It's amusing the way we use of the word "mate" in this country.
I was buying some bacon the other day and old mate behind the counter asked "what would you like mate?" I replied "couple of rashers thanks mate", to which I get a prompt "no worries mate" which I acknowledged with a hearty "cheers mate".
That was at least four "mates" in under 20 syllables, which begs the question: is that a bit repetitious? Foreign observers often mock the manner and amount in which we "mate" Down Under.
I'm not questioning the use of the word "mate", because it's an efficient Aussie means of communicating wants, needs and emotions.
For example: Greeting - "Maaaate"; Warning - "Watch it mate"; Surprise - "Strewth mate"; Affection - "Love yous mate"; Agreeing - "Nah mate, yeah mate" etc.
Like, in the the bacon scenario, could "What can I get you mate?" be followed by "Couple of rashers thanks brother." "No worries dude." "Cheers man, braz, champion, bud, friend, cobber, old fruit etc."
And of course it could, but you wouldn't want to overdo it otherwise old mate might think you're taking the piss, mate; and in the perfect Aussie caricature that's what you might strive to do, but it's easy to run out of options if you can't live up to the stereotype.
Grasping for alternatives like compradre,`senor or mon ami might block communication if not delivered with the right panache (style mate!).
The great advantage of "mate" is it's easy to remember, but it's open to misinterpretation to rookie "mate" speakers who might think it's just a noun you throw in at the end of every sentence to indicate general biological recognition, and is thus capable of substitution. "What can I get you mate?" "Couple of rashers thanks mammal."
Clearly that's not going to work, unless perhaps, you're David Attenborough, who typically refers to "mate" as an animal that has sex with another for the purposes of reproduction.
Not sure where that's going to get you down at the shops either. Nor if you make the ultimate semantic blunder and start using "mate" as a verb, as in: "Should we get you some bacon?" "We should mate."
It all comes down to tone and I'm trying not to lower it here.
"Mate" means more than just a friend in Australia. It is a term that implies a sense of shared experience, mutual respect and unconditional assistance, but let's not overthink it, particularly at the supermarket.
The shared experience, mutual respect and unconditional assistance I encountered the other day involved bacon.
And as old mate handed over the goods, we confirmed that by telling each other to "have a good one mate", which got me thinking, make it a good two or three.