AE 423 – Expression: To Have a Chip on Your Shoulder

Learn Australian English in this expression episode of the Aussie English Podcast where I teach you how to use the expression TO HAVE A CHIP ON YOUR SHOULDER like a native English speaker!

Subscribe to the podcast: iTunes | Android | RSS

Download the PDF + MP3

AE 423 – Expression: To Have a Chip on Your shoulder

G’day, you mob. What’s going on? How have you guys been?

Intro Scene:

That intro scene, I wonder if you know that sound. If you have been to Australia, if you have been to a beach in Australia, or even a location near the ocean, near the beach, then I am sure you have come across that sound or at least the birds that make that sound. So, that was the common Australian seagull. These guys are white with grey wings. They have like a red bill, red feet, and they’re commonly known as “Flying rats” in Australia, because there are a lot of them and they will eat anything that you will throw at them.

So, the guy in the video that I found where I took that sound from was feeding them fish and chips. And today’s episode is going to be chip heavy. So, it’s going to be related to the word “chip” quite a bit. We have the expression “to have a chip on your shoulder”, which we’ll get into, and then we’re going to go over fish and chips, and I wonder if you guys have had fish and chips before.

Anyway, before that happens, guys, we’ll go through a few announcements, the Aussie joke, definitions, some examples, an exercise for your pronunciation, and then the Aussie fact.

Alright, guys. So, as usual, this is The Aussie English Podcast. My name is Pete. I am the host. Welcome if this is the very first time that you happen to be listening to The Aussie English Podcast, and if it is not the very first time, then welcome back. Thank you for listening to The Aussie English Podcast and thank you for your support.

So, the Aussie English podcast is obviously a podcast designed to teach you Australian English, whether you want to understand Australian English or you want to speak like an Australian this is the podcast for you, and it is brought to you by the Aussie English Classroom at This is an online membership website full of courses, lessons, quizzes, videos, bonus content for all of the episodes on the podcast and more. So, if you want to learn Australian English and you don’t want to muck about, you want to do this quickly, this is the best place for you to go.

Aussie Joke:

Alright guys, anyway, let’s get into today’s Aussie joke. Today’s Aussie joke is related to fish and chips as well, but bear with me, it’s a bit of a ripper. I thought it was funny.

A bloke walks into a fish and chip shop and says, “Can I have some fish, please?”. The guy behind the counter says, “Yeah, okay. It won’t be long.”. To which the bloke replies, “Well, it better be fat then”. Do you get it, guys? So, he’s asking for some fish and the guy behind the counter says it won’t be long, meaning it won’t take long to cook, but the bloke ordering the fish interprets that as the fish won’t be very long in size. It won’t have a long length. And that’s why he says, “Well, it better be fat then.”.

Alright, so that was today’s Aussie joke. A bloke walks into a fish and chip shop and says, “Can I have some fish, please?”. The guy behind the counter says, “It won’t be long”, and the bloke says, “Well, it better be fat then.”.

So, today’s expression is “to have a chip on your shoulder” and this one was suggested by Lima. Great expression, Lima. Good job.


So, let’s go through the definitions of “to have a chip on your shoulder”, and different words in this expression.

So, “to have”. You guys’ll know what “to have” is. You’ll know it’s to possess or to own something. To have something.

“A chip”. “A chip” can be quite a few different things. It means something different from say, fish and chips, where we’re talking about fried potato, in the expression “to have a chip on your shoulder”. In this case, it means a small piece of wood as might be chopped or chipped from a larger block. Okay? So, it’s a chip of wood. A chip.

If the chip is on your shoulder, it’s sitting on the part of your body that’s either side of your head that connects your arm to your torso. Okay? That’s your shoulder. So, those are the words in the expression, “to have a chip on your shoulder”.

