How ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Could Revive The World’s Fascination With Aussie Slang
'Fury Road' is riddled with ockerisms that are sneaking their way into the English lexicon worldwide.
George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road is the closest any movie has ever gotten to visualising what it must be like inside a five-year-old Hot Wheels fan’s head. The cars! The explosions! The cars and explosions! The guy shredding guitar while suspended from a tower of speakers! After seeing this movie you’ll have so much adrenaline you’ll want to simultaneously high-five someone AND punch them in the face, and if they just saw it too, they’ll let you.
Fury Road‘s already raking in the critical acclaim, partly because of its surprisingly progressive gender politics and partly because, again, it will melt your fucking face off. But one of the reasons it might have a special appeal for domestic audiences is the sprinkling of Australianisms that sneak into the dialogue; Miller is Australian, and with a mostly-Aussie cast Fury Road is usually described as an Australian movie. In fact, it’s on its way to being one of the most successful Australian movies of all time, which could mean the homegrown slang phrases dotted throughout it end up worming their way into the broader spoken English lexicon.
The sporadic overseas fascination with distinctively or stereotypically Australian speech is well known to any backpacker who’s had ‘g’day’ or ‘shrimp on the barbie’ joyfully yelled at them in a hostel, but common Australian phrases have a way of taking root elsewhere if they get a nudge; in the mid-’80s the phrase ‘no worries’ started gaining traction in the US largely thanks to the success of Crocodile Dundee, and ‘selfie‘ is a child of the common Australian habit of shortening words and phrases with an ‘-ie’ suffix. It remains to be seen whether John Oliver’s glee at Kyle Sandilands calling Barnaby Joyce an “insensitive wanker” becomes the latest example, but Fury Road might see some turns of phrase less recognisably Australian to the outside ear take hold in the meantime.
Take arguably Fury Road‘s most memorable character; the flaming axe-wielding maniac who’s become something of a folk hero as ‘Guitar Guy’ has piqued the interest of overseas moviegoers wanting to know more about their new fire-spewing idol in the red onesie. The guy who plays him, ARIA-nominated musician iOTA, has already had several profiles written up about him in response to fan curiosity on the character’s backstory, and Reddit is demanding an AMA session with him.
But only Australian viewers would understand the significance of that character’s name; Guitar Guy is listed in the credits as ‘Coma the Doof Warrior’, and the speaker-piled monstrosity the Doof Warrior rides is called the Doof Wagon — ‘doof’, of course, being the timeless sound that throbs out of your older cousin’s second-hand speakers as he hoons up and down the main street in his souped-up Nissan Skyline, and a domestic signifier for techno music and culture more generally.
The history of ‘doof’ as the go-to Australian word for Dank Beats is fascinating, as it turns out; an upcoming documentary called Do It Ourselves Culture will explore the beginnings of doof culture starting in the early ’90s, and the spike in interest around the word that Fury Road inspired prompted the ABC to do a fantastic write-up on the subject. In a nutshell, the term ‘doof’ was invented accidentally when a techno jam in a Newtown sharehouse attracted the ire of their german neighbour Helga, who banged on the door yelling “what is this doof, doof, doof? This is not music!”
I’ll say that again: the word ‘doof’, which is gaining worldwide attention after being featured in an international blockbuster, was coined in the ’90s by an aggrieved German woman named Helga who just wanted her ingrate neighbours in Newtown to pipe down so she could get some sleep. How is that not the best thing you learned today.
Another Fury Road phrase that would’ve rung bells for domestic audiences is ‘fang it’, shouted a few times by Charlize Theron’s Furiosa just before she stomps the skull-head accelerator pedal and sends the War Rig flying across the desert like a road train to Hell. ‘Fang it’ is another shout-out to Australian car culture, as anyone who has sat terrified in the backseat while their older cousin tells them to “hold on while I fuckin’ fang it” can tell you. Whether or not it can muscle in on the turf of similar overseas terms like ‘floor it’ and ‘putting pedal to the metal’ remains to be seen, but hearing it yelled in an American accent was unreasonably exciting for more than one Australian film goer.
Note to self: Never go for a driving lesson just after you’ve watched Mad Max. You are tempted to fang it.
— MaddieWoods (@MadWoodsy) May 17, 2015
I’ve had 24 hours to think about it and I think my fave thing about Mad Max Fury Road was how many times the term “fang it” was used. — totally Tranter (@tranterpants) May 15, 2015
While mostly ok, I think that the point of Mad Max Fury Road was to set up the rest of the franchise & introduce ‘fang it’ to the world.
— Lizzie Lou (@Elizru) May 16, 2015
There was also ‘schlanger’, screamed by Abbey Lee’s character The Dag at her pursuers as an insult, which confused a few foreign watchers who weren’t familiar with the term.
‘Schlanger’, for those playing at home, is an old Australian ockerism for ‘dick’, which makes this Tweet I stumbled on even more delightful.
A note on schlanger: What is schlanger? Is it a bad thing if you eat it? I guess it is… #MadMaxFuryRoad
— Maurice Branscombe (@mfbranscombe) May 17, 2015
Regrettably, Fury Road neglected to include some of the more contemporary Australian slang phrases that have enjoyed increased currency lately; it would’ve been magical to see the Splendid Anghara refer to Immortan Joe as a ‘gronk’, or have one of the aged Vuvalini respond to Max’s plan to fang it back to the Citadel with a big toothless smile and a “no wukkin’ furries!”, but there’ll be time for all of those in the sequels. In the interim, the Doof Warrior will ride on proudly.