3 June 2006

cultural confusions

A good many of my readers are americans.

Let me preface this post by saying ...

... I love americans (mostly. Not terribly fond of their leader). I even was one once (an american, not a leader). Sort of. For a year. Well, an adopted one anyway. But they do have a tendency to speak American and assume that the rest of the world understands them. So, in addition to the usual references to graham crackers and granola (savoury biscuits and muesli, I think), we in the Anglosphere (to steal a Jokeism) get comments on our blogs like "I love that show, I just TiVoed it. And then Netflixed it for good measure." And "I live in CT. But I used to live in MT. And FCT." Where?! Stop talking in initials! When we say "touch wood" they leave comments saying "actually the phrase is knock wood." (I saw someone say that to Loobylu. Um, here the saying IS touch wood.)

Now, I am well aware that this works the other way. We ovah heah fill our blogs with references to biscuits, fair dinkum, arvo and Andrew Denton (hopeless crush, I want to have his babies. They'd be small but perfectly formed) and don't care if only three of our readers get it. And most of us aren't terribly fond of our leader either.

Anyway, as a community service, I hereby present a list of all things Australian which I will translate for the benefit of the rest of the world, and below that, a list of Americanisms which many of us poor sods require help with. Aussies, please feel free to add more. Americans, please feel free to explain. (Rest of the World, watch in wonder.)

Australian cultural oddities in need of translation:

• arvo: afternoon. Similarly garbo: garbageman
• dunny: toilet/loo
• blue: an argument. Also the nickname given to any redheaded man. Similarly, Shorty: the nickname given to any man over 6 foot.
• Andrew Denton: pint-sized witty and humorous intellectual who currently has an interview show on tv called Enough Rope.
• fair dinkum: truly really and pinky swear I promise. The real deal.
• dag: you don't want to know. But bizarrely, is also used as a term of affection if said with a winning smile. As in "You're such a dag. I adore you."
• a few roos loose in the top paddock: insane
• "Not happy, Jan." A quote from a hilarious tv ad. Everyone now says it. Has also morphed into "Not happy, John" because as previously mentioned, we are not on the whole terribly fond of our leader.
• "Sic 'em, Rex." Ditto, only not hilarious. Just weird. (Echidna reference).
On the subject of taglines from tv ads moving into the cultural vernacular, are any other Aussie bloggers old enough to remember "Not beans again?" I ask because I auditioned for an ad once as a kid and the audition line was "Not beans again?" I didn't get the job and when it came out on tv and the whole country began whining "not beans again" I got down on my knees and thanked the goddess above that I had failed. (I got another job out of that audition though, and the tagline was "Because life is full of Vesta situations." Anyone remember that series? That was me, playing Noelene Browne's hapless daughter.) Um, where was I?
Oh yeah ...
• lollies: US candy, UK sweets
• lamington: a small square sponge cake, dipped in chocolate then rolled in coconut. Usually with a layer of jam in the middle. When I lived in the US and realised lamingtons were not universal, one of my schoolfriends airmailed me a lamington. In a homemade box. It arrived unrecognisable and very stale, but still edible.
• jam: known as jelly in the US
• jelly: known as jello in the US
• budgie smugglers: Speedos.
• shop: store
• handbag: bag you keep your purse, keys and mobile in
• mobile: mobile phone (US: cell phone)
• thongs: those rubber flappy footwear things you buy at Kmart and wear to the beach. Kiwis know them as flip flops.
• Dame Edna Everage: I don't even know where to begin so will give up and move onto ...

