Monash University (Australia) Digging deep on Aussie nongs and drongos

Earlier this year, we surveyed 2300 Australians about their slang, and their responses continue to delight.

There were certain areas of the survey where people truly excelled – we’ve already reported here, for example, on a number of the contributions to do with drinks and drinking.

Equally striking was the exuberance of expressions people gave us for stupidity. Favourites ranged from mild drongo (the clear winner in our survey with 886 mentions) to the more potent dickhead (third in the list, but a long way behind drongo with 120 mentions).

Quite high on this list was also nong (and its relative ning-nong). Nong has been a favourite in this country for some time – since at least the turn of the 20th century, in fact, Australians have been referring to each other as colossal nongs.

Like so many you-beaut Aussie-isms, the word has its roots in British English. When ning-nong (early 1800s) was transplanted here, it went on to thrive, and produced some distinctly antipodean offspring in the form of nong (also nong-nong and noong).

Nong has always been an effective insult to question someone’s intelligence or competence, but like other insults, it continues to be an important signal of mateship – and true affection.