Ask A local: What is a Seppo?

| posted on February 09, 2011

The Local

The Local is the accumulation of over 50 years of learned wisdom from SURFER Magazine. Send your questions to surferedit@surfermag.com

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.

  • http://hyperdermik.wordpress.com 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?