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No trip to a new country would be complete without experiencing†the culture that makes it unique. Indulging in the local food, attending festivals and visiting museums†is easy†but getting to know the language is a great way to take your understanding and appreciation†to a whole new level.


On the heels of our popular Idioms of the World piece, today we take a trip down Australia’s linguistic lane. We asked Australian illustrator and animator Jared Atkins to depict some typical Australian sayings—as well as some of the more quirky ones—that you might come across on your next trip, whether you’re headed to Sydney or Perth, or anywhere in between. Study up and then go ahead and give them a try with the locals!

1.”Better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick”


Meaning: Be thankful for what you’ve got. Better than nothing.

Australians are a sarcastic bunch and this common phrase is typically said with a laugh. You’d say its “better than a poke in the eye with the burnt stick” to someone who looks ungrateful or to someone who looks like they need cheering up upon finishing second place for example.

2. “Flat out like a lizard drinking”


Meaning: To be really busy

The phrase ‘to be flat out like a lizard drinking’ is†a wordplay on the literal sense of ‘flat out’ as in†to lie fully stretched out, and the figurative sense†to be really busy. †You would use this phrase to explain that you have been hard at work and haven’t had any free time eg. ” I’m sorry I missed your†party, I’ve been flat out like a lizard drinking!”

3. “To have tickets on yourself”


Meaning: To be conceited

Famous for their tall-poppy syndrome, Aussie’s aren’t real fond of†people who boast too much about themselves ortheir success. Humility is a highly valued trait in Australian culture and those who display†egotistical behaviour will quickly be cut down with phrases like ‘she’s got tickets on herself’ which basically means – she thinks she’s†better than everyone else.

4. “Mad as a cut snake”


Meaning: Irate, crazy with rage or eccentric.

The two senses of this phrase originate from the double meaning of the word ‘mad.’ This means you could be ‘mad as a cut snake’ if you’re having a fit of rage or it could also mean you’re one of the more interesting (and nutty) characters this world has seen. Contextand tone is everything here.

5. “To go off like a frog in a sock”


Meaning: To be very excited

Someone “going off like a frog in a sock” is someone who can barely contain themselves or their excitement. Just imagine the energy a frog would use trying to jump its way out of a sock and you get the picture. The term ‘going off’ is also commonly used to describe a raging party or nightclub.

6. “To see which way the cat jumps”


Meaning: To postpone making a decision or acting until you have seen how things are developing.

When you’re†waiting to see the result of how something out of your control happens†before making a decision you’re waiting to “see which way the cat jumps”.

7. “May your chooks turn into emus and kick your dunny door down”


Meaning: A wayof wishing someone bad luck

This wacky idiom is one of the least common you’ll hear but one of the funniest. Popularised by the fictional character “Bazza Mckenzie” when you’re not happy with someone you can†wish them bad luck by saying “may your chooks (chickens) turn into Emus and kick your dunny (toilet) door down!”. †This expression recalls a time when many Australians kept chickens in the backyard and the toilet†was a separate outhouse.

8. “To spit the dummy”


Meaning: To have a fit of angerWhen you see an adult having a childish fit of anger they’re “spitting the dummy”. †Another colloquial way of describing this behaviour in Australia is to say “he’s having a tanty” (tantrum) just like when†a baby spits out its dummy (pacifier).

9. “As useful as lips on a chicken”


Meaning: Useless

When you see something thats clearly impractical or ineffective†its probably “as useful as lips on a chicken” or “about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike”. †Aussie’s love to use these comical comparisons†and most especially†when it comes to useless things, for which they have a passionate†dislike.

10. “Flash as a rat with a gold tooth”


Meaning: Ostentatious, showy and a bit too flashily dressed.

We’ve all seen that suspicious guy in the corner in the fancy suit and a bit too much jewellery. He’s either†trying too hard or simply doesn’t look genuine. Aussie’s would describe someone who stands out like this as ‘flash as a rat with a gold tooth’ – despite his gold tooth, he’s still a rat.

See the full set of idioms in one image here.

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Tagged: Infographic

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Kristy Foss

Kristy Foss

Kristy's love of travel and adventure has taken her all over the world—from exploring Panama's hidden beaches, to swimming with whale sharks off Exmouth WA and surviving a mule stampede in Colombia.
Kristy Foss

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