If you’d lost your mobes in Melbourne at a barbie on a Sunday arvo you couldn’t be anything but Australian.
In fact, Australians use abbreviations and diminutives more than other English-speakers – and a new study is trying to find out why.
“There are many theories,” says Nenagh Kemp, a psychologist specialising in language at the University of Tasmania, who’s leading the work.”
“Australians who use these diminutives might be trying to sound less pretentious, more casual and more friendly than they would by using the full words.”
Nenagh and her colleague Evan Kidd at La Trobe University in Melbourne have asked more than 100 Australians aged 18-90 to write down as many abbreviations and diminutives (which can be shorter or longer than the original word) as they could think of in 10 minutes.
Abbreviations and diminutives
The most common words they’ve identified so far were barbie (barbecue), arvo (afternoon), footy (football), sunnies (sunglasses), rego (registration), servo (service station), brekkie (breakfast), cuppa (cup of tea) and sanga (sandwich).
But people also came up with a lot of abbreviations for brand names, like Maccas, Woollies, Subie (Subaru) and Suzy (Suzuki).
While there’s a good deal of overlap between the abbreviations used by older and younger Australians, there are also seems to be some differences.
Nenagh and Evan’s preliminary analysis of their results suggests that older people use ‘cosier’, family-oriented words like cardi (cardigan), lippy (lipstick), rellies (relatives) and oldies more often than younger people.