Macquarie Dictionary


Heard it on the bush telegraph

‘Ooo I heard it through the … bush telegraph?’ Ok, so it might not fit into your beautiful karaoke rendition of Marvin Gaye but the bush telegraph is the outback rumour mill. So you can consider it the Aussie version of the grapevinethe network of personal and other contacts through which information ranging from gossip to substantive information is passed informally.

Mulga wire is another Aussie name for the rural gossip mill. Chatting on the mill or the wire is called chewing the fat. If you’re a regular on the bush telegraph you might be considered a dorry: a gossip. The name originates from the character Dorrie Evans, an insufferable stickybeak and gossip from the 1970s Australian TV soap Number 96.

Goss is a common Aussie abbreviation of gossip but perhaps the most well known of all is yarn. Mainly meaning to talk or chat, the verb sense of yarn means to gossip. 

Backbiting is a more malicious form of gossip. To backbite is to attack someone’s character or reputation secretly. Don’t worry though, if you’ve been accused of being a gossipmonger, you’re just doing what comes naturally to human beings. 

Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.

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