American cultural oddities in need of translation:

• Fix dinner: This one bugs me I must confess. Why do they need to fix their dinner? What's wrong with it? In Australia we cook dinner. Or, at a pinch, prepare dinner. It doesn't generally need fixing unless you've burnt it beyond recognition.
• store: shop
• shop: workshop
• cookie: biscuit
• biscuit: scone
• purse: handbag
• wallet: purse (are you getting how confusing this all is?)
• Netflix: something to do with movies?
• TiVo: something to do with tv?
• smores: something to do with the elusive graham cracker? And campfires? Possibly unbelievably unhealthy.
• graham crackers: I asked Babelbabe and even bribed her with Tim Tams but Australia Post is holding her parcel ransom and so I am still in the dark. I will report back.
• granola: is it muesli, or toasted muesli, or something different altogether? They say it's crunchy!
• graduation ceremoney for preschoolers: gosh is all I can say. Here, kindergarteners get a hug from the teacher if they're lucky, and an end of year party at which they present their teacher with a homemade card and nasty giftwrapped soap purchased from the two dollar shop. No certificate presentation takes place. I am impressed, if bemused, with the American system. Congratulations Primo.
• flavoured coffees: I just.don't.get.this. Coffee should be coffee flavoured. Isn't that the point? It's coffee. Not raspberry/vanilla/caramel/burnt thong. The Italians must be turning in their graves. If they've all suddenly died that is. Which I hope they haven't because the world would not be the same without beautiful dark-haired men managing to pinch your bum as they sail past you in Rome on a red Vespa. Simultaneously yelling Ciao bella. And possibly making off with your handbag.


PS. This post needs a photo but I'm too tired and the possibilities are just frightening. So, no pretty pics.

PPS. The crap I come up with in order to not finish an essay.

61 comments:

Ash said...

See now, coming from Zimbabwe (also being known as a Zimbo, not to be confused with a bimbo) I'm familiar with some of your expressions, most UK expressions, some Kiwi ones and strangely some American ones too!

We had flipflops, shops, handbags, arvos, Lamingtons and I know who Dame Edna is!

We also had granola, cookies (interchangeable with biscuits) and wallets (or purses). But we used cell phones.

Here in Holland we use mobile phones, have cookies, drink flavoured coffee and have thongs and not flipflops. We also go to the store and not the shops :0

I also don't get the 'fixing dinner' thing or 'fixing one's hair'.

Thanks for the funny post ;)

MrsFife said...

I *love* you!
I gotta go fix dinner now but I'm coming back (with my friends) :)

Kat said...

• Fix dinner: This one bugs me I must confess. Why do they need to fix their dinner? What's wrong with it?
There isn't any, that's what's wrong with it!
• biscuit: scone
Not quite. Biscuits have the fat cut into the flour, resulting in a flaky product. No cutting, no biscuit.
• purse: handbag
• wallet: purse (are you getting how confusing this all is?)
The purse is the bag, with a strap that goes over the shoulder or is held in the hand. A wallet is a folder that holds dollar bills, and often has a coin purse attached to it. A coin purse is a tiny bag specifically for... coins. Some people, who like to have complicated lives, have coin purses that are not attached to their wallets.
• TiVo: something to do with tv?
A gadget that automatically records your shows for you, and removes the commercials.
• Netflix: something to do with movies?
A web-based DVD rental service that works through the mail.
• smores: something to do with the elusive graham cracker? And campfires? Possibly unbelievably unhealthy.
Toast a marshmallow. Sandwich it and a piece of chocolate between two graham crackers.
• graham crackers: I asked Babelbabe and even bribed her with Tim Tams but Australia Post is holding her parcel ransom and so I am still in the dark. I will report back.
Graham crackers are made of graham flour--they are not savory at all. They are brown and have a sweet, nutty taste.
• granola: is it muesli, or toasted muesli, or something different altogether? They say it's crunchy!
Oats and seeds and nuts and fruit, covered with honey or maple syrup and toasted. What do you call it?
• graduation ceremoney for preschoolers
Why not? As long as it doesn't involve expensive presents.
• flavoured coffees
Don't you enjoy chocolate together with the taste of mint or orange? Same thing.

Suse said...

Yeah, but what's graham flour?

capello said...

