Ask A local: What is a Seppo?

| posted on February 09, 2011

The Local

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Q: I was recently in Australia and the Aussies kept calling me a “seppo.” What does that mean and where did that word come from? —John Marcus, San Francisco, CA

A: Sorry to be the one to break it to you, John, but you’ve just been identified as a certifiable foreigner. South of the border you’re a gringo, in Hawaii you’re a haole. In Australia, you’re a septic tank—seppo for short. The term was originally derived from rhyming slang: Yank = septic tank. Not exactly sure on the logic there, but the term has also been said to reference Americans’ tendency to be “full of shit.” Don’t take it too personally though; as long as it wasn’t preceded by an irate expletive, you can consider it a term of endearment.

  • Niall Cook

    the terminology arises from World War Two times when Australia was flooded with American soldiers, sailors and airmen either on their way to somewhere or back from somewhere on leave. At that time, Australia was subject to severe rationing so that provisions of war could take priority. Food stamps, clothing stamps and petrol rationing were in vogue. The ‘ Yanks’ it seemed to the average Aussie – military or civilian – weren’t subject to the rationing, having the best of foods, fresh fruit & veg, even steak when on the front line. At home, it seemed the Yanks had much more money than anyone else, access to all the bling that attracted women, and all too often when under the influence of alcohol, an attitude to go with it. There were many confrontations between American and Australian personnel during those times. The much vaunted alliance of today was much more tenuous back then. America needed Australia as a supply base and jump-off point for her advances across the Pacific. Australia needed America for her industrial capacity. Neither really wanted to have to rely on the other but war makes for interesting bed-fellows. The real antagonist which brought out the Australian ire towards the Americans was Douglas Macarthur. His attitudes, his appointment by Roosevelt as supreme commander in the Pacific, and grudging acceptance of that appointment by John Curtin made him the epitome of American arrogance and pomposity in the eyes of Australians of the time.
    We Aussies have long memories and while times may have changed, basic attitudes rarely do. We still treat outsiders with a wary disdain. That doesn’t mean we dislike them personally, but as a cultural norm, we’ll always put other cultures on a lesser standing than our own.

    • Dammit

      In other words, you’re a petty, jealous people..

    • Matthew Trent Carlson

      That is too bad. Here in America we absolutely love Aussies! Certainly intrigued by Australia. You mention, “….. times may have changed, basic attitudes rarely do.” that is very interesting and the opposite for us. Americans also love Japan and Germany as if we never got pulled into war with them. Ironic right? Do Australians still harbor ire towards the Japanese? If so as much as the dislike for Americans?
      Great informative post thank you. Its really unfortunate and embarrassing American troops acted like that. Humility is definitely a virtue in my book. I sure hope to make it too Australia someday! I’ve met many along my travels and Aussies are hella cool if you ask me!

      • DUKE 2016

        We use seppo, and yes Americans cannot take the slightest bit of criticism. They think they are a master race. In reality they are just seppo’s looolz

  • James

    OMG! I can’t believe I just read that. Dude the whole concept of rationing was that front line soldiers got the best food! I could write a fucking PHD on world war 2 and think you are an idiot. I am also from Aus.

    • Island hopper

      Yeah we are full of it. We fully kicked the shit out of Tojo and his thugs back to their home island. Then we resurrected a trashed nation into a bastion of democracy. Other countries should be so full of it.

      • Seppoless

        You didn’t resurrect a nation, you founded their new democracy based entirely on your own thereby resurrecting another global “customer” in your capitalist entanglement. Yea thanks for the accumulating consumer trash pile and the human exploitation of the less fortunate in the name of profit, all while hiding behind the name of God…. farkwit.

        • Uncle Seppo


        • China Manina


        • What?


  • Bill

    @ Niall Cook- In regard to your last paragraph…and if I may be allowed to generalize…isn’t that the way just about everybody is all over the world?

  • Fledermaus

    Yanks – Septics (septic tanks). Cockney rhyming slang. ;0)