Oh naur: Why TikTok is laughing at the Aussie accent
In a TikTok video posted last September, pop singer Peach PRC marvelled at how the rest of the world will “never understand how good it is to be Australian and say the word no”.
“I am chewing on those vowels; I am having a meal,” the 25-year-old proclaimed, before delivering a particularly elongated rendition of the negative: “nauuuuurrr”.
Actor Tyler Warwick, musician Peach PRC and influencer Louis Hanson have all gone viral for making videos drawing attention to the Australian accent.Credit:TikTok
If you say “no” with an extra syllable or two, chances are you are actually saying naur, an Australian-ism defined by its listeners, not its speakers, which continues to be one of the internet’s favourite jokes.
Mashable last month called the catchphrase “Gen Z’s favourite objection”, while Buzzfeed got in early by declaring it a “main character on social media” in December 2021. At her September Sydney concert, US Zoomer superstar Billie Eilish let out a “naur, Cleo” to more cheers from the crowd at Qudos Bank Arena than one might expect from a reference to a 2000s TV show about mermaids.
Like most memes, naur’s origin is disputed. But some blame can be placed on actor Tyler Warwick, 29, who, after moving to the US in early 2020, turned to TikTok as the entertainment industry ground to a halt.
He started making comedy reenactments of various nostalgic films from a 20-something’s childhood – Twilight, Harry Potter – but it was videos parodying the Network 10 tween show H20: Just Add Water and the characters’ nasal cry as one of their number touched mermaid-activating water “no, Cleo” – pronounced, as Eilish did: “nauuuur, Cleooooor” – which struck a chord.
“I made a few scenes thinking it would only be relevant to Australians and New Zealanders,” he said. (Despite now being the creator of hundreds videos highlighting the Australian accent, Warwick is from Auckland.)
“But it blew up and that was when I realised H2O was huge in the States [the show was syndicated on Nickelodeon] and there were TikToks being made about it. Then, I saw more and more people were becoming interested in this Australian accent content.”
Over 2022, Warwick’s TikTok following doubled to 1.5 million, as he started dubbing other TV shows, songs and films – Frozen (“let it gor”), Titanic (“my heart will gor orn”) – in a broad drawl. Americans are his biggest audience, followed by Brits, then Australians.
“I am still, almost three years down the track, so surprised by how hungry people are for this content,” he said.
“I think it’s rarely from a place of malice. If you go through the comments on my videos, it seems like people have a genuine love for it.”
While naur is now years old, TikTok continues to love to laugh at the Australian accent. Popular sounds on TikTok include out-of-context snippets of shows such as Kath and Kim, and Chris Lilley’s comedies.
Melbourne content creator Louis Hanson, 27, filmed and looped audio of himself saying “don’t do it” for a TikTok video of himself resisting the urge to draw a sun in the corner of a notebook.
More than 6600 people have since taken that audio for their own TikTok videos, ranging from footage of kitchens being painted lilac to tips on applying for university scholarships, a figure that doesn’t include those who uploaded a video made outside the app, or used it on Instagram.
“I record a lot of the sounds to my videos under my Doona in bed, so it’s wild to think that could reach a mum in Utah,” Hanson said, noting people from the US and UK also make up a large proportion of his audience.
Hanson said the naur meme was enjoyed by his audience, with “dorrrrrrnt dorrr et” peppered amongst the comments on the “don’t do it” videos.
“People just love to take the piss out of the stereotypical Aussie accent, and I’m kind of obsessed with it,” he said.
But why does naur have such a hold on the TikTok generation? And surely it is more of a “noiye”?
University of Melbourne voice and dialect practitioner Amy Hume said naur made sense when you consider the Australian accent relative to a US accent.
“It is people writing out the sounds according to how they understand their accent to sound,” she said. The way an Australian might raise their tongue at the end a dull “oh” sound, she explained, for Americans is associated with an “r”.
Hume said social media provides an exciting opportunity for more diverse Australian accents to be heard internationally and suspects the success of naur, like the online-popular “ermagerd” before it, is in part because it is fun to say, but also because it is so rarely heard in pop culture.
“It’s very Australian in that we allow them to take the mickey out of us. But we are laughing along, too,” she said.
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