Australian English differs from other Englishes primarily in its accent and vocabulary. The major features of the accent were established by the 1830s. In the period between colonial settlement (1788) and the 1830s, when the foundation accent was being forged, new lexical items to describe the new environment, especially its flora and fauna, were developed either from Aboriginal languages (coolibah, wombat, wallaby, waratah, and so on) or from the ‘transported’ English word stock (native bear, wild cherry, and so on). Many more vocabulary items were later added in response to the nineteenth-century process of settlement and pastoral expansion. All of this seems at once predictable and inevitable—this is the way a colonial society imposes its linguistic footprint on a subjected land.
Australian English words recently recorded in the OED
- ambo, n./2
- bub, n./7
- drover’s dog, n.
- durex, n./1
- fair dinkum, adv., n. (and int.), and adj.
- John Dunn, n.
- muso, n.
- onkus, adj.
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Dinkum emerges at about the same time. Dinkum is from British dialect, where it meant primarily ‘work; a fair share of work’. The notion of ‘fairness’ has always been associated with dinkum, and it is from this connotation of ‘fairness’ that the particularly Australian meaning ‘reliable, genuine, honest, true’ developed in the first decade of the twentieth century. It was also at this time that the collocation fair go appeared, an important expression of egalitarian principles.
Excerpt taken from the OED blog post, ‘Australian English in the twentieth century’ by Dr Bruce Moore