Expression Definition & Origin:

So, let’s define the expression. If you have a chip on your shoulder, it refers to the act of holding a grudge or grievance that readily provokes disputation. Alright, let’s see if we can define that a little more simply. So, a chip on your shoulder, if you have a chip on your shoulder, it is that you carry or that you have figuratively a perceived grievance or a sense of inferiority to other people. Right? So, it’s the kind of thing where you’re jealous about what someone else has or what someone else has done and you feel inferior as a result, and because of this you feel a grievance between you guys, or that you hold a bit of a grudge. Okay? And so, I guess, the metaphor here is that you’ve got a chip on your shoulder meaning, like, it’s a burden, like you’re carrying around a large piece of wood, which would obviously slow you down. If you’ve got a chip on your shoulder, it’s like you have an emotional burden, because you’re jealous or you resent someone else for something they’ve done or possess, you know, maybe characteristics.

Enjoying Aussie English?

Support AE on Patreon today so I can bring you even better content!

So, let’s go through the origin of this expression. There were two different possible origins. The first one was that in the 18th century the British Royal Navy Dockyards, obviously in Britain, were where men worked on these ships, they built these ships, and they were called “shipwrights”. Okay? “Shipwrights” were the men who worked on these ships. And each day they had a daily allowance of wood chips that they could take home on their shoulders, and they could use these wood chips for firewood or as timber for building. However, this didn’t appear in common use in literature, this expression, “to have a chip on your shoulder”, until the 20th century. So, it seems unlikely that this was the origin.

And so, let’s go over the other origin. The phrase “a chip on one’s shoulder” is reported as originating with the 19th century US practice of spoiling for a fight–which means of wanting to fight someone. If you spoil for a fight you really, really want a fight. You want some kind of altercation–spoiling for a fight by carrying a chip of wood on one shoulder daring others to knock it off. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the first recorded use was in 1830 in the Long Island Telegraph Newspaper, when two churlish boys were determined to fight, a chip would be placed on the shoulder of one and the other demander to knock it off at his peril.

So, who knows. Who knows where this originates from, but apparently the second origin there is more likely.


So, let’s go through some examples, as usual guys, where we can talk about how I would use the expression, “to have a chip on your shoulder”. This one is a more complicated expression. So, pay attention to these examples and see if you can understand how you would use this in your life.


Alright so, example number one. Imagine that you’ve got a very old and unpleasant uncle who never went to university, he never finished high school, maybe he went straight into the workforce, working in a factory, and is always trying to show off that he is still intelligent, that despite not going to university, that despite not go into high school, he’s still very smart. And so, as a result, he’s very demeaning and nasty to the rest of the family who did go to university or who did finish high school. So, he’s constantly competing with these people putting them down and trying to show off his intelligence. If he did this, I would say he’s got a chip on his shoulder about not having been to university or about not having finished high school. He resents those who have been to university, who have finished high school, and as a result, he has a bit of a complex about it, that is he’s sensitive and it’s a sensitive issue. He feels inferior to everyone else. He has a chip on his shoulder. He has a chip on his shoulder, because he never finished uni.


So, example number two. Maybe you have friends or family members who aren’t very well-off. So, they don’t have a lot of money. They’re not very wealthy. So, you and the rest of the family have done pretty well for yourselves, meaning that you do have good jobs, you have enough money. You might not necessarily be rich, but you can afford nice things, you know, you can afford to travel, you can afford a nice house, you can afford a nice car, because you’ve got good jobs and relatively high incomes. So, if your friend or other family members have a chip on their shoulder about this difference between you and them where they’re poorer, you’re richer, it might manifest with them always trying to compete with you, buy nicer things, show off what they’ve done, what they’ve bought, maybe they wear a lot of jewellery, etc. So, this competitive nature, and if it turns into resentment as well, a bit of a grudge, a bit of a grievance, we could say that they have a chip on their shoulder. They have a chip on their shoulder, because they aren’t as well-off, or because they have money troubles. They have a chip on their shoulder about not being wealthy.


Example number Three. Imagine you’re a teenage girl with a twin sister. Okay? So, this happens sometimes you hear about these twin sisters, they’re not identical, and so they look different, they’re not identical twins. So, I imagine that one of these girls is an average looking girl. So, she’s not ugly, but she’s not attractive. Okay? She’s a “Plain Jane” we would say, an incredibly plain looking girl, “Plain Jane”. Rhyming slang there for you guys. But her sister is a 10 out of 10. Okay? So, she’s a 5 out of 10 and her sister is a 10 out of 10, one of the best-looking girls at school. Okay? So, when both start to become interested in boys, as these girls get into their teenage years, and one becomes incredibly attractive and the other one isn’t as attractive, is very plain, she’s a “Plain Jane”, you would imagine that the attractive one would get all the attention from the boys, okay, and the Plain Jane girl, the normal looking girl, would get relatively ignored. So, you might grow to resent your sister for her dumb luck, for just being dealt the cards she got dealt. She’s attractive, she’s getting all this attention, but you’re not. It’s not fair. You might start holding a grudge against your sister, because of her attractiveness, and it could be a constant source of grievance. So, you could get upset when you see the attention she gets. You can get jealous. If this was the case, you’ve got a chip on your shoulder about not being good looking. You feel inferior to your sister, and thus, you resent your sister. You have a chip on your shoulder, because you aren’t as attractive as your sister and don’t get the same attention. You’ve got a chip on your shoulder.

So, that’s the expression, guys. I hope you understand how to use it, “to have a chip on your shoulder”. So, it refers to the act of holding a grudge or a grievance that readily provokes disputations. So, you know, it provokes you showing off, you arguing, it’s a constant source of frustration, always coming up in conversation, or more simply, it’s just that there’s a perceived grievance or sense of inferiority because of something.

So, let’s go through listening and repeat exercise, as usual guys. This is your chance to practice Australian pronunciation, or just to practice your English pronunciation with the accent that you currently have if you’re not after an Australian accent. So, listen and repeat after me, and focus on the connected speech in this exercise, guys, if you want to sound more natural when you speak English. Okay? Let’s go!

Listen & Repeat:


To have

To have a

To have a chip

To have a chip on

To have a chip on your

To have a chip on your shoulder x 5

I’ve got a chip on my shoulder

You’ve got a chip on your shoulder

She’s got a chip on her shoulder

He’s got a chip on his shoulder

We’ve got a chip on our shoulders

They’ve got a chip on their shoulders

Great job, guys. Great job. Remember, if you would like a breakdown of all the different aspects of connected speech in this exercise, so that you can learn them, so that you can implement them when you speak English, make sure that you sign up to The Aussie English Classroom where you’ll get exercises for the connected speech and we’ll go through them step by step so that you can use them when you speak English.

Aussie Fact:

Let’s go through the Aussie fact for today, guys. So, today, I wanted to talk about the history of fish and chips. Fish and chips. I wonder if you guys have had fish and chips in Australia, or maybe in England. If you’ve been to England you will have seen and probably tried fish and chips.

So, first of all, what the hell is fish and chips for those of you who haven’t been to Australia or England? Fish and chips is a hot dish of English origin and it consists of fried battered fish and hot potato chips, as well as a bunch of other things that get fried as well. But the most common thing is obviously hot potato chips and fried battered fish, and it’s a common takeaway food and an early example of culinary fusion. So, where these two different kinds of food were taken and fused together.

So, today, I found a really cool article that I want to read for you guys. It’s just a short one about the history of fish and chips. And this comes from The link will be in the transcript. I really recommend that you go and check out this website, because it allows you to find where all the awesome fish and chip shops are. So, it gives out awards every year to all the different states and territories in Australia, and it ranks the best fish and chip shops, and funnily enough, the one that won in Victoria is right near where I grew up, and I’ve been there before, and it was called Trident Fish Bar. So, you can check these out. The links’ll be the description. But maybe have a look to see, if you’re in Australia, where the closest award-winning fish and chip shop is and go and check it out.

So, here’s the article guys. Let’s go.

Eating fish and chips is an iconic Australian experience. Possibly more well-known than a pie at the footy. You can get fish and chips in just about every Australian town, but how, where, and when did fish and chips find their way onto Aussie plates?  

Like so many other elements of Australian society, the history of fish and chips is one of multicultural influences. In this case, refined into a simple and tasty meal enjoyed equally by all walks of life.

Fried fish is thought to have first been brought to Britain in the 16th century by the Marranos, a group of Jewish migrants from Spain and Portugal. The invention of potato chips is claimed by both the French and the Belgians, the potato of course originally coming from the South American Andes before being adopted by the Europeans.

The first recorded combination of fish and chips was in a London shop opened in 1860 by Jewish migrant Joseph Mallon. It didn’t take long for the concept to catch on here, and the first Australian fish and chip shop is often credited to Greek migrant Athanasius Comino who open his shop in 1879 on Sydney’s Oxford Street.

So, there you go. I had no idea that Sydney was potentially the birthplace of fish and chips in Australia. Back to the article.

It might have been even earlier, though, as family records say Athanasius copied the idea from a Welshman down the street. The peckish Greek man had supposedly wandered into the unnamed Welshman’s shop and decided that cooking fish and chips didn’t look that hard.

Back in Britain, fish and chips became so popular there were 35,000 shops by 1927, although, numbers have since declined to about 10,000. Former Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, called fish and chips, “The good companions”, and during the Second World War, they were considered so crucial to public morale that they weren’t subjected to rationing as most other foods were.  

In Australia, there are an estimated 4,000 fish and chip shops today, with successive waves of migrants investing in these businesses and playing a crucial role in popularising the take away offering across the country. Of course, fish and chips is also an essential menu offering in many hotels, bistros, and restaurants.

Whether wrapped in paper or served with the finest china and silverware, fish and chips are a classic part of the country’s culinary landscape.

Article Link

So, that was a neat little article guys from I recommend that you go and check it out.

And before we finish up, I want to tell you what I would normally order when I go get fish and chips. So, if you guys are thinking about getting fish and chips anytime soon. This is what I would normally get. So, I would go to a fish and chip shop. I would get minimum chips, at least, that’s if there’s two of you. If there’s more people, you might have to get more chips. I would get one to two dimmies, which are dim sims. These are kind of meat in batter that’s deep fried. “Dimmies”. I would get one or two potato cakes. Kind of like a potato that’s been flattened into the shape of a flat circle and then deep fried. And then I would get some flake, and flake is kind of an unknown shark. It can be any kind of shark. It’s boneless. It’s a really tasty fish. And then, the cheeky thing that I do, I run off to the shops whilst the fish and chips is being cooked, and I often get tomato sauce from somewhere like Coles or Woolies, because you can get an entire bottle for like two dollars, so you save a lot, and the drinks, as well, I tend to get from Coles or Woolies, because the sauce and the drinks and everything else at the fish and chip shop is often marked up in price.

Anyway, guys, that is today’s episode. I hope you enjoy this episode. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever had fish and chips, and what you thought of that meal. It’s one of my favourites and I would love to know what your experience was like.

Anyway, guys, I will chat to you soon. All the best.

Download the PDF + MP3

itunes-logo (1)
spotify-small (1) (1)
icon-stitcher (1)

Get more out of every episode!

Here's what you get when you sign up!

  • Read while you listen using the Premium Podcast player.
  • Understand every word in every episode.
  • Download all PDF transcripts and MP3s for 600+ episodes.
  • Get access to bonus member-only episodes.

Download my eBook!

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

    Recent Podcast Episodes

    Related Articles


    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Download on Android or iPhone below!

    Ready to test your knowledge of some English expressions?

    Start Now