Shrimp on the barbie

It’s probably one of the most famous quotes from international tourism advertising. Paul Hogan was the star of the 1984 (can you believe it?) tourism campaign for bringing tourists to Australia. There is a good summary of “Shrimp on the barbie” phrase at Wikipedia. It’s important to note that Australians use the word prawn instead of shrimp and that Australians rarely put prawns on the barbie (which is indeed slang for BBQ). Never mind that, we are dealing with marketing genius.
There was news today that one of the creative duo that came up with this ad campaign died today. Alan Morris passed away at the age of 64 from cancer. He and his creative working partner Allan Johnston had formed the company Mojo to work with many of Australia’s leading companies to create some of the most memorable ads in Australia.

It took some searching but I found a copy of the commercial with Paul Hogan on YouTube. The quality isn’t the highest but you can still make out important features.

Almost every American I’ve met in America wants to go to Australia. It usually goes something like this:

Them: Where are you coming from?

Me: Australia

Them: Really? I’ve always wanted to go there.

Me: Yes. It’s even better than the ads.

Even though I believe that these people really want to go, very few will actually travel to Australia. I guess it is a mixture of travel time, cost, and not having vacation time to enjoy the trip. That could explain why there are so many older people that end up taking the journey “Down Under”.

There is a heck of a lot of slang here. Take the amount of slang in America and the UK and double it and maybe you might be getting close to how much is here. Most Australians understand American and UK slang because of the TV. Unfortunately this is not true for the UK and US visitors as well. It might be the same core language but the additional slang can make it very interesting sometimes. This becomes even more true the further you get from the capital cities.

I have been here 10 years now and I still get hit with this. Occasionally I will hear a phrase or word I’ve never heard before and either I politely pretend like I know what it is or I actually say to them “What is (insert slang here)?”. It is good that most Australians will explain and even have a bit of a chuckle at the Yank.

I do not think there really is any decent way to prepare for it since most books do not reveal how common the slang really is. You could end up training yourself on words that have not been used since the fifties. It is probably best to swallow your pride and ask when you hear something that does not make sense.

If you like, I have found an online slang dictionary that you can scan.

I will even give you examples:

Be sure to get bullbars on your ute to stop the damage from roos

Chrissie is always the best time for pressies

Get Aeroguard for the mozzies

Hoons drive like yobbos

I have also included here a web page about Australia food slang.

Oh, one more thing. Australians are some times referred to as Aussies. This is pronounced OZZIES, not AUSSIES. It it a dead give away that you are an American tourist that does not know the slang. Forget about picking up the accent correctly unless you are under 18. And finally, find out how to say some of the cities differently than America. Melbourne in Australia is pronounced more like Melbin. In Australia, the R tends to vanish. To prove this, try ordering water at any food place. I still get blank stares from time to time.
Frankly there probably is not much hope for me. It has been 10 years after all. I am sure there is more hope for you. Thank you class. You may go home now.


Live near Brisbane, Australia. Software developer currently focused on iOS and Android. Avid Google Local Guide

Posted in Australia, Observations
5 comments on “Shrimp on the barbie
  1. says:

    Fair dinkum Jeff, we will make a true blue Aussie bloke out of you mate, bloody oath we will!

    We will chuck a few prawns on the barbie this arvo and have a few slabs of coldie to celebrate, what do you reckon? Lets hope the blowies stay away, but nothing the good old Aussie salute can’t handle! She’ll be right mate!


  2. jeffreymuir says:


    Bonzer mate. Bloody ripper. Good on ya!

    ( Still training ) …

  3. James Kahn says:


    I haven’t been in Brissie very long, but even coming from NZ the amount of slang is amazing…


  4. KHughes says:

    …an Aussie…depends how you interpret ‘thongs’

  5. hught says:

    I can heartily recommend two Australian phrasebooks: “Let Stalk Strine” and “Nose Turn Unturned”, by Afferbeck Lauder (with illustrations by Al Terego).

    Here’s a sample of how “yer avridge Strine” speaks, apparently:

    A: “Jegoda the footy?”
    B: “Nar dingo – sorten tv.”
    A: “Waddya think of Smithy? Idney great!?”
    B: “Eeza rep bairg.”
    A: “Eediddit without retrine.”

    More here:


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