Please don’t rouse at me


I discovered a fun Australian slangy word last night, thanks to a woman I follow on Twitter, @obsidiantears83. She was talking about wanting to rouse someone for not doing something he was supposed to do. But this isn’t rouse in the sense of waking someone up. She explained a bit in a few tweets:

  • Rouse means “get angry/frustrated and yell at.”
  • “Rouse” the slang is pronounced with a short sharp OU and the S is pronounced Z (E is silent). Kind of means “to yell crankily”
  • But it isn’t always yell, but the feeling behind yelling. It is one of those words that is hard to translate.

The OED defines rouse in this sense as an intransitive verb that is an Australian and New Zealand colloquialism, meaning “to scold.” It is frequently constructed with at, on, or onto, taking on the meaning “to upbraid.”

The etymology says to compare it with the verb roust, which the OED defines as “to shout, bellow, roar, make a loud noise.” Roust’s etymology says to compare with the “Norwegian rausta, rousta, in the same sense,” and then points back to the noun roust, defined as “Voice, cry; shout, roar.” That comes from the Old Norse raust, meaning voice. (Norwegian raust, Faroese reyst, Swedish röst, Danish røst).

It turns out that rouse in the sense of waking someone up also has an interesting etymology. More on that Friday.

6 thoughts on “Please don’t rouse at me

  1. Bianca

    FYI we do not pronounce the ‘S’ in rouse as a ‘Z’ when talking about rousing on someone or being roused at. It is pronounced as an ‘S’ unless we are speaking about rousing someone from sleep and that is when the ‘S’ is pronounced as a ‘Z’

    Cheers! :)

  2. Ruby

    G’day Brian – Bianca’s right – “rouse” rhymes with “mouse”. No regional pronuciation difference to the best of my knowledge. Also, it’s an Aus term, apparently not used in NZ (my Kiwi hubby, aged 60, has never heard the term used). I suspect it may have it’s Australian origins from soldiers returning from the Boer War (Afrikaans use “raas” in the same context).

  3. it should be spelt “rous” as in the sounding of mouse so it sounds short… not spelt as “rouse” so there is no confusion with the pronunciation slurring to the meaning “to excite or be excited” ..Well I guess you would be excited but in a different way… maybe sexually I don’t know… us Aussies are pretty steamy!!! hahah… :-)

  4. Anthony

    Yes it rhymes with mouse and house etc. My grandma always said it. “Ya father’ll get cross an’ rous(e) at ya!” We use to imitate it as a joke. I’ve no idea of how it’s correctly spelt.

  5. Joseph O'Neill

    My parents were both from Wollongong and they used it. I suspect it’s a word that has mainly fallen out of use. I’ve lived in most states of Australia and never heard it used, although it may be one of those words that many people recognise but don’t use. There were a large number of German migrants to Australia in the last half of the 19th Century and I suspected that it could have been one of the words that slipped into Australian English from the German “raus”. Looks like I was wrong.

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