I'm American, and even I get annoyed by Americans sometimes (especially the one time I went to Germany and there was this OBNOXIOUS AMERICAN, screaming around the square asking if anyone speaks English, so I finally approached her and all she wanted to know was what the vendor was selling and I told her to be quiet and look).

I don't understand the preschool graduations. Nor do I understand the kindergarten graduations either. Sometimes I think we like holidays and milestones so much, we make them up.

Graham crackers are now made with wheat flour, not the original amarath. They are thin rectangles with perforations so you can possible break them into two squares or four smaller recatangles. They are slightly sweet, and now also come flavors like chocolate and cinamon (of course, Americans like to flavor everything. And don't even get me started on gluten and all the different artificial flavors and colors, it is rather digusting the way most of us eat).

To make a smore, you take a graham craker and break it in half (giving you two squares). Typcially, you get a herseys milk chocolate bar and break that in half too. Then, you roast/toast one or two large marshmellows over an open fire. Once it is toasted, you take a graham cracker half, put the half-chocolate bar on top, then the marshmellow and top it off with the other half of the graham cracker. The marshmellow makes the chocolate oozy and you smoosh it all together.

Granola is typically rolled oats and maybe some nuts, tossed in oil and honey and toasted in the oven. Then, once it is toasted, it is tossed with dried fruit. Most people buy it already prepared. You can eat it like a cereal, in yogurt or as a snack mix.

Oh, and one thing americans don't realize -- the English "flannel" is the same as our "washcloth".

MrsFife said...

I'm baaaaack!
Being Indian, I know some of all of those. We wear slippers here, not flipflops, go shopping at the shop, eat biscuits (no granola, but we have corn flakes), what is graham flour, Dame Edna sounds vaguely familiar, you can use your mobile in India to call someone on their cell phone, drink filter coffee (Starbucks is coming to India), a wallet is a wallet and a purse is what ladies use, I'm in the middle of cooking dinner (it's beyond fixing), my BA graduation ceremony was held 3 years after the event...we have a Lamington Road in Bombay (no sweets/chocolates aka candy sold there, I think) whew...and jam is jam.

Jeanne said...

The post office won't even let us write the old abbreviations for the states any more. If you write "Calif.", it takes about three days longer because "they have to sort it by hand."

(But then "the garbo comes for the bins in the arvo" is equally mystifying to us Americans!)

Graham crackers are more-or-less the same thing as plain digestive biscuits. Ours are almost always rectangular, though.

"Fixing dinner" is hilarious. I can't believe I never noticed that -- call myself a bluestocking! I usually say "make dinner," myself. Maybe it's a regional thing.

Scones (SKONZ, please, not SKOENZ) are usually sweeter than American biscuits, but are made essentially the same way. My rule is that if you have them with dinner -- if your dinner needs fixing, for instance -- then they are biscuits, but if you have them with jam and tea, they are scones.

We've gotten too used to Jell-O here to call it anything else. Technically, I think jelly is made with fruit juice(s), while jam is made with the whole fruit, at least according to my Kansas grandmother.

From what I've seen, muesli usually has cornflakes in it, while granola never does.

I've heard both "touch wood" and "knock wood." Another regional thing? I suppose, too, if you don't mind a personal confession, that I've been "knocked up" a couple of times, too.

"Store" or "shop" I think depends on the prices. The higher they are, the more likely it is that the place will be called a shop. (Except, oddly enough, with "thrift shop"!) Same with "purse" and "bag," a lot of the time -- I don't think you can buy a Kate Spade purse. Grandma carried a pocketbook.

My children are now bilingual -- thanks to the six months we spent in Hong Kong last year and their preschool there, "iced lolly" is firmly entrenched in their vocabulary, without any effort on my part. I asked them the other day if they wanted Popsicles, and they didn't know what I was talking about.

Here in Southern California, I grew up with the Japanese term "zori", so didn't know what a flip-flop was for years. Here you have to say "thong sandal" (which is redundant to some, I know) to avoid possibly dangerous misunderstandings.

