AE 381 – Expression: To Hit The Nail On The Head

Learn Australian English in this expression episode of The Aussie English Podcast where I teach you to use the expression HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD like a native.

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AE 381 – Expression:

To Hit The Nail On The Head

Ah, no. This report from Constable Riggs about the three little half-caste girls at the Jigalong Fence Depot. Molly, Gracie, and Daisy. The youngest is of particular concern. She’s promised to a full-blood. I’m authorising their removal. They’re to be taken to Moore River as soon as possible.  

Oh, and Miss Thomas, if you could check that the rate for police transportation is still, I believe, 8 pence per mile.

Yes, Mister Neville.

Thank you.

G’day guys, and welcome to this episode of The Aussie English Podcast, the number one podcast for anyone and everyone who wants to learn Australian English, whether you want to understand what we’re talking about, whether you want to be able to use slang that we use, pronounce words the way we pronounce them, this podcast is the number one podcast designed to help you do that.

Intro Scene:

So, today we had an interesting opening scene from the movie The Rabbit-proof Fence. So, this was a movie created in 2002. It’s an Aussie drama. It’s a film based on the book Follow The Rabbit-proof Fence by Doris Pilkington Garimara. So, definitely check that book out and definitely check this movie out if you want to understand a bit more about Australian culture, and specifically about The Stolen Generations, which is probably the darkest chapter in Australian history, or at least one of the darkest chapters.

Anyway, this movie is loosely based on the true story, and it concerns the author’s mother Molly, who’s actually in the film, and some mixed-race Aboriginal girls who ran away from the Moore River Native Settlement, north of Perth, in Western Australia, in an attempt to try to return to their Aboriginal families after they had been forcibly taken by the authorities, by the government, and placed in this native settlement in 1931.

So, the film follows these Aboriginal girls after the fact, after they’ve been taken forcibly from their parents, from their families, as these girls try to escape and walk back 2,400kms along the Australian Rabbit-proof Fence in Western Australia to see their family, to meet their family, once again in a community at Jigalong.

So, they’re doing this, it takes nine weeks for them to do so, and the whole time they’re being tracked down by the authorities and an aboriginal tracker.

So, the scene that we saw at the start there was actually The Chief Protector of Aborigines for Western Australia, or at least the actor pretending to be him, acting as him, and this guy was named A. O. Neville, and he’s signing off on a document to allow these several mixed-race children to be forcibly taken from their parents, from their families, from their community, and placed into a church mission.

Anyway, we’re going to talk more about the history of this event and The Stolen Generations at the end of today’s episode. So, let’s chat about that in today’s Aussie fact.

So, today’s expression guys, today’s expression is ‘to hit the nail on the head’, ‘to hit the nail on the head’. This one was suggested by me, funnily enough, in the Aussie English Virtual Classroom. We voted on it yesterday, and you guys decided, for whatever reason, that you liked my expression the most. And so, here we are doing it.

Aussie Joke:

But before, we get into the expression, guys, let’s get into today’s Aussie joke.

Where should a 500kg koala go? Where should a 500kg koala go? On a diet. On a diet. Do you get it, guys? The joke there is that you can go somewhere, you know, the koala could go, say, up a tree, or he could go away to a location, but you can also go on something such as a diet. So, that’s the joke. Where should a 500kg koala go? On a diet. He should go on a diet, ’cause he’s overweight.


Alright, so the expression ‘to hit the nail on the head’, ‘to hit the nail on the head’. Let’s go through and define the different words in the expression ‘to hit the nail on the head.

So, first we have the verb ‘to hit’, ‘to hit something’. ‘To hit something’ means to bring one’s hand, or it could be a tool or a weapon, into contact with something or someone quickly and forcibly. So, if you hit someone, that’s to punch them in the face, but you could use a hammer to hit a nail or to hit a piece of wood, and your bringing that hammer quickly and forcibly into contact with the nail or with the piece of wood.

‘A nail’. What is ‘a nail’? ‘A nail’ is a small metal spike, a small metal spike, with a broad flat end. So, one end is flat and the other end is incredibly sharp. And these things tend to be driven into wood, pushed into wood, hit into wood, to join things together or to serve as say a hook, if you were to bend this nail.

