Aussie slang increases likeability

24 March 2016

"If she used slang in her Australian English accent, they liked her more. However, if she used slang in a foreign accent it didn't change the amount they liked her.

A new study on Australian slang has found that using Australian slang words like 'ambo', 'uggies' or 'mobes' increases your likability among fellow Australians.

But lead researcher Dr Evan Kidd of The Australian National University (ANU) said the use of slang only made you more likeable if you use an Australian accent.

"Using slang seems to promote common ground between the speakers," said Dr Kidd, from the ANU Research School of Psychology. "People use them if you want to indicate social closeness with each other."

For the study, participants interacted with an actor who either would or wouldn't use a series of shortened Australian slang terms. Participants were then asked to rate how much they liked the actor.

"We found that if the actor used the slang, the participant liked them more," Dr Kidd said.

The same experiment was then conducted with an Australian-raised actor of Asian descent, who would use either an Australian accent or a foreign one.

"If she used slang in her Australian English accent, they liked her more. However, if she used slang in a foreign accent it didn't change the amount they liked her," he said.

Dr Kidd said the results suggest slang words only have positive effects if you are a member of Australian culture, as indicated by your accent.

The results are part of a series of studies that have also looked at the generational change in the way Australians use slang.

Dr Kidd said older Australians are likely to shorten words with an 'ie' sound, or an 'o'. For example 'truck driver' becomes 'truckie' and 'ambulance' becomes 'ambo'.

This contrasts with younger Australians who will clip words to the first one or two syllables, or shorten with an 's' sound. For example 'mobile phone' becomes 'mobes', and 'maybe' becomes 'maybes'.

Dr Kidd said speakers of Australian English use more shortened slang terms than any other variety of English, and that in most nations this type of language is used in very specific circumstance.

"In British English, this language will be used mostly for baby-talk. In Australian English you will use it in a greater amount of circumstances," he said.

"You hear it everywhere, you see it in newspaper headlines, news readers use it, politicians use it. It's an entrenched part of our vernacular."