage before the linguistics profession decided they could be neutral/descriptive terms of art.)

  38. leoboiko said,

    July 25, 2016 @ 1:05 pm

    "Creole" is still a racial slur in Brazil, and I'm always at a loss when I want to talk about creoles with non-linguist friends.

  39. Ari Corcoran said,

    July 25, 2016 @ 2:46 pm

    @ J.W. Brewer I agree that a self-description of "Broken" should not be regarded as a disparagement: had no idea of the Nigerian context. It's perhaps made me re-think the Torres Strait Island context.

    @ leoboiko That's one of the reasons why the linguists working in, initially Ngukurr and later Bamyili/Barunga adopted "Kriol" as a spelling for the language (plus it fitted nicely into the orthography). The real issue here, and perhaps it is the same in Brazil, is the predominant assumption from outsiders is that what they are hearing is a pidjin, rather than a separate language. The results and misconceptions can be both hilarious and unfortunate.

  40. Victor Mair said,

    July 25, 2016 @ 4:35 pm

    From Anthony Addison:

    Many years ago, I bought a few small books by an academic whose nom de plume was "Afferbeck Lauder": "Strine" and "Let Stalk Strine" – amusing treatises on Australian pronunciations, and then when I left for the U.K., one on affected English speech – "Fraffly Well Spoken", which I still have. I once found a fine dictionary of Oz slang in a bookstore, and regret that I didn't buy it. E.g., "As inconspicuous as Liberace at a wharfies' picnic" (wharfies are stevedores).

  41. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 25, 2016 @ 5:21 pm

    I was not familiar with Kulumindini and am grateful to Ari Corcoran for drawing my attention to them. The sparse documentation of their work on youtube does not seem to include The Ballad of Lucy Jordan, but they have quite a nice honky-tonk C&W vibe that I can't recall hearing from any white band from that continent — and I speak as one of the perhaps 0.01% of the US population capable of naming at least one Australian pedal steel guitarist ('Evil' Graham Lee of the Triffids).

  42. Ari Corcoran said,

    July 26, 2016 @ 9:24 am

    @ J.W. Brewer. I imagine Lucy Jordan was never recorded due to copyright issues, and they were into recording their own music in English and Mudbura. See front cover of their first album at

    And yes, I would be astonished if there were more than 0.01% of the US population who would know of the Triffids, let alone Graham Lee!

    You might wish to follow up with a descendant band, Rayella, at:

  43. Rodger C said,

    July 26, 2016 @ 11:47 am

    @Victor Mair: Well, you just said it, didn't you? Jimmy Buffett grew up on the seashore (Pascagoula and Mobile).

  44. Victor Mair said,

    July 26, 2016 @ 12:23 pm

    @Rodger C

    "Jimmy Buffett grew up on the seashore (Pascagoula and Mobile)."

    That doesn't answer my question. Which way did the loan go?

  45. Rodger C said,

    July 26, 2016 @ 3:47 pm

    To atone for misunderstanding the question, I did a bit of research. WiPe says they were American copies of Japanese footwear, and that in Australia they're called thongs, which must lead to some interesting transpacific conversations.

  46. Jon W said,

    July 26, 2016 @ 4:01 pm

    @Rodger C: They were called thongs when I was growing up in NY in the 1960s and 1970s.

  47. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 26, 2016 @ 4:11 pm

    In addition to flip-flop and thong, wiktionary says that the Japanese-derived loanword "zori" is current as a synonym but "(regional, chiefly Southeast US)." The vicissitudes of the Cold War and the continuation of mass conscription from the end of WW2 through the Vietnam era meant that millions of young American men from not-necessarily-cosmopolitan parts of the country ended up spending time being stationed abroad, so little bits of Japanese (or German, or Korean, etc) can turn up in odd places in AmEng w/o the need for immigration to the relevant region as an explanatory factor.

  48. Simon Musgrave said,

    July 26, 2016 @ 6:30 pm

    @Jon W., @Rodger C. And if you are a New Zealander, you wear jandals.

  49. David Allen said,

    July 29, 2016 @ 2:18 am

    Is 'Narang' referring to Nerang, by any chance?

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