‘On’. You’ll know what ‘on’ is. ‘On’ is to be above and resting upon something.

‘The head’ or ‘a head’. ‘A head’ is the upper part of the human body with the face, the eyes, the nose, the mouth, the ears, the tongue, the teeth, everything like that. Your brain is inside your head. That is the head. But we can use this to also refer to, say, the top of something, the uppermost part of something. So, therefore ‘the head of a nail’ is the very top of a nail, as if the nail was standing up and it was the same as a human body, or it was representing a human body, the head on a human would be the very top part of the nail. The head of the nail.

Expression Definition:

So, let’s define the expression today, guys, ‘to hit the nail on the head’. If you hit the nail on the head, that is that you have found exactly the correct answer. You found the right answer. You were exactly correct. And it can be to say or do something that is absolutely correct. Ok? So, to hit the nail on the head is to be correct or it’s to stay or do something that is absolutely correct.

Expression Origin:

So, this expression and its origin. This expression is extremely old. I was actually somewhat shocked when I look at this expression up and I tried to find the origin of this expression. One of the earliest, if not the earliest, appearances of this expression is actually in Middle English. So, it’s effectively in another language. Very, very, old English from the year 1438. How crazy’s that, guys? So, the 15th century. And it appeared in The Book of Margery Kempe. The book was called ‘The Book of Margery Kempe’. And it’s an account of the life of a religious visionary Margery Kempe, and is considered to be the earliest surviving autobiography written in English.

So, just for something a little different. I’ve actually got the passage here, or the sentence here, written in Middle English, and I definitely recommend that you guys have a look at the writing, if you’re listening to this now. Download the transcript and have a look at the writing, ’cause it is quite weird to see this, because a lot of these words sound the same, or at least represent the same words, but the spelling has changed from Middle English to Modern English. So, I’m going to try and read it as, I guess, I would say this, but yeah, definitely check it out, ’cause it’s pretty interesting.

Yyf I here any mor thes materys rehersyd, I xal so smytyn ye nayl on ye hed that it schal schamyn alle hyr mayntenowrys.

I probably completely butchered the pronunciation there as I have no idea how to pronounce Middle English, but check it out. In modernised English, though, this passage reads:

If I hear any more these matters repeat it I shall so smite the nail on the head that it shall shame all her supporters.

So, it’s pretty interesting.

If I hear any more these matters repeated.

Yyf I here any mor thes materys rehersyd

That was the Middle English.

I shall so smite the nail on the head

I xal so smytyn ye nayl on ye hed


that it’s show of shame all her supporters.

that it schal schamyn alle hyr mayntenowrys.


Anyway, let’s go through the examples for today’s expression, guys.


So, a classic example for me, and when I would use the expression ‘to hit the nail on the head’, is when I’m giving my private lessons to students. So, I give my private lessons to students, we’re practicing English. They tend to practice their pronunciation in our private lessons quite a bit. And when they get it correct, I often tell them, “You got it perfect. You nailed it”, and I might say, “You’ve hit the nail on the head, mate. Great job! You’ve hit the nail on the head. You got that correct.”. And if they really shock or surprise me with how much they nailed it, I might say, “Strewth, mate!”, which is a way of showing shock or surprise, “Strewth, mate! You hit the nail on the head. Strewth.


Example number two. So, imagine your mate’s about to buy a second-hand car. So, your mate’s trying to buy second hand car. He wants to go on a bit of a road trip. He’s interested in buying a wagon, which is a car with a lot of room in the back. The kind of car you’ll see people doing road trips in where they can put a mattress and a lot of gear in the back, whether it’s eskies whether it’s camping gear, all that sort of jazz. So, he buys a wagon. (It) could be a Holden or a Ford, and maybe you’re unsure why he went for those two brands. You might ask him, “Is it because they’re cheap and they’re easy to repair?” So, it’s cheap to get parts for these cars and they don’t cost much. “Is that the reason you got this car?”. And he might say, “Bingo! Exactly! You hit the nail on the head. That is the exact reason I bought these cars. They’re cheap and they’re easy to repair. You hit the nail on the head.


