With Five Bush Weddings released this week as a paperback in the US (BookShop.org/Amazon), it’s time to do a public service I’ve been meaning to offer for some time for bamboozled fans.
So for all my non-Australian readers who have been struggling with some of the obscure references and slang in this very Australian story – maybe even some Aussies who don’t get the Queensland deep cuts – I thought it might be helpful to provide a few definitions.
If I’ve missed one you’re unsure about, drop me a line!
Ag college: Agricultural studies focused university campus (I had a lot of friends go to UQ Gatton…).
Akubra: A traditional felt hat worn in the bush.
Blundstones: Australian-made work boots.
B&S: Bachelors and Spinsters Ball, a tradition in regional Australia originally designed for young singles in remote locations to mingle, by the 1980s-90s these turned into more of an alcohol-fuelled circus. A black-tie dress code endured despite most events descending into food-colouring fights and utes doing circlework in the car park. (For visual insights, I love this photo series by the brilliant photojournalist Matthew Abbott.)
Beer garden: An outdoor space at a pub, with table seating and a few potted plants.
Brown Snake: The latte-hued tributary that meanders through Brisbane (and occasionally submerges the city), the Brisbane River.
Bundaberg Rum: (often shortened to ‘Bundy’): A stiff spirit from the regional city of Bundaberg in Queensland’s Wide Bay Burnett region. Marketed with an inexplicable polar bear mascot. Legendarily banned from many bars because its consumption has long been linked with ‘rum rage’ and drunken violence. Also sold in cans premixed with cola, sometimes known as ‘black bears’.
Bush Bachelors: An entirely fictitious reality TV dating show that may bear a distant resemblance to shows like Farmer Wants A Wife and The Bachelor.
Bush Telegraph: A mythical communication network of country gossip.
Counter meal: Dinner at the pub.
Country Life: Weekly state newspaper focused on regional, rural and agricultural news, The Queensland Country Life.
Deadshit: An idiot, slow on the uptake.
Dirty Harry’s: Harry’s Fine Foods, a greasy cafe open late at night, stumbling distance from the bars and pubs of Caxton Street
Donga: Small, simple and not salubrious temporary living quarters, traditionally for shearers or itinerant/contract workers.
Durrie: A cigarette
‘Eagle Drop’: A curious social custom common to the state of Queensland, with some spread into New South Wales, where gentlemen drop their pants when the song ‘Eagle Rock‘ by the band Daddy Cool plays. The tradition seems to have emerged from the University of Queensland’s Brisbane campus in the 1970s, though there may also be links with the military. Daddy Cool frontman Ross Wilson is on record stating he has no idea why it happens.
Fascinator: A small, decorative accessory affixed to the head, often involving feathers, usually worn to the horse races.
Hills Hoist: A large metal rotating structure for hanging laundry outside to dry, once a fixture in every Australian back yard.
Jacaranda: A tree that flowers in a riot of purple blossoms in spring; common in Brisbane, Sydney and regional Queensland and NSW.
Macca’s: Abbreviation for McDonald’s.
Leo’s: St Leo’s, an all-male residential college at the University of Queensland (‘UQ’).
Nescafe Blend 43: A cheap and ubiquitous brand of instant coffee.
On the piss: Drinking alcohol.
Parmy: Abbreviation for Chicken Parmigiana, a standard pub meal.
Pash: Make out. Derived (I can only assume) from passionate kiss. Can be used as a verb or noun.
Pie: Meat pies, a common snack especially for tradesmen, sold from any good bakery or service station.
Pokies: Poker machines.
Pikelet: A small pancake.
Queenslander: A person from the state of Queensland; or a style of house designed for the Queensland climate, constructed from wood, elevated on stilts, with wide shaded verandahs and designed to catch the breeze.
Rabbitohs: Rugby League team, the South Sydney Rabbitohs (AKA the Bunnies).
Recovery: The morning/day after a big, boozy event, a recovery is sometimes offered. This could range from a BBQ bacon and egg breakfast, to another day of drinking and revelry.
RE: The Royal Exchange, a pub in Toowong, Brisbane.
RMs: RM Williams riding boots.
Rivers: A retailer of clothes for boomers.
Root: (crass slang) (noun) an act of sexual intercourse / (verb) to have sexual intercourse.
Sheila: A woman.
Smoko: A short break from work, for morning tea, a sweet snack or just a smoke.
Stubbie: A small bottled beer.
Stubby holder: Koozie / beer cooler.
Swag: An old-fashioned sleeping bag rolled in heavy-duty canvas.
Tally-Hos: Rolling papers for cigarettes
Taking the piss: Having a joke.
Twisties: A classic snack of cheesy-flavoured chippies.
Ute: Abbreviation – utility. A small pick-up truck with a tray-back favoured by tradespeople and farmers.
The Valley: Brisbane suburb, Fortitude Valley
Winnie Blues: A brand of strong cigarettes traditionally beloved by tradespeople.
XXXX Gold: A low alcohol lager produced by the XXXX Brewery. Distinctive Gold cans are known as ‘Milton Mangos’ for their distinctive gold colour and the brewery’s location in Brisbane suburb of Milton, in the shadow of the mighty Suncorp Stadium, home to the Brisbane Broncos rugby league team. Heavier alcohol XXXX Bitter comes in a red can, affectionately called a ‘Carlton cranberry’.
The Zoo: Brisbane live music venue located in the Valley.