Can You Tell Australian Phrases From American Phrases?


By: Allison Lips

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Britain and the United States are usually the countries talked about in the phrase "separated by a common language." However, Australia should be included. All three dialects of English have their own distinguishing characteristics, which gives way to unique phrases. This quiz focuses on American and Australian Englishes. 

Due to the influence of American media, Australians may have already heard some American phrases, such as "the whole nine yards" or "whole other ball of wax." That doesn't mean Australians necessarily know what they mean or why someone would use them. On the other hand, Americans are equally baffled by phrases like "flat out like a lizard drinking" and whatever a "Fremantle doctor" is. The former means to be extremely busy. The latter refers to a cool sea breeze on a hot summer's day.

To make matters worse or more interesting, depending on your point of view, there are phrases that mean something entirely different to a speaker of the other dialect. If you're an American, you may get amused looks when you state that you are "rooting for the home team" because to an Australian "root" is vulgar slang for a quite different act.

Will you complete this quiz like nobody's business? Find out how accurately you can determine the origins of these phrases!

Which nationality barracks for their favorite footy team?

Barracking means to cheer for your favorite team. Footy means football. Depending on where in Australia you are, it could mean Australian Rules football or rugby.


Who is more likely to say something is a "piece of cake?"

"Piece of cake" originated in America. The earliest reference is from 1936. The phrase refers to a task that can easily be accomplished.


Who will you be more likely to "shoot the breeze" with?

"Shoot the breeze" is an American phrase that was created in sometime in the early to mid-1900s. At the time, "breeze" was a slang term for rumor, which may be where the phrase originates. "To shoot the breeze" means to talk casually to pass the time.


If someone is trying to comfort you with "She'll be right," they are probably what?

"She'll be right" is used to comfort someone, letting them know everything will work out. It's mainly used in Australia and New Zealand.


Who is more likely to request to "ride shotgun?"

"Riding shotgun" comes from the guard who would ride in a stagecoach next to the driver. In modern times, it refers to riding in a car's front passenger seat.


Which nationality is more likely to say "I'm run off my feet" when they have many things to do?

"To be run off your feet" means to be very busy. You can also say "rushed off your feet" instead.


If you're angry, who may tell you you've "spit the dummy?"

"Spit the dummy" means to lose your temper. In Australian English, a dummy is a pacifier, so telling someone they've spit the dummy evokes the image of an an upset baby having a temper tantrum.


Who may make plans for Saturday arvo?

"Arvo" means afternoon. It comes from Australian English's tendency to add an -o onto the end of abbreviated words. A similar word is "bizzo" for business.


If you have too much of something, which country's citizens may say you have it "out the wazoo?"

"Out the wazoo" and "up the wazoo" mean the same thing. They both mean "excessively" or "too much."


What dialect of English gave us the phrase "behind the eight ball?"

To be "behind the eight ball" means you are in a disadvantageous situation. It is an Americanism from the 1930s and comes from the game of pool.


Who may ask for a "fair suck of the sauce bottle?"

A "fair suck of the sauce bottle" is used to appeal to reasonableness, essentially asking for fairness. It was first recorded in the 1970s.


If someone is a little off, who might use the expression "A few stubbies short of a six-pack?"

A stubbie is a beer bottle. This phrase means the same thing as 'not the brightest bulb in the box." An Australian might also say "a sandwich short of a picnic" or "a kangaroo short of a full paddock."


Which form of English will you find the phrase "What's the John Dory?"

John Dory is a fish native to Australia. It's used in the phrase "What's the John Dory?" because it rhymes with story. When someone uses the phrase, they are using asking for gossip.


A member of which nationality may ask you to "pony up" if you owe them money?

To "pony up" means to pay money. In Australian English, the phrase used would be "Fronted up."


What dialect of English created the phrase "put up your dukes?"

While both American and English speakers will be familiar with the phrase "duke it out," the specific request of "put up your dukes" is an Americanism. Regardless of how "dukes" are referenced, if someone uses it around you, you should get ready for a fight.


A man who is what may warn a mate that their are "ducks on the pond?"

In Australia, men tell other men "ducks on the pond" to let them know that a woman is entering an all-male environment. The phrase was first written down in the early 1980s, but Australian National University's linguistics school suspects it goes back earlier.


Who may say they "take a rain check" if they do not immediately accept an offer?

"Take a rain check" is a primarily American phrase that dates back to the 1880s. Its origins come from the practice of giving attendees at rained-out baseball games a voucher for a future game.


Who might say something is bad with the phrase "things are crook in Tallarook?"

"Crook" means "bad" or "unpleasant" in Australian English. Tallarook is a town in northern Victoria. They come together for the phrase "things are crook in Tallarook" so that the phrase rhymes.


If you're being haughty, who may tell you that you "have tickets on yourself?"

"To Have tickets on yourself" means to be conceited or have an exaggerated sense of one's own importance. The phrase dates from 1904, but became popular during World War I and into the 1920s and 1930s.


Which dialect has the phrase "done like a dinner?"

"To be done like dinner" means you were defeated or completely demolished. In 1847, the phrase was first recorded.


Who many tell you to "have a Captain Cook?"

The phrase "Captain Cook" is rhyming slang for having a look. The inspiration was Captain James Cook, who was in charge of the HMB Endeavour, which landed at Botany Bay in Australia.


A speaker of which dialect may tell you not to get "bent out of shape?"

Someone who is "bent out of shape" is angry or agitated. The idiom is an Americanism.


Which version of English does the saying "wrap your laughing gear 'round that" come from?

Your "laughing gear" is your mouth. When you wrap it around something, you are eating it.


Who will let you know if something has a "Buckley's chance?"

If something has "Buckley's Chance," it is hopeless. The phrase may come from William Buckley, who was a convict who escaped from Port Phillip. After his escape, he lived with the Aboriginal people in southern Victoria for 32 years.


Who is more likely to give you props?

"Props" is short for proper dues or "propers." It means giving credit and gained usage in the early 1990s.


Who may inform you that you're "on the hook for" dinner?

If you're "off the hook," you are not responsible for something. If you're are "on the hook for it," you are responsible. The phrase is often use in respect to owing some amount of money.


Who may tell you to be grateful with the expression "better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick?"

"Better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick" is sometimes phrased as "better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick." It means that something is better than nothing.


If you have to wait, who may tell you to "hang tight?"

"Hang tight" means to wait before doing something stay where you currently are. Sometimes "hang in there" is used in the same way.


Who might describe someone as "mad as a cut snake?"

To be "mad as a cut snake" or "made as a snake" means to be very angry or eccentric. The phrase was first recorded in 1900. Other phrases with the same meaning are "made as a meat ax" and "made as a gumtree full of galahs."


Who might dismiss something as "for the birds?"

Something that is "for the birds" is trivial or worthless. The phrase comes from American Army slang. The earliest known use was in October 1944 issue of The Lowell Sun.


Who may make the suggestion that you can get "more bang for your buck?"

Getting "more bang for your buck" means to get more for your money. It was frequently used by President Dwight D. Eisenhower's secretary of defense, Charles Erwin Wilson, to describe the policy of relying on nuclear weapons to keep the Soviet Union under control.


Who may describe an escape as to "do the Harry?"

Harold Holt is rhyming slang for "bolt." As with other rhyming slang phrases, the rhyming part is often omitted. Harold Holt was a former Australian prime minster who disappeared while swimming in 1967.


Who is more likely to "plead the Fifth" if they do not want to reveal something?

When someone literally pleads the Fifth, they are exercising their right not to testify against themselves in court. Sometimes this is expanded to situations outside court, which gives us this idiom.


Who may describe someone "as game as Ned Kelly?"

Ned Kelly was an outlaw living in the bush. In 1880, he was hanged for his crimes. To be "as game as Ned Kelly" means to be foolhardy.


Which English dialect gave us the phrase "the whole nine yards?"

"The whole nine yards" means "everything" or "all the way." The origin of "the whole nine yards" is unclear. The phrase "the whole six yards" appeared in newspapers in the 1910s.


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