I'm definitely with you on kindergarten graduation. We're sorely tempted to stay home but the pressure is severe. ("Oh, it's fun/sweet/a milestone in the social/emotional development of your child" -- it's kindergarten, for heaven's sake.

Kat said...

Here's the wikipedia article on graham flour: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_flour

I'd also like to add that not all Americans are embarassed to be American.

Loretta said...

Oh honey, you have no idea.

Try moving around the States and find out that people are "fixin' to go to" work" or "fixin' to fix the fence; that they are bringing the "cokes" to the 8:00 a.m. ballgame, when they mean they are bringing the drinks to same; or when they as you if you want a "sack" to put your groceries in; or my personal favorite, "where is the bubbler?" , i.e. where's the water fountain?

I have however worn flip flops, thongs, and zories, and they're all the same thing!

CraftyCritter said...

Love this post!

I am an American born and bred but lemme tell ya this very thing happens in the USA amongst native borns! I live in the very most South (some argue this point) but none-the-less if I am speaking with some one for a different region I often get corrected.

Lunch to me is called dinner, dinner is supper.

If a shop is closed to business it's shut.

I still call my fridge an icebox.

Yes, I know I sound very back woods, but if I call my sofa a couch, does it still sit the same as one that is called a sofa?

I like "localisms" and I swear on my life to never ever correct anyones way of turning a phrase.

Can I pass this post along to some like minded buddies?

weirdbunny said...

Hopefully I'll understand whats happening in neighbours now. Thanks -weirdbunny from Wales uk.

Deneen said...

Ha! I learned a lot about how Aussies "speak" through having to watch countless episodes of "The Wiggles" when my daughter was younger.

I do call flip-flops flip flops and not thongs. I think thongs are skinny undies.

I find the language differences fascinating.

Thanks for sharing-

P.S. I'm not terribly fond of our leader, so don't feel too badly!

--erica said...

I think i'm more confused than ever..about everyone!

Paula said...

As we say here, “how’s it goin’ eh?” As Canadians, we draw on our British & French origins and as one of Prime ministers once said “we sleep next to the elephant“, the States as we say here. Therefore, we get most of the idiosyncrasies of these countries. We spell for the most part like the British. We speak English & French like Canadians. Tourists from the States have asked me if I could speak American??? The folks south of the border amuse us for the most part; we know a heck of a lot more about them than they do about us or themselves for that matter. We for the most part understand and use British, US, and French words and sayings equally in our speech. As for Australia, we see many movies & TV programmes from down under so can suss most of your lingo mate, no worries. BTW, did you know that in the States a thong is a style of underwear and swimsuit bottom? Granola is a tarted up version of muesli. As with their coffee, the States have added many extras to the cereal it is more like candy rather than a breakfast food.

blackbird said...

As I am sure you can imagine, we have our own way of saying things here in Tuvalu --
culled from many many cultures and, uh, the years of location work that K has done, the expressions and names for things in my household are a grand mix of oceanic, asian, english and american.

We do say cookie for biscuit
we love s'mores
but we also lapse into a sort of Monty Python-esque description of things such as wine
(this is not a wine for drinking! this is a wine for lying down and AVOIDING!)
or expressions of surprise -
(NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION!)

it's just another piece of what makes us such interesting people -

I, for one, say loo, and budgie, and am repulsed by most flavored coffee.
Oh, and I write
catalogue and
dialogue - never fix dinner, but cook or make dinner. And I can never remember which side of the road to drive on.

Kathy said...

In some parts of the US South, you tell your family you are 'fixin to go' when you are getting ready to go to 'the Walmart' which is sort of stupid to say, since there IS only one in your county. This gives them time to yell 'SHOTGUN' which means they want to ride in the front passenger seat.

Mary said...

When I lived in NZ thongs were called jandals. In the UK we call them flip flops and thongs are G-strings. I recently introduced my children to the delights of Lamingtons but I had to make them myself and my UK husband had never heard of them.

sueeeus said...

