Mate is one of the best words to learn if you are trying to be an Aussie. A word that I believe is most misunderstood by the world outside of Australia because it is not often used to mean an actual mate, and by that I mean friend or significant other. Mate is used in such a plethora of different ways that I can write a whole blog about this one word. It reminds me a great deal of how we used to use the word “Dude”. For reference please see Keanu Reeves in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. Duuuuuude!
The best definition I have seen so far was in the online Urban dictionary which says a mate is anyone you don’t know or can’t remember the name of. Perfect! Although there are other uses for the word this one really sums up its most common use. Although, I would have to add that when it is used this way there is often a heavy sarcastic tone added to it and in this context it comes closest to meaning idiot of the highest order. In the car when road rage strikes it’s, “What are you thinking MATE?” When another person knocks into you, “Well excuse me MATE!” Aussies are most likely to also add one of the five senses to this as well as in, “Look Mate…” or “Listen Mate..” when look or listen is added to mate you are in trouble. The look and listen mate is usually accompanied by the Chris Hemsworth vibe. This is when an Aussie bloke stands up tall, squares his shoulders and looks down at you with a scowl on his face. His voice will also deepen an octave or two, just in case you were not already aware you were in trouble. Sometimes there are no words needed after the “Look mate”, after all most lessor mortals are apologizing and running the other way. An Aussie male was chosen to play Thor for a good reason. I am not sure where Aussie men learn this. I don’t think they are taught. I think the skill is simply part of being an Aussie bloke. I believe it makes its first appearance somewhere right around the first time that their team loses a game. My best advice is not to be there when that happens.
It is, however, amusing to watch if you are not the target of the aforementioned look or listen mate. If it happens to be between two relatively good natured Aussie blokes then it can be quite educational. You may even get the rare instance of a, “Look mate!” being answered back by a, “Listen mate!” If you happen to catch this rare display of Aussie blokes in action, then watch and learn… from a safe distance.
“Maaaaate!” When mate is used in this context it comes closest to meaning awesome. Oddly enough you will hear this usage when a member of an Aussie bloke’s favourite team does something really spectacular. It can also be used to refer to cars, electronic devices and DIY done by an Aussie bloke. Barbecues are also an important part of the Aussie male psych so listen for it when a new barbecue is purchased as well.
“Ohhhh mate.” This is the direct opposite of the mate mentioned above. I have been hearing this one a lot this year as my husband’s footy team, The West Coast Eagles, is not doing very well. Whenever a particularly idiotic play is made then I can be sure and hear this. You may also hear it when a real mate or child gets hurt. The depth of sympathy that comes across in the, “Ohhhh mate”, in these instances is second to none and manages to convey real sympathy and concern.
Lastly, let’s talk about mateship. Aussies really value mateship and it means something quite deep. It is part of the Australian military vernacular and also has been used by the Salvation Army to invoke a deeper call to action towards those who may be struggling. When an Aussie man says, “Yeah he’s a good mate”, he usually means something a bit more than just a guy I watch a game with or a colleague I work with. This is a man who will be with them or who has been with them through real life stuff. It is usually someone they think they can count on or someone they would be willing to be there for. Australian understatement is a real part of this as an Aussie is very unlikely to say, “Yeah this here is the best man I have ever met. He’s been with me through thick and thin.” Instead you might hear a, “Oh yeah Mike? Yeah we’re mates.”
Someone should and could write a book about how Aussies use the word mate. It is fascinating and new uses seem to be invented everyday because this is not a nation of men who like to talk. If one word can be used to mean several different things and convey feeling then by all means that word will be used instead of actual sentences.
I will leave off with the following series of jokes about the differences between Americans, Australians, Brits and Canadians. I found them at conviction creations. I hope you enjoy it as much I did.
Canadians: Endure bitterly cold winters and are proud of it.
Brits: Endure oppressively wet and dreary winters and are proud of it.
Americans: Don’t have to do either, and couldn’t care less.
Aussies: Don’t understand what inclement weather means.
Aussies: Are extremely patriotic about their beer.
Americans: Are flag-waving, anthem-singing, and obsessively patriotic to the point of blindness.
Canadians: Can’t agree on the words to their anthem, in either language, when they can be bothered to sing them.
Brits: Do not sing at all but prefer a large brass band to perform the anthem
Americans: Will jabber on incessantly about football, baseball and basketball.
Brits: Will jabber on incessantly about cricket, soccer and rugby.
Canadians: Will jabber on incessantly about hockey, hockey, hockey, and how they beat the Americans twice, playing baseball.
Aussies: Will jabber on incessantly about how they beat the Poms in every sport they played them in.