Cooee is an Australian slang word that is based on the sound of a particular bird.
Australian language is unique in the way it sounds and also includes a whole array of expressions that can be quite amusing to an outsider.
Crocodile Dundee has brought cooee, Australiana and many Australian expressions to the world. Cooee, like many other Australian words, is of Aboriginal origin, but a large part of the Australian language comes from British and Irish convicts.
Australian Slang is colloquial, used in informal conversation. It is much stronger in the bush (wooded areas) and outback (a remote and sparsely populated area) and in the poorer city areas.
And it is a stereotype – we don’t all speak Australian slang. But here are some phrases you will come across:
A universal friendly greeting is g’day (good day). Mate (buddy) is used in greeting just about anyone, while Onya (good on you) is a friendly encouragement. Being fair dinkum (speaking the truth) and doing hard yakka (hard work) will give you respect.
You might want to travel off the beaten track (away from the main traffic) to avoid civilization, go swimming in your cossies (swimming costume), and when you are zonked (exhausted), call it a day (stop work) and hit the sack (go to sleep).
If you are very annoyed you are cheesed off and may call it quits (stop trying to do something) – or if it’s really bad kick the bucket (die).
In Australia we like to give people a fair go (an equal opportunity) and have been proud of our battlers (someone who works hard, struggling against the odds). We have been known to cut down tall poppies (successful achievers)- but are slowly coming around to celebrating excellence.
At the end of the day you might have tea (the evening main meal) with heaps (a lot) of veggies (vegetables) and flake (fillets of shark meat) and a good old yack (a talk).
Cooee is a shout used in the Australian Outback mainly to attract attention, find missing people, or indicate your location. You may also hear bush walkers and their kids doing cooees.
Today, Australia – especially in the large cities like Melbourne and Sydney – is multicultural and sophisticated. You are more likely to hear Italian or Arabic than fair dinkum Australian slang.
We drink Cappuccinos, not billy tea (tea boiled on a camp fire). – And no, there are no Kangaroos on city streets.