This is just too precious, but everyone has said everything... Oh, except daveno/davenport rather than sofa/couch? I never got that one.

Oh yes. Jell-O, I think, is completely artificial, unless one counts gelatin itself as a natural substance. It's FUN though!

Rachael said...

have you just put the cat amoungst the pidgeons, or what?????

Do I need to translate that too?

dani said...

HILARIOUS!!!!!!!!!

I decided way back that Aussies and Aussieisms weren't being represented enough on the net and so I use the vernacular whenever I can.

And yes I was old enough to remember both "not beans again" and the vesta ads. Do you remember the ad "Mom, why am I so dumb?" for Mormons or Latter Day Saints. That was a corker!

TIVO is one of those technologies Aussies are being kept from because of the way media ownership works here. They're brilliant and allow digital recording of TV shows so you can actually pause live tv basically, you can start recording 5 mins into the live program and then edit all the ads like they aren't even there. I would LOVE my TIVO if I had one.

Again, you are too brilliant!

Sherry said...

very informative read :) I live in the deep south Arkansas myself, but I'm from Mid Flordia (apparently I talk really fast, and use funny words..like soda or pop instead of coke). I think if we all talked the same, life would be rather boring.

Sherry said...

oh I did forget to mention that I am a rebel and refuse to pronounce aluminum the American way, since taking chemistry back in high school LOL

Lazy cow said...

"Not beans again!" "No,no,no!" Rosella savoury rice. I *loved* that stuff (Ainsley Harriott's flavoured cous cous tastes just like it).
And how cool that you were the girl in the Vesta ads.
I live not far from USA wholefoods, so if you want me to send you some graham crackers, just let me know.
My daughter's kinder had a big end of year Christmas party where they put on a play and received certificates for finishing kinder. It was cute, but not over the top.

Nicole said...

LOL Big old can-o-worms. Love it. Great post. Nearly sprayed my muesli on the monitor when I got to budgie smugglers. Nice work.

kate q said...

Budgie smuggler! I will have to use that one. Love it.

There are whole websites devoted to regional differences in American English. (At the grocery store: is it a shopping cart, buggy, or carriage? Are Mary, merry, and marry pronounced the same, or not? Etc.)

Some of us adore your leader, and wish ours would grow a pair too.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your comments on US speech.
What is your term for an umbrella?
I've adopted the Irish "Brollie". It just fits!
I never used the term "flip flops" before the last couple of years. My daughters started using that term extensively. When I was a teenager we used the word "thong" and I guess I would just be laughed at if I tried that today!
By the way, one of my daughters did a semester of law in Prague and she said you could always identify the American girls because they wore skirts and flip flops! She and her friends coined the word "manpri's" for the capri
(peddle pusher, clam digger, etc.) pants worn by so many European men.
"No Mother, you are not buying any of those for my brothers!!!"

Somewhere I read where one of your commentators comopared graham crackers to digestives---exactly except that digestives are a bit sweeter and cookiish. We always have had grahams in the house since I was a little girl (ages ago) and now my grandchildren still love them---although they tend to the variety with cinnamon and sugar on them...yum!
Granola is very much like musli but baked and cooked

Well unfortunately many of these words and expressions will probably meld into "worldish" as our communication grows and tv and coputers bring us close together!
But good in a way.

Barbara (Nevada, USA)

kt said...

Ooh, digestive biscuits beat graham crackers any day. Especially McVittie's. Mmmmmm.

I'm a Yank who's been an Anglophile from childhood because of books (context is a big help in figuring out different terms) and Monty Python. I think Aussie-speak in top-notch--who knew I'd married a blue man?? And the budgie-smuggler is a hoot.

Was lucky enough to get a dear Brit as my last Secret Pal who sent me a "parcel" full of "bits 'n bobs" wrapped in delightful crinkly brown paper. Much more interesting than a Priority Mail cardboard box.

