Category Archives: Australian English

Thanks, cobber

At the register in a local service station buying fuel this week, I was amazed to hear the young motorbike rider in front of me in the queue say “thanks, cobber” to the attendant after his purchase was complete. I swear, I have never heard any Aussie under the age of (at least) 65 use this expression, referring to a male ‘mate’ or ‘friend’. I mentioned it to my other half, who says he’s heard it several times in dealing with local business people since we moved to Tasmania. So far, I haven’t noticed any particular differences in the English spoken in Tasmania compared to elsewhere in Australia. I am sure there are some differences… more research required.

Then it got better… later that day, having an afternoon drink with friends at a fairly upmarket establishment in Hobart, the waiter addressed my husband as “cobbs”! Is that the shortened form of cobber?


Of rivulets and tarns

In Sydney, it would be called a creek. But since moving to Tasmania six month ago, we’ve noticed that small waterways are mostly named using the quaint old English version ‘rivulet’. For example, the irregular watercourse that borders our own property is called Fleurty’s Rivulet. Across the other side of the Huon, there is a place called Nicholls Rivulet. And then there is the Hobart Rivulet which flows from Mount Wellington to the Derwent River, the source of water for the early European settlement and before that for the Mouheneener people. After the Europeans got to it, it quickly became polluted and unusable as a water source. Now it is largely underground and of historical interest. There used to be a Hobart Rivulet Tour you could go on to see some of the convict brickwork that went into building the underground portion of it.

‘Tarn’ is another word I hadn’t noticed before moving to Tasmania. This is probably because I haven’t spent much time in mountainous areas, and the term describes a mountain lake or pool, formed in a cirque excavated by a glacier. Certainly I saw a lot of them on last weekend’s visit to the Kosciuszko National Park in NSW. One of the best known in our area is Disappearing Tarn south of Mount Wellington. There are tales of people setting up camp in the evening and waking up next to a large blue lake, or the other way around. No idea if there’s truth in these yarns.