Why some Aussies sound ‘bogan’

Why some people sound like Kath and Kim.Source:Supplied
Why some people sound like Kath and Kim.Source:Supplied

YOU wouldn't think there were different accents within Australia, but there are reasons some people sound like Kath and Kim while others sound like Nicole Kidman.

Within Australia, there are three different types of accents - broad, general and cultivated.

Broad would be associated with a more "bogan" type accent, cultivated sounds slightly more English and general sits somewhere between the two.

If you sound like Steve Irwin, Russell Coight or Kath and Kim, you have a broad accent.

What if you sound like Hugh Jackman or Ian Thorpe? Well you're just normal.

But people who sound like Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett or Nicole Kidman have a cultivated, refined accent.

Apparently in Australia you can't really tell where somebody is from based on their accent, like you can with the UK, because Australians tend to move around a lot, making it easier to pick up and share different phrases and accents.

But instead of Australian accents pegging you to one particular state, Aussies tend to use people's accents to identify social class.

"If you hear a broad accent, it's likely to be someone who comes from country Australia, a tradie, people less likely to live in urban areas, less likely to complete university education and less affected by norms in cities," Professor John Hajek, from University of Melbourne's School of Languages and Linguistics, said.

However those broad, general and cultivated accents could fade, with Professor Hajek saying the general accent is becoming the norm, particularly with young people.

While Australia doesn't have particular accents to differentiate between states, Professor Hajek said there were still ways you could tell a Melburnian from a Brisbanite.


"When companies advertise swimwear they always avoid words of regional origin by using the word 'swimwear' and similar," Professor Hajek said.

"They won't advertise swimmers or bathers. People from southern states of Australia say bathers - swimmers definitely from NSW. Queenslanders think they are the only ones to say togs but it is common in Victoria too.

"Other terms like potato cakes and potato scallops give people away as well. If someone from NSW goes to a fish and chip shop in Victoria and asks for scallops, they won't get potato scallops."

Potato cake vs. potato scallop, sausage sandwich vs. sausage in bread - they could well be Australia's greatest debates.

University of Melbourne linguistics expert Dr Jill Vaughan previously conducted research that found people in NSW called them scallops, in Victoria they are potato cakes and in Western Australia and South Australia, they are known as potato fritters.

Sausage in bread and sausage sandwich also drives a big barrier between Australian states.

NSW refers to the snack as a sausage sandwich or sanger, while those south of the border call it a sausage in bread.

However, Dr Vaughan said sausage in bread was the most common saying throughout Australia - sorry NSW, you're wrong.


Professor Hajek has discovered one, tiny difference in accent that was born in Melbourne.

"Some people are aware some Melburnians have a slightly different accent, because of the way they say the name of the city. About a third of Melburnians can't distinguish between salary and celery, the names Ally and Elly, and a substantial proportion of people outside of Melbourne pick this up and notice they say things like Malbourne instead of Melbourne," he said.

"We are now starting to find traces of the 'Malbourne' thing in Brisbane so we don't know how long it will be a characteristic for Melbourne.

"That 'Malbourne' accent stretched to Wangaratta but not across the border to Albury, and extends west to Warrnambool, but doesn't reach Mildura.

"Mildura is much closer to South Adelaide. It's easier for locals to go to Adelaide than Melbourne - so they get more Adelaide input."

Professor Hajek said he wasn't entirely sure why the "e" vowel sounded more like an "a" vowel in Victoria compared to other places, but it is definitely linked the to "L" that follows.

"For example, instead of milk, people often say 'malk'," he said.

Topics:  australia bogan editors picks language offbeat

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