And I'm with you whole-heartedly about our "leader". Feh.

joyflea said...

Ah, Mrs. Soup. I just larfed(sic) my arse off reading that post! Thanks for brightening up my Sunday Arvo.

Miss Eagle said...

Suse, I can't make up mind whether this is Australian Sociology and Linguistics 101 or Cross-Cultural Training.

Eli said...

Love this, when i first came to London from Oz i had a very embarrasing conversation with some work mates where i proceeded to describe my gorgeous beaded thongs i bought on holidays. After five minutes of the blokes blushing like teenagers and the women looking at me like i was a lunatic it was explained to me that thong in the UK = underpants not flip flops!!!!

shellyC said...

Yes I remember "Not Beans again"

and "Fixing Dinner"....love it!!! My family probably say quite often that I need to fix dinner!!

Di said...

Great post! Some more:
the boot of an Aussie car is an american trunk,
coloured pencils are Prismas (Prismacolour brand I think?)
Ceran wrap (?spelling?) is Glad wrap or cling film
.. many more I am sure.
And I've always called Speedos "Slug Huggers" (although I am familiar with budgie smugglers too)

claudine said...

Yes, great post! :)

Last year I went to the local preschool to put my daughter's name down (oh, I live in Sydney, btw), and one of the teachers told me that the following day they'd be having a graduation ceremony for the preschoolers! I don't quite know what took place in the event, but they did call it a graduation ceremony. Don't know how common this is. Perhaps just one of those Americanisms that's making its way into Australian culture? (like the Halloween parties I suppose... :) )

Anonymous said...

Oh, what about rubber instead of eraser??? That got a friend of mine into deeply embarassing waters when she spent a year at school in South Carolina.
And here in the land of Oz we say (or used to say) "I'm finished", not "I'm done".
A scone should NEVER be sweet (cream and jam on top, yes, but never sugar in the scone dough)
And what about the regionalisms for swimmers/bathers/togs?? Or what you call your school bag - who remembers calling it a port?

Anonymous said...

What about yarn for conversation/chat/tall story telling? For example, "he spun me this great yarn about his dog" or "we were down at the pub, just having a yarn".
The fibre we use for knitting is almost universally referred to as knitting wool, rarely as yarn...and then usually by someone who knows the difference!

MsCellania said...

Wonderful post and comments!

I'm so glad your break was short-lived. :o)

Elizabeth said...

Most of the Canadian-isms were covered although to clarify "jelly" is only used for "jam" when it is clear with no skins, pits (pips?) or seeds like grape,mint and apple, otherwise it is "jam".
We used to call those sandals flip-flops or thongs but now because of the underwear they are exclusively flip-flops.
And we sometimes say "chesterfield" for couch - I don't know where that came from.
For the last day of Kindergarten, the children got paper mortar-boards and a "diploma" for a great picture op.

MsCellania said...

I think Davenport and Chesterfields are brand names of the fellows who came up with them, or the cities they were made in, possibly. My mil (a Manhattanite transplanted in Miami) always calls her sofas the Davenport. I had friends who had an old Chesterfield.

Another funny thing is drawers; called dressers, chest of drawers, drawers, bureau; and then the various incarnations of cabinets; breakfront, pie safe, buffets, china cabinet, server, and so much more.

BabelBabe said...

38 comments! What could I possibly add other than, I CANNOT believe that package is still not there. with my luck when it does get there, everything will be completely inedible. sigh. next time - smaller but airmail. i wa sjust being lazy and didn't feel like repacking a third time.

BabelBabe said...

oh, lamingtons - i have a recipe and have been meaning to give them a try...will do so forthwith.

Surfing Free said...

Hee hee hee ... I also lived in the US for four years and I KNOW I confounded a lot of them with my crazy Aussie talk :D It took ages for me to realise they didn't know that dear meant expensive ... they just thought I thought everything 'dear' was 'cute and lovable'! Soooo many things I could mention but maybe I should save it for my own blog one day.

