Illustration: John Shakespeare

Before you attend that Australia Day event, it's important that you know how to speak Australian. Whether you are local or a visitor, please study the following cut-out-and-keep guide.

1. Say the opposite of what you mean. If someone is tall, call them Shorty. If they have red hair, call them Bluey. If the food on offer at that Australia Day barbecue is the best you've ever eaten, describe it as "not bad".

2. Make each place name as short as possible. The capital city is not Brisbane but Brissy; the regional centre is not Wollongong but ''The Gong''; the suburb is not Paddington, but Paddo. Just because a place is only one syllable - Perth - do not think you can't make it shorter: Perf.

3. Don't big-note yourself. If you are congratulated by friends for winning the Nobel Prize for science call it "a tiny thing", "no biggie" and express surprise at the decision of the "silly buggers who hand these things out".

4. When helping someone out, downplay the effort involved. You may have just helped your friend carry a grand piano up 10 flights of stairs, but - when thanked - the correct response is to say: "Too easy". That's right - it wasn't just easy, it was too easy, as if, frankly, next time it would suit you better if there were two grand pianos involved and preferably 20 flights of stairs.

5. Learn the counterintuitive use of the word "bastard". In Australian English, someone you detest is a "bit of a bastard", while your best friend is "a total bastard".

6. Don't overdo either praise or criticism. If something is truly horrendous, for instance, Hitler starting World War II, you should describe his behaviour as "a bit ordinary". Similarly, if something is truly brilliant, there's no point getting into a lather about it. Hence: "That Black Caviar gets up a bit of speed"; "that Mitchell Johnson knows how to bowl"; and "that Quentin Bryce is pretty good". It's not that we don't have strong views but with temperatures this high, who wants to put on a song and dance?

7. Learn to side-step praise. Maybe you've done something amazing, for example, saving a child from a burning building while risking your own life. This may result in people offering you praise by saying, "that's the bravest thing I've ever seen". Be wary: this is an invitation to big-note yourself. Repeat after me: "It was nothing. Anyone would have done what I did. I was just doing my job". This last bit, about doing your job, should be included even if you are the Mr Whippy man and just happened to be passing by.

8. Learn the variants of ''mate''. The shorter you say it, the less you like the guy. A terse ''mate" - as in "look here mate" - is a reprimand. Add a few more "aaaa's", and it's an expression of warmth - "maaaaate" - an acknowledgment that you've just come across a lifelong friend who is probably the most important person in your life. In both cases, the term is used because you've forgotten the guy's name.

9. Surnames should, wherever possible, be cut in half, then sealed with the letter o, so that Robertson becomes Robbo, Singleton becomes Singo and Richardson becomes Richo. This is especially true if connected to the Australian Labor Party.

10. Assist your friends in developing their modest side. It's polite to point out your friends' imperfections in a jocular manner just in case they develop a big head (see above: "don't big-note yourself"). If they are bald, point this out: "You're so bald I can see my own reflection." If they are expensively dressed, tell them they are as "flash as a rat with a gold tooth". If a friend has put on weight feel free to observe that they've "spent too long in the good paddock". They may look offended, but you're just helping them avoid getting tickets on themselves.

11. If in doubt, use the word "not". The most beautiful person in the world is "not too bad looking"; the dream job you've just been given is "not too bad a deal"; the $10 million you just won in the lottery jackpot is "not too bad an outcome". Don't sweat it, not when you are already sweating.

12. Mumble when speaking. Drop the "l" from the word ''Australia''. Get the word "Sydney" down to one syllable, so it sounds like escaping air. It's not laziness; we're just worried that an open mouth will attract flies.

And finally, remember we're going for laconic, one step up from semi-comatose. Don't blame us, it's the heat. So, at your Australia Day barbie (barbecue), hand out some bikkies (biscuits); flip the snags (sausages) and be sure to include something for the vegos (vegos). When thanked, you know what to say. No drama. No worries. All good. Actually, it really was too easy.

Hope, youse all (official plural) have yourselves a happy Straya Day.

Twitter: @rglover702