The term bogan (//) is a derogatory Australian and New Zealand slang word used to describe a person whose speech, clothing, attitude and behaviour exemplify values and behaviour considered unrefined or unsophisticated, similar to the British term chav. Depending on the context, the term can be pejorative or self-deprecating.
Over the course of the last several decades, the bogan has become a very widespread and well-recognised subculture, often as an example of bad taste. Various localised names exist that describe the same or very similar groups of people.
The origin of the term bogan is unclear; both the Macquarie Dictionary and the Australian Oxford Dictionary cite the origin as unknown. According to anecdote, the term emerged in Melbourne's outer-western and outer-eastern suburbs in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The term became widely known in the late 1980s when the teenage character Kylie Mole (played by Mary-Anne Fahey), in the sketch comedy television series The Comedy Company, frequently used the term to disparage anyone she disliked. The same program included a sketch about a magazine called Bogue (a parody of Vogue), which featured traditional bogans. Merrick and Rosso (from Melbourne) also used the term on their Triple J national radio show.
The Australian National Dictionary Centre (ANDC) included the word in its Australian dictionary project in 1991 and said the earliest use they found was in the September 1985 issue of surfing magazine Tracks: "So what if I have a Mohawk and wear Dr. Martens (boots for all you uninformed bogans)?"
There are places in western New South Wales that contain bogan in their name—for example Bogan Shire, the Bogan River and the rural village of Bogan Gate—but they are not regarded as the source of the term. Bogan Gate, for example, is derived from the local Aboriginal word meaning "the birthplace of a notable headman of the local tribe". Residents of streets such as Bogan Place and Bogan Road have been moved to action by the negative connotations of their street names and lobbied to rename them. The 1902 poem "City of Dreadful Thirst" by Australian poet Banjo Paterson makes reference to a "Bogan shower" as a term meaning "three raindrops and some dust", although this is likely a reference to the dry area around the Bogan River. Makeshift gates in a rural fence in northwest NSW were known as bogan gates at least as early as the 1960s.
Bogans generally reside in the outer suburbs of larger cities, have teeth that haven't had braces or other orthodontia or dental care due to cost, have an anti-authoritarian stance, jingoism, home-done tattoos, a love of classic rock and Peter Brock, hooning and drinking alcohol to excess. A bogan attitude consists of a lack of pretence and a willingness to be brutally honest.
Certain types of clothing are stereotypically associated with bogans, including flannelette shirts, monkey hoodies, Stubbies shorts, King Gee workwear, thongs, ugg boots, jeans and black leggings. Bogans may also show a lowbrow standard of personal grooming by wearing their hair in a mullet.
A bogan, for various reasons, refuses to conform to middle-class standards of taste, dietary habits, leisure activities, styles of dress and ways of speaking. Bogans are sometimes looked down upon by some groups due to their implicit biases. These implicit biases can often make the lives of disadvantaged people much tougher.
Mel Campbell argued in a 2006 article in the Sydney Morning Herald that bogan (including "cashed-up bogan") is a nebulous, personal concept that is frequently used in a process by which "we use the idea of the bogan to quarantine ideas of Australianness that alarm or discomfort us. It's a way of erecting imaginary cultural barriers between 'us' and 'them'." Campbell argues that though many people believe they know exactly what a bogan is and what their characteristics might be, there is no defined set of characteristics of a bogan: the speaker imagines the denoted person to be different from, and less cultured than, themselves. Campbell considered "cashed-up bogan" to be a "stupid term". A similar argument is made by David Nichols, author of The Bogan Delusion (2011), who says that people have "created this creature that is a lesser human being to express their interclass hatred".
By the 21st century, the term bogan came to be employed more favourably to indicate a pride in being rough around the edges. In 2002, Michelle Griffin discussed the fact that ‘bogan’ is no longer just being used as an insult, but is in fact a way to identify with the ‘Aussie’ culture that many Anglo‐Saxon Australian citizens are so proud of. In the past, bogan was a term of disdain, but nowadays it has become cool to be a bogan. Radio station Triple J held a "National Bogan Day" on 28 June 2002, which they commemorated by playing music by rock bands such as Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil, Rose Tattoo and AC/DC. In a 2011 study, linguistics students at the University of Auckland found that the term was likely to be thought of as a good thing by people under the age of 30, compared with over 30's who generally felt it was more of a negative term.
The Australian bogan has been portrayed on television in shows such as Bogan Hunters, Pizza, Housos, Bogan Pride, Kath & Kim, and Upper Middle Bogan. The New Zealand bogan has been portrayed on television in Outrageous Fortune though the characters are described as "westies".
The popular website (and 2010 bestselling book) Things Bogans Like contains 250 articles on various things that bogans are claimed to like, and suggests that a "bogan today defies income, class, race, creed, gender and logic".
In 2007, Microsoft deemed bogan to be one of twenty colloquialisms most relevant to Australian users when the word was added to the dictionary of Microsoft Office 2007. The word entered the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2012.
An app known as "The Bogan Test" has been created to examine a person's likelihood to fall within the boundaries of the bogan category.
Use in marketing
"CUB" or "cashed up bogan", was used by one marketing researcher in 2006 to describe people of a blue-collar background now earning a high salary and spending their earnings on expensive consumer items as a matter of conspicuous consumption. The media adduced tennis player Lleyton Hewitt and his actress wife, Bec Cartwright, as examples. Subsequently, the Kaesler Winery, in the Barossa Valley, released a Shiraz wine under the name Bogan.
Regional equivalent terms
Roz Rohen has described the term 'bogan' as peerless, and that it warrants acceptance as an Australian keyword.
"There are plenty of other words purporting to describe the same social and cultural subset or behaviour, but 'bogan' really does stand alone"
Although the term "bogan" is understood across Australia and New Zealand, certain regions have their own slang terms for the same group of people. These terms include:
- "Bevan" or "Bev" in Queensland.
- "Booner" in Canberra.
- "Chigger" (also "chigga" or "chig") in Tasmania. This appears to be a reference to the Hobart suburb of Chigwell.
- "Scozza" in Geelong, Victoria, Australia.
The term "westie" or "westy" is not synonymous with bogan, although westies are often stereotyped as being bogans. "Westie" seems to predate bogan by some years, and originated in Sydney in the 1970s, to refer to people from that city's western suburbs. As Sydney's western suburbs are predominantly working class blue collar areas, the term connotes a predominantly working class blue collar person – someone with little education, little taste, and very limited horizons. "Westie" is now in wide use in many cities and towns across both Australia and New Zealand, where it especially refers to the denizens of West Auckland.
Other stereotypes and subcultures
- Bodgies and Widgies
- Dero (Australian slang for a derelict person) / Lad
- Favelado, Maloqueiro ou Pé-Rapado (Brazil)
- Hoser (Canada)
- Flaite (Chile)
- Beauf (France)
- Prolet (Germany, page in German)
- Alay (Indonesia)
- Skanger (Ireland)
- Ars or ערס (Israel)
- Naco (Mexico)
- Tokkie (Netherlands)
- Spide (Northern Ireland)
- Jejemon (Philippines)
- Dres (Poland)
- Golan (Romania)
- Gopnik (Russia)
- Ned (Scotland)
- Ah Beng (Singapore/Malaysia)
- Zef (South Africa)
- Raggare (Sweden)
- Chav (UK and Ireland)
- Pikey (UK)
- Scallie (UK and Ireland)
- Redneck (United States and Canada)
- Skid (United States and Canada)
- Skeet (Newfoundland) (Newfoundland, Canada)
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- Chris Johnston, Class war festers in hated bogan zeroes, The Age, 4 June 2011. See also The Bogan Delusion, Affirm Press
- Griffin, Michelle: Bogansville: meet the new in-crowd, The Age, 16 July 2002.
- "about bogan broadcast". 6/9/2016.
- "Our fascination with 'bogans' will be televised". The Conversation. 4 April 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
- Bogans Like, Things (October 2010). "What is a Bogan Today?". Things Bogans Like. Hachette Australia. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
- Press release: Strewth! Microsoft Office 2007 will recognise more dinky-di words, Microsoft Corporation, 15 May 2006.
- "You're a bogan too. Just take this test.". News Limited. 27 December 2013. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
- "Snobbery alert: the 'Cub' is busy turning Melbourne into Boganville". Age. Fairfax. 20 May 2006.
- "Take our word for it: The Aussie Bogan is "in"". Courier Mail. 20 November 2013. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
- Smitz, Paul (2004). Lonely Planet Australia. Lonely Planet. p. 1064. ISBN 978-1-74059-447-9.
- "Canberra Word: booner". Ozwords. Australian National Dictionary Centre. 14 March 2013.
- "What has happened to Canberra's booners?". RiotACT. 28 November 2008.