(Disclaimer: I am married to an American so obviously I have great regard for the country.)

Leelaine said...

ok...translate for me. my darling dil just got a "duchess" (spelling) of which she is very proud. What is it? Or do I "put it in the too hard basket" -- one of my favorite Aussie expressions.Once again - divided by a common language.

Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned refrigerator. Now most around here call it a frige but ice box still comes out of my mouth with some frequency.
How about that large sitting apparatous that is in many folks' living room (front room). I grew up (in San Francisco) calling it a chesterfield. My mil from back east called it a davenport. Now we all call it a sofa!
Barbara C.

MsCellania said...

I have a question; What is as Jumper? We call a dress with no sleeves a jumper. And what is a vest? We call a knitted sweater thingy with no sleeves a vest. It goes over a shirt.

This has been bugging me forever.

Melanie said...

You have obviously started something! I have similar problems with the language over here, having been born here but lived most of my childhood and adult life in England. I have an American sister in law who lives in London - she is from Boston, so at least she says bath and tomatoes correctly! I moved back to Australia with my husband and children 6 years ago and we spent a month in California on the way. We loved it there - the natives were so friendly and interested in our English accents. We often found confusions with the different terminology - we say ring, they say call, when telephoning etc. I did have lots of granola and it was delicious - more crunch and malty than muesli. Similarly, coming here I was equally confused. Especially with "How are you going?", which took me a long time to work out that a proper answer was not required, as it was just another way of saying Hello. "Not a problem" was another one - everyone seemed to be saying it in 1999 and I took them all quite literally until I got used to it as another fairly meaningless response, rather like "Have a nice day" but in a slightly different context. I also noticed a range of different Australian accents around me, but anyone I questioned denied it and said that all Australian accents were the same. Having been here some years I have mostly tuned them out, but they were so obvious to me at first that I felt like Henry Higgins. Another one that still gets me is that crisps are called chips here and chips are called hot chips (very confusing to English tuned ears - my response to "do you want some hot chips?" is "why would I want them cold?". English for doona is duvet (pronounced as per the French), so I get lots of blank stares when that one comes up.

Anonymous said...

(earlier anonymous again :-) )
A jumper is what Americans call a sweater. A vest is a sleeveless jumper, but what you wear under you clothes to keep the chills off is a singlet (if it has long sleeves and is made of warmer fabric, possibly very soft wool, then its a spencer). A sleeveless T-shirt as outerwear can be a singlet top. And yes, I agree that there are quite a range of Australian accents, both geographically and class-wise.
I wonder if you'll ever see Kath & Kim in the US? It's a wonderfully funny suburban comedy of manners that I understand has gone over very well in the UK.

Jessica said...

I just had my first lamington a few weeks ago. They were homemade and gluten-free (not completely authentic, I know) but so tasty. I helped myself to several pieces.

Thanks for the laugh!

Eileen said...

Thong = Flip Flop is also a generational thing. My grandmother asked me if I needed some new thongs - I think my jaw hit the ground - and then we both realized what we each meant. She laughed, blushed, and we bonded. She's 83, I'm 23.

great post... and I'm lovin' the comments. :o)

herhimnbryn said...

Oh my! You have made my early morning. So funny, so 'to the point', in a nice kind way of course.
Have just got back from the UK and feel the language there is becoming increasingly 'americanised'.

mysticalfeet said...

As an American living in Hawaii, I have to tell you that we say "slippers" for thongs, and make fun of folk who say "flip-flops" to describe slippers. Muesli is more expensive than granola, even though granola seems more complex. I agree with you on the utter craziness of flavored coffee and kindergarten graduation. I prefer jam to jelly, and might start slinging around the term "arvo" just for fun.

I have an Aussie friend who refers to cookies as bikkies? Hmmmm...

sueeeus said...

