How (Not) to Speak Australian

Mar 23, 2023

G’day, mate.

In case you didn’t know, that’s Australian for good day, friend. However, to our untrained ears, as Americans, it sounds like, “good eye might.” More like “good ear might” since we’re talking about Australian accents.

In the 1980s, Foster’s drink company marketed –falsely, we might add (more on that below)– a beer as the quintessential Australian beer, with a series of 15-second high-profile ads entitled, “How to Speak Australian”. The most recent permutation on this theme occurred in a 2019 commercial for Uber Eats starring Kim Kardashian and an Australian comedienne named Magda Szubanski. Click here to watch it. Anyway, in the commercial, Magda tries, in vain, to teach Kim how to speak the word, “noice”, which is the Australian pronunciation for nice. After several failed attempts, Magda throws in the towel, grumbling, “it’s not that hard, it’s the Queen’s English.”

The reason for our sudden interest in the “Queen’s English” is two-fold:

  1. EpicentRx secured a grant from the Michael J. Fox and Shake It Up Australia Foundations to study its lead molecule, RRx-001, in Parkinson’s Disease and from Fight MND to evaluate RRx-001 in motor neuron disease otherwise known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in the United States
  2. Our close collaborator, the preeminent NLRP3 inflammasome researcher in neurodegenerative diseases, Associate Professor Dr. Richard Gordon, at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research in Queensland, Australia has invited us for a visit. Since we don’t want to blunder Down Under, we asked Dr. Gordon to ‘Australianize’ us i.e., to give some tips on how to act and what to say in Australia (pronounced “Straya”) and he graciously obliged.

The first lesson, which was, truthfully, painful to learn, given how often and how smugly/proudly we’ve repeated it over the years, is that an Australian (pronounced “Strayan”) would never use the Crocodile Dundee catchphrase, “I’ll slip a shrimp on the barbie for ya” (barbie=slang for BBQ). The reason? Because the Aussie (pronounced “Ozzie”) word for shrimp is “prawns” and the verb, “chuck”, is apparently more likely to be used in place of “slip”. Not to whinge—that’s Australian for complain—but “chuck a prawn on the barbie” just doesn’t have the same panache or ring to it as the apparent malapropism that was sold to us here in the States.

Dr. Gordon dutifully opened our eyes to other shameless deceptions perpetrated on an unsuspecting American public that, embarrassingly, bought them all hook line and sinker. For example, the Outback Steakhouse is not Australian at all, it’s American. Insult to injury, the Outback Steakhouse spokesperson talks with a New Zealand accent not a Strayan one! Who knew!? Definitely not us. Plus, the US founders have reportedly never even traveled to Australia. Oh, the outrage! We propose an official name change to “Never Goin’ Back Steakhouse”.

Another example is Foster’s beer. Advertised as “Australian for beer” Foster’s is brewed in Texas. Also, hardly anyone drinks Foster’s, let alone has even heard of it, in Australia. Coopers, Victoria Bitter, James Boag, XXXX, Carlton Draught, and Tooheys, not Foster’s, are reportedly some of the top-rated beer brands there. Well, all we can say is, strewth! That’s an Australian expression of surprise.

The second lesson is that in Australia do not ask where the nearest McDonalds is as no one will understand the question. McDonalds is exclusively referred to as Maccas down there. In case you were wondering on the menu at Maccas is the “Big Brekkie Burger”, which we mention because Dr. Gordon informed us that “brekkie” is the Australian word for breakfast. Of course, after brekkie in the morning comes lunch in the afternoon, only Australians say “arvo” not afternoon, according to Dr. Gordon. Then there’s dinner, which Australians may refer to as “tea”.

The third lesson is that, if, as accent-challenged Americans, like us, you ever have occasion to say, “raise up lights”, and who knows, one day, Down Under, you might, an Australian will interpret that to mean “razor blades”. (Say “raise up lights” fast three times and listen proudly as an Australian accent starts to emerge).

Anyway, let’s raise up lights and our glasses to toast the wonderful, and incredibly amazing country of Australia, the Shake It Up Australia Foundation, Fight MND, and the lab of Dr. Richard Gordon at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research in Queensland, all of whom are working diligently and tirelessly to bring dread neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and MND under control. We at EpicentRx are beyond grateful for their support and hope very much to reward it one day with evidence that our small molecule NLRP3 inhibitor, RRx-001, substantially halts or even, Deo volente, reverses the progressive nature of these diseases. Shout out to Magda Szubanski, that would be extremely noice.