The term bogan (rhyming with slogan) is Australian and New Zealand English slang, usually pejorative, for a person who is, or is perceived to be, of a lower-class background. According to the stereotype, the speech and mannerisms of "bogans" indicate, poor education, cheap clothing and uncultured upbringing. 'Bogans' usually reside in economically disadvantaged suburbs (often outer metropolitan) or rural areas.
The term is a close regional equivalent to the English term Chav or Pikey, Scottish term Ned, Irish term scanger and the North American term White Trash. However the term 'bogan' is occasionally used with some affection in Australia/NZ, whereas those corresponding terms are not.
The origin of the term 'bogan' as a pejorative is unclear; both the Macquarie Dictionary and the Australian Oxford Dictionary cite its origin as unknown. Comparison might be made with the Scots Gaelic bòcan
or the Manx buggane
, mythological creatures with elements of mischief, nuisance and/or malice.
In a name context, it means "soft" like a bog or "bow" as in bow and arrow. The name can be found in the records of the English Parliament, especially from Devonshire, and all over Ireland.
The Australian National Dictionary Centre (ANDC) included the word in its Australian dictionary project in 1991, attributing the earliest known reference to a 1985 surfing magazine. The 1902 poem "City of Dreadful Thirst" by Australian poet Banjo Patterson makes reference to a "Bogan shower" as a term meaning "three raindrops and some dust". However this is clearly a reference to the dry region around the Bogan River in Central Western NSW. There are places in western New South Wales that contain 'bogan' in their name — including Bogan Shire, the Bogan River and the rural village of Bogan Gate — but they are not regarded as the source of the term.
The term became widely known in the late 1980s, when the character Kylie Mole (played by Mary-Anne Fahey), from the popular Australian sketch comedy television program The Comedy Company, popularised the term, using it frequently to disparage those she disliked: "[a bogan is] a person that you just don’t bother with. Someone who wears their socks the wrong way or has the same number of holes in both legs of their stockings. A complete loser." Kylie's use of 'bogan' is closer to the common use of "dag" ("dork" or "nerd") than "westie," which apparently predated 'bogan' by some years.
Bogan was deemed one of twenty Australian colloquialisms by a selection panel and in an online poll to be most relevant to Australian users.
Elements of the stereotype
The bogan stereotype is roughly equivalent to the American white trash
, and they tend to be anti-social and racist. Certain types of clothing are stereotypically associated with bogans, include flannelette
shirts, Stubbies shorts
, ugg boots
-style slippers, jeans, black leggings
and trucker caps
The term 'bogan' has been employed favourably to indicate being proudly un-fashionable or 'rough around the edges.' Radio station Triple J
held a "National Bogan Day" on June 28, 2002, which they commemorated by playing music by bands such as Cold Chisel
, Midnight Oil
, Rose Tattoo
Australian humour website bogan.com.au was archived on the National Library of Australia's Pandora Archive in August 2006, for it was considered to be "of significance and to have long-term research value.
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.
References in Popular Culture
- Australian band Area-7 released a single called "Nobody Likes a Bogan" in 2002, which listed several aspects of a stereotype bogan named "Bazza." The song reached #46 on the ARIA Charts in February of that year.
- Melbourne band TISM released a song written from the point of view of a bogan beating up a mod, "The Fosters Car Park Boogie," on their 1988 album Great Truckin' Songs of the Renaissance. Their later song whatareya? on the album www.tism.wanker.com can also be considered as a classist comparison between the lower (yob/bogan) and upper (wanker) classes.
- The SBS television show Pizza portrays a stereotypical bogan character named Davo (played by Jabba). Davo is often depicted wearing a flannelette shirt, thongs and a singlet. He also undertakes stereotypical bogan activities including drinking Victoria Bitter beer, smoking cannabis, and talking bogan slang, and is often referred to as a bogan by other characters.
- Australian comedian Chris Franklin's public persona is a self-proclaimed "King of the Bogans," in which he frequently eats meat pies, wears a flannelette shirt with its sleeves ripped off, and occasionally wears a football beanie over his permed mullet. In 1999, Franklin released a comedy single called "Bloke" (a parody of "Bitch" (1997) by Meredith Brooks), which expressed a bogan perspective on male/female relationships.
- In 2005 residents of the Victorian town of Colac objected to the backstory of the fictional Timmins family (described by ABC Local Radio as a "bogan family") on the soap opera Neighbours, which portrayed them as being from the town. Scriptwriter Ben Michaels denied regional stereotyping, stating "I think most people know there is a bogan contingent in every town, and we happened to take the piss out of the bogan contingent of Colac. In the story the family frequently refer to themselves as bogans, to the extent that youngest daughter Bree wrote a book (based on her mother Janelle's idea) entitled The Bogan's Tipped Hair.
- "Cricketer Shane Warne receives regular ribbings from the Australian media for his bogan persona. His struggles with weight loss and cigarettes, the unsophisticated dietary habits, are all fodder for commentators who recoil at his uncouth habits. But Warney is the ultimate Aussie bloke: all brawn and few brains when it comes to controlling his appetites, plus a blinding addiction to blondes who are typically clones of his attractive wife." (Emma-Kate Symons, "Spinning out of control," The Weekend Australian (2-3 July 2005), p 19.
- In the ABC TV show The Glass House, host Wil Anderson frequently made reference to bogans, their poor taste and their tendency to have really bad name choices for their children with correspondingly bad spelling of those names.
- The British band Abdoujaparov released a song called "Let Bogans Be Bogans" as a b-side on their 2001 single "Emergency Medical Hologram."
- Actress Holly Valance, resident of Los Angeles for several years, once described herself as a bogan in an interview with the Australian press.
- American musician Ben Folds released a song on his 2004 EP Super D (and again on his 2006 Supersunnyspeedgraphic, the LP) called "Adelaide" which includes the lyric "now I see the bogans at the motor race."
- Bogan Pride is a 2008 comedy television series on SBS TV, starring Rebel Wilson.
- The popular Australian TV show Kath & Kim can be seen as a parody of the 'cashed-up bogan' lifestyle.
- Double The Fist is a comedy series starring self-proclaimed bogans Craig Anderson, Tony Walters, Bryan Moses and Doug Bayne.
Use in Marketing
The term "Cashed Up Bogan," or "Cub," has been used by one marketing researcher to describe people of a blue-collar background now earning a high salary
and spending those earnings on conspicuously expensive
consumer items. The media has cited tennis player Lleyton Hewitt
and his actress wife, Bec Cartwright
, as examples. The Kaesler Winery in the Barossa Valley wine district make and produce a Shiraz wine called the 'Bogan.'
Mel Campbell argued in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald that bogan (including cashed-up bogan) is a nebulous, personal term 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 while many people believe they know exactly what a bogan is and what their characteriestics might be, in reality there is no defined set of characteristics of a bogan: people using the term merely use it to describe those imagined to be different to, and less cultured than, the speaker. Campbell judged "cashed-up bogan" to be a "stupid term".
Regional equivalent terms
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:
The term westie (or westy) is not synonymous with bogan; however, westies are often stereotyped as being bogans. This term seems to predate bogan by some years, originating in Sydney, New South Wales in the 1970s to refer to people from that city's western suburbs. The term 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.