There are so many posts here that I simply have to pipe in again! Wowsers!! I remember Digestives, and yummmm, now I'm missing them. I wonder where I can find some here. Oh, and I forgot to ooh and ahh about your early modeling and acting career. Ooooh. Ahhhhh. Finally I understand the Davenport thing. I can rest well. Oh, and I agree on that flavored coffee bit. Coffee should taste like coffee, and how difficult it is to find good coffee sometimes! Anyway, you're setting a comment record and will soon be one of those trendy bloggers like Douce and Amalah, if you don't watch out, but I'll never stop reading!!

telfair said...

Good Lord, 51 comments. You are going to explode Blogger.

Now see, this is the kind of thing I could have used *before* I moved here.

I think Paula hit the nail on the head when she said granola is just a tarted-up version of muesli. I could not have put it any more accurately or thoroughly.

Ali la Loca said...

I can't believe there are 52 comments and not one American has touched on the Aussie habit of "reckoning" to do things!!

When I lived in Brazil one of my dearest friends was an exchange student from Brisbane and was constantly reckoning.

Now I live in Mozambique and nearly all the English I hear is either South African or Zimbabwean.

People greet you saying "Howzit?" (an expression that caught me off guard and response-less for about the first 3 months I lived here). Another new one for me is that when a person says "Thank you" the common response is "Pleasure." How proper and lovely is that?

Let's see if I can remember some other ones...

The word "must" doesn't really mean that you have to do something. Like of someone says "You must come by my house," it really means that it would be nice for you, sometime in the future, to pay this person a visit.

The word "hey" is used at the end of nearly every sentence. I find this similar to the Canadian "eh". An example would be, "That's a nice photo, hey?" Basically means "isn't it?" or "don't you agree?"

Here they call what to me is a pickup-truck a "bakkie" (not sure on the spelling, phonetically it sounds like 'buckie'.

And where do rusks fit in the whole graham cracker-biscuit-scone-cookie continuum? To me they look like biscotti if biscotti were made with white bunny bread. You have them with your tea or coffee.

Biltong is jerky (dried meat).

A "braai" is a barbeque/cookout. Someone might say, "we had a great braai at the weekend." (Yes, AT the weekend, not last weekend/over the weekend, etc.)

China = mate, friend

What do you think a "robot" might be? A traffic light!!! Yes, the things with red/green/yellow lights in an intersection. This one took me a while to figure out.

And everyone says "shame". Think, "Oh, shame, what a lovely day it is outside." Or after a sad or unjust story someone might comment simply, "Shame."

Great post - I am laughing about so many of these mix-ups.

By the way, I was born and raised in New Mexico, USA where we have our own distinct regionalisms. A couple that come to mind are:

Chonies = women's underwear
Alamodies = no way! damn! wow!
Homes = mate "what's up homes?"

Ash said...

Oh wow, I haven't been home for so long that I'd forgotten about Zimbabweans saying 'its a pleasure' and I still do it automatically!

In Dutch it gets confusing because you say 'thank you' and they say 'no thanks'! What they mean is 'no thanks necessary', but it comes out all wrong when its converted to English :)

I also say 'shame' all the time, but when I lived in England I had to learn to say 'that's a shame' or people got very confused.

What about the South African/Zimbabwean thing of saying 'just now', as in 'see you just now'.. which means in a minute or in a while. This one is very confusing to Americans in particular.

My gran had a chesterfield :)

chest of drawers said...

This is the best laugh I´ve had in ages!!! I´ll be back in sydney for a holiday soon - thanks for freshening up my vocabulary! I live in Austria and my son´s name is Daniel, Danny for short which Austrian´s pronounce dunny. I don´t want to be calling him dunny on the street! Here schwuel means humid and schwul means gay. For years I was getting the pronunciation confused and saying the equivalent of "do you think he might be humid?" and "Gee it´s gay today!".
PS:What about fag & tart.

ivy said...

In the olden days (when I was a kid) there was no pre-school or Kindergarten graduation, nor any graduation until high school graