Aussie ABC: Q is for Quirky

Big Malleefowl, Patchewollock, Victoria

The BIG Malleefowl, Patchewollock, Victoria

The Aussie sense of humour – ie laconic crossed with off-beat crossed with extreme larrikinism – sometimes manifests itself in unusual, weird and downright bizarre ways. And that means ‘Quirky’!

But … be warned! There’s a fine line between ‘Kitsch’ and ‘Quirky’ – and an even finer one between ‘Quirky’ and ‘Tasteless’!

So I’ll leave you to decide into which category these examples of Aussie Quirkiness fall!

Kanyaka Woolshed Sign

Warning Sign, Kanyaka Woolshed, Flinders Ranges, South Australia

1. Signs and Symbols

Aware that not everyone else speaks either English OR our brand of it, we Aussies have the distinction of putting some of the most incomprehensible graphics in the world on our signs.

Danger Sign

This Kanyaka historic site sign (above) in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges has a number of strange and bizarre symbols that mean – what, exactly?? When I asked my readers to identify them in the original blog post (HERE) they came up with a surprising array of responses!

Although sometimes those world class ambiguity skills aren’t used! THIS sign just says it like it is!!

But … when crystal clear meets iconoclastic Aussie attitude, you get something REALLY quirky! Like this sign at the western entrance to Queensland Outback town Isisford!

Isisford Entrance Sign

Entrance to Isisford, Outback Queensland

Want MORE?

2. Talking Strine*

Point Pass Gold Steeple

Church Steeple at Point Pass, Mid North, South Australia

While we Aussies generally have no trouble understanding both the US and UK forms of English, our quirky interpretation of some of its finer points – a translation of ‘English’ to ‘Strine’ – means those who’ve learned either the US or the UK version find it difficult to understand us! In fact, they often think we actually ‘talk funny’!

But that’s a minor detail compared to what we’re actually saying. That’s FAR more incomprehensible! Here’s a short test to see how Aussie you REALLY are:

1. Your friend Davo and his girlfriend Shazza are coming to visit. What are their real names?

2. Translate ‘Put another snag on the Barbie’

3. ‘Stubby’, ‘Tinny’, ‘Pot’, ‘Slab’ and ‘Schooner’ are all different ways to order WHAT common beverage? AND for an extra point – how do you keep it cold??

4. ‘How are ya?’ asks your mate. ‘Flat out like a lizard drinking’, you reply. What do you mean?

5. You suspect your boss has a couple of ‘roos loose in the top paddock. What’s wrong with him?

Answers at the bottom of the post!

Aussie House made of Stubbies

House made of Stubbies, White Cliffs, New South Wales

Want MORE?

Check out my guest post about Australian slang HERE!

3. What’s on the Menu?

Kangaroos at Innes National Park

Good Enough to EAT? Kangaroos at Innes National Park, SA

Where else can you get a food item colloquially known as a ‘rat’s coffin’? Usually served with a dose of ‘dead horse’?? A meat pie with (thanks to our adoption of the British habit for rhyming slang) tomato sauce doesn’t sound anywhere near so interesting, does it?!

So sometimes we serve it on a bed of pea soup and call it a ‘pie floater’.

But then we go one better.

Emus at Innes National Park

Fancy a SNACK? Emus at Innes National Park, SA

Neither the Kangaroo or Emu are physically able to move backwards, and that’s the quality that landed them on the Australian Coat of Arms! Admirable, yes?

BUT … apparently we’re the only country in the world to kill and eat the wildlife on our national Coat of Arms – and feed them as good Aussie ‘tucker’ to hapless tourists!

When you consider, however, that Australia is home of the AWESOME Tim Tam, I think you’ll agree that balances out all our other food faux pas combined!!

Want MORE? Here’s 40 foods we Aussies call our own (via CNN Travel)

4. A Day at the Races

Bedourie Camel Races

Bedourie Camel Races, Outback Queensland

In a country full of people who love having a wager but with only ~0.029 horses per km²**, we’ve got creative AND quirky with what we race. And bet on!

And that means racing whatever is at hand. Like Cockroaches. Or Camels. And arguably the quirkiest racing creature of all – the Cane Toad!

Cane Toad

Ready to RACE! Cane Toad at Kununurra, WA

Despite – or perhaps because of – being an introduced pest with numbers now thought to exceed 200 million, the ugly cane toad has reached cult status downunder. With its very own line of novelty gifts, a documentary about its infamous beginnings in Australia AND Cane Toad World, a celebration of its quirky appeal, its unique qualities have made it popular on the informal sports and racing circuit!

Want MORE?

5. Size DOES Matter!

Big Galah, Kimba

Big Galah, Kimba, South Australia

I once read that you know you’re Australian when it seems perfectly normal to wander a landscape littered with enormous representations of everyday objects, most commonly fruit and animals. Yes, Aussie Big Things are in a quirky class of their own!

Yes, the Kangaroo, Koala, Crocodile and even the Aussie Galah are obvious targets.

But whoever thought of the Big Malleefowl? Big Wool Bales?? Or the Big Ned Kelly??? And if you take a look at The Little Book of BIG Aussie Icons you’ll find MY picture of the Big Prawn!

Big Ned Kelly

Red and Big Ned Kelly, Glenrowan, Victoria

Quirky? More like BEYOND Quirky!

Want MORE?

6. Bizarre Buildings

While weird and wacky buildings exist in Aussie urban areas too, why is it that the most ornate, thoughtfully constructed AND intriguing are found in the middle of nowhere?

Maybe it’s the relative lack of building materials, or a yearning for the luxuries of another country, or just a response to the landscape! Whatever the reason behind them, I say these bizarre buildings qualify as Quirky with a capital Q!

Castle, Lightning Ridge

Castle, Lightning Ridge, New South Wales

Maybe we just need to redefine ‘civilisation’! OR … perhaps we Aussies already have?!?!

Bavarian Castle

Miniature Bavarian Castle, Kalgoorlie Goldfields, WA

7. Aussie Loos with Views!

I’m a loud and proud contributor to the pantheon of Aussie quirkiness with my book ‘Aussie Loos with Views!’ But I wouldn’t have been able to produce such a book without the vast selection of quirky Aussie dunnies all around the country.

Aussie Loos with Views!

Aussie Loos with Views!

My personal pick for the quirkiest of quirky Aussie dunnies is Gunnedah’s amazing Lyrical Loo!

There’s a lot of Australian Scenic Public Toilets on my blog AND more than 60 in my book!

Elevating the humble Aussie Loo to the Dunny of Distinction AND getting a book about them published (thanks to the team at Explore Australia) is Australia at it’s quirkiest!!

Lyrical Loo

Poets Delight! Gunnedah’s Lyrical Loo, New South Wales

And if you want to prove me wrong, just buy my book and tell me EXACTLY where my reasoning is flawed!!

Go on! You KNOW you want to …

Want MORE?

See ALL the Scenic Public Toilets I’ve ever featured on my blog!

So does the evidence I’ve shown you prove Australia’s Quirkiness? Or is it all just kitcsh and/or tasteless?? Whatever you think, I’m calling Q for Quirky right here!

Big Prawn, Ballina

Big Prawn, Ballina, New South Wales

See RedzAustralia’s other Aussie ABC posts:

* Strine = just say ‘Australian’ REALLY quickly (ie like a true blue Aussie) and you’ll find it sounds almost like ‘Strine’

** 221000 horses according to horsetalk.co.nz divided by Australia’s landmass of 7.692 million km² according to australia.gov.au (and they should know, yes??!!)

Answers to Strine Quiz:

1. Davo = David (or MATE!); Shazza = Sharon (or ‘Luv’ if you can’t remember her name)

2. Put some more Sausages (Snags) on the Barbecue (ie Barbie)

3. Beer; keep it cold by putting it in the Esky!

4. You’re really busy

5. A couple of kangaroos loose in the top paddock = a bit mad!

12 comments

  • Yep we Aussies love our quirkiness! There are lots of “big” things everywhere, yacht races in dry river beds, and trees of boots, underwear etc. and of course scenic loos – I have one in my latest post Red – just for you!
    Another fabulous humorous and totally Aussie post Red. Thanks!

  • I didn’t realise how Quirky we were but I realise now I have a collection of photos that would fit into this category. Keep up the great posts.

    • Haha, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find it hard to narrow the quirky pix down to just a few!! I could have produced a whole post on each section!! Thanks for the encouragement!!

  • I think you have done us aussies proud – telling the world about our short hand sayings – our land marks – always intriguing the tourists – the very same landmarks that sends aussies all over to act like tourists..All good for sure and certain……

  • Aha–so you moved! Quirky is an appropriate word here, I’d say. I’d also say that your beautiful country is an original!

    • Quirky has a lot more cred than ‘weird’ or ‘tasteless’, doesn’t it?!?!?! Yes, there’s nothing quite like OZ – which is just as well, I don’t think the world’s ready for another one!!

  • I think we’re probably the quirkiest nation on the planet and proud to be so.
    Quirky appeal and Cane Toads should never be in the same sentence, as far as I’m concerned they have no appeal at all. Send them all back where they came from!
    I don’t like Tim Tams either.
    But I love all your photos up there.

    • Haha, it’d be a REALLY tough job to round up so many million cane toads … but it’d solve a lot of problems if we could send them home! But it’d create a NEW problem – what would we use for oddball races then??!! Glad you liked the pix!

  • Aus wouldn’t be Aus without the Quirks – every country needs its Quirks!

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