Cakeholes? Crikey! Is it any wonder the sheilas are going crook

A survey has found that Aussie women are no fans of Australian slang.  Well stone the bloomin’ crows, writes Phil Brown

May 27, 2024, updated May 27, 2024
Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin can take some of the credit for putting slang words back into the Aussie venacular. (Photo: Australia Zoo)

Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin can take some of the credit for putting slang words back into the Aussie venacular. (Photo: Australia Zoo)

Some Aussie slang just doesn’t work anymore according to a new survey. The recent study by Preply, an online language learning platform, found that the most annoying slang word was “Sheila” denoting a girl or a woman.

It just doesn’t fly anymore and around a third of people surveyed dubbed it the most annoying slang word with “crikey” and “cakehole” following suit as highly annoying. I better be more careful in future because I say crikey a lot. Maybe I should shut my cakehole. Oops.

The most-favoured slang words are apparently “thongs”, “sunnies”, “brekkie” and “arvo”.

As a kid I spent seven years abroad in the then British colony of Hong Kong and we called thongs flip flops, which is English. A thong is something very different to casual foot attire in some countries but let’s not go there.

When I arrived back in Oz at the age of 13, I didn’t have a clue about Aussie slang. I had no idea what fair dinkum meant, I said hello, never g’day and it was all rather confusing.

But I got used to it and eventually embraced it. I think it was Barry Humphries’ genius creation Barry McKenzie that really got me going. Expressions such as “dry as a dead dingo’s donger” caught my attention among others, some of which are frankly a bit rude.

I picked up Aussie slang as I went and embraced it. Some of it relates to England of course, like rhyming slang which emanated from the east End of London in the mid nineteenth century.

My father, who was born in London but spent most of his life in Australia, used rhyming slang liberally. He would go for a “pickle and pork” (walk) up the “frog and toad” (road) for a “pig’s ear” (beer) at the rub-a-dub (pub) when the mood struck him.

He liberally mixed English slang with Aussie slang. He owned a quarry when I was a teenager and I worked there in the school holidays and I learnt a lot more Aussie slang from the blokes who worked there although much of it is not for general consumption.

The first day I went to work there the foreman said “G’day, what do ya know?”

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I was confused. “What do I know about what?” I said and he looked puzzled.

I would always finish work early to go surfing and was told one day that I tended to “shoot through like a Bondi tram”. I love this vernacular.

And I picked up new expressions over the decades. Early in my career I went to interview the well-known Brisbane stockbroker, the late Paul “Porky” Morgan, and I asked him how he was. I think he’d had a big night.

“I’m as crook as Rookwood,” he said and later I looked that up and realized it was a reference to a famous Sydney cemetery.

My brother lives in Canada and on visits there I have regaled his friends with Aussie English. They think it’s hilarious.

One of his mates was planning a visit to Australia and he took to writing them all down in a small notebook. I wished I’d been there the first time he asked someone, in his strong Canadian accent, where the “dunny” was.

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