Example number three could be imagine that you and your mate have bought this car now. So, we’re continuing on the previous story. You’ve bought this car, and it turns out that it’s actually a total bomb, it’s a total dud, it was a massive rip off, and your mate’s been hoodwinked, he’s been tricked, he’s had the wool pulled over his eyes, he’s been taken for a ride. These are all just different ways to say that he’s been cheated or tricked. And so, your mate’s a bit pissed off. So, he’s angry, he’s upset, he’s losing his shit, and he tells it to get my car, “We’re going to go for a drive to my farm”. The farm’s out in the sticks. (It) might take an hour or two to get to, ’cause it’s out in the sticks, it’s out in the bush. You might ask you mate, “Why are we going to a farm? Are you going to leave it there on the farm without the rego and the plates, just as a paddock bomb or something? You know, a car that you can just drive around on the farm that doesn’t need to be registered, (it) needs no rego. If you’re correct, he might turn around and say, “Yeah, strewth, mate! You’ve nailed it. That’s it. You hit the nail on the head. That is exactly what I plan to do with this bomb.

So, that’s it guys hopefully by now you understand the expression ‘to hit the nail on the head’. I use this all the time, guys. I’m sure it’s used everywhere whether you’re in Britain, New Zealand America, Canada, wherever you are in the English-speaking world, people will understand ‘to hit the nail on the head’ means that you are exactly correct or that you’ve said something or done something that is exactly right.

So, let’s go through a pronunciation listen and repeat exercise as usual, guys. This is your chance to practice your English pronunciation, but not only that, it’s your chance to try to perfect the Aussie accent. So, listen and repeat guys, and pronounce things exactly as I do if you want an Aussie accent. Let’s go.

Listen & Repeat:


Hit the

Hit the nail

Hit the nail on

Hit the nail on the

Hit the nail on the head x 5

I’ve hit the nail on the head.

You’ve hit the nail on the head.

He’s hit the nail on the head.

She’s hit the nail on the head.

We’ve hit the nail on the head.

They’ve hit the nail on the head.

It’s hit the nail on the head.

Good job, guys! Good job. So, we’re going to practice the pronunciation and the connected speech of all of those phrases we just went through in today’s Aussie Classroom course. So, these classes, these expression episodes, get turned into courses on The Aussie English Classroom website. If you want to sign up, it’s just $1 here first month. You can give it a go. You get a heap of lessons, usually, six lessons with each of these expression episodes on the podcast. I give you vocab lists. I break down the slang. I give you some phrasal verb substitution exercises to practice those difficult phrasal verbs and learn synonyms for them. And then, I also break down the pronunciation as an Australian, as well as the connected speech. So, the interesting stuff that goes on that might be pretty subtle when you’re just listening. And then we often go through grammar. So, if you want to give that a go, go to and enroll. It’s just $1 and you can start levelling up your English today.

Anyway guys, let’s go through today’s Aussie facts, and then we can finish up.

Aussie Fact:

So, today’s Aussie fact ties in with The Rabbit-proof Fence movie and the excerpt that you heard from the movie at the start of this episode, and I want to talk about The Stolen Generations or The Stolen Children. This is probably the darkest chapter in Australian history or at least one of the darkest chapters in Australian history, and it was where children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent were removed from their families by force. So, they were removed forcibly by the Australian Federal and State government agencies, and they were placed in church missions under acts of their respective parliaments.

The removal of those children, who were referred to as ‘half-caste’ or ‘mixed-race’, ‘mixed-blood’, etc. was conducted between the years of 1995 and 1969. Although in some places, mixed race children were still being taken into the 1970s. And to put that in context, that was when my parents were teenagers. So, it wasn’t that long ago, and many, many, many, of The Stolen Generation children are still alive today.

So, why did Australia do this? Why did the Australian Government take half-caste or mixed-race children from Aboriginal families and communities? The idea was for the government to quote-unquote “protect” these mixed-race or half-caste children from abuse and neglect in their communities, because they were part European, and as a result they were seen as, I guess, the burden or they were meant to be protected by the Australian government.

So, the official government estimates are that between 1/10 and 1/3 of these indigenous Australian children were taken forcibly from their families and communities between the years of 1910-1970. So, for about 60 years this took place. And that numbered about 20,000 to 100,000 children. Somewhere between there. But estimates are a bit sketchy. And it affected every single region in Australia, every single part of the country.

It was also a belief at the time that this action was required as Aboriginal Australians were quote-unquote “dying off” as their population had steadily shrunk, it decreased from 1.25 million in the year 1788, when Australia was first settled or colonised, and it had shrunk down to only 50,000 Indigenous Australians in 1930. So, the government or the public of Australia were worried that Aboriginal Australians were quote-unquote “dying off”. Whites, the European Australians, assumed that the full-blood tribal aboriginal population would be unable to sustain itself and that it was doomed to extinction. And the idea expressed by The Chief Protector… How ironic is that?… The Chief Protector of Aborigines for Western Australia, A. O. Neville, who was the guy being acted as in that snippet at the start of today’s episode, the idea expressed by him and others as late as 1930 was that mixed-race children could be trained to work in white society, and over generations they would marry white people and be assimilated into the society. And so, I guess, this gives you an insight into the sort of racist views of Europeans in this time who thought that full-blooded Aboriginals were less than Europeans. They weren’t complete civilised humans and that they couldn’t assimilate properly into society. But that they thought that half-bloods would be able.

So, The Chief Protector of Aborigines was the legal guardian of every single Aboriginal and every half-caste child up to the age of 18 years old, and they were also given total control of all Indigenous women, regardless of their age, unless these women were married to a man who was considered substantially European in origin.

So, that just blows my mind, to be honest, because in today’s day and age, it’s just such a racist and just offensive idea. But, you have to put it in the context of people who grew up in the 1800s in the early 19th century. But yeah, it just blows my mind reading this stuff.

Anyway, this guy, The Chief Protector of Aborigines, actually had to approve marriages between indigenous women and non-indigenous men. So, it’s pretty upsetting for someone like me who feels for these people and who does share a bit of that sort of European guilt at the way that indigenous Australians have been treated in the past and how they are treated today. And, it really goes to show that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. So, despite these people thinking and believing they were doing the right thing at the time, the actions were close to evil. You know? Like, they just led to so much suffering.

So, European Australians believed that their civilisation was superior to that of Indigenous Australians in this time, and people in this period of time, who held these beliefs too, considered any proliferation of mixed-descent children, who were known as “half-castes”, “crossbreeds”, “quadroons”, which is someone who is one quarter black, and “octoroons”, who is someone who is one eighth black. And I laughed there because these terms I don’t even know. And I would imagine these terms are now considered highly derogatory and offensive to Indigenous Australians. But that’s how they were referred to in this time. And these people believed that any proliferation of these children would be a threat to the nature and stability of the prevailing civilisation, of Western civilisation, and their ‘heritage’, the ‘racial heritage’, of Western civilization. So, that’s just how racist sort of that entrenched an ingrained opinion of Aboriginals was back in this time.

Strangely enough, this wasn’t just the belief of a few men. It was a response to public concern as well over the increase in the number of mixed-descent children and the sexual exploitation of young Aboriginal women by non-indigenous men, as well as fears among non-indigenous people of being outnumbered by a mixed descent population. So, there’s that racism again.

So, the Northern Territory Chief Protector of Aboriginals Dr Cecil Cook, he argued that, “Everything necessary must be done to convert the half caste into a white citizen”. And Walter Baldwin Spencer reported that in the 1920s many mixed descent children were born to Aboriginal women and white fathers, and these white fathers had actually worked on the construction of The Ghan, which is a railway that goes from Adelaide to Darwin, I believe. And these men, whilst working on it, were obviously hooking up with Aboriginal women, making them pregnant, and then just disappearing and leaving these children when the project was completed.


Anyway, guys. That is long enough for today’s episode. I hope you enjoy this Aussie fact. I hope it gives you some insight into The Stolen Generations, one of Australia’s darkest chapters in our history. And I will see you in the next episode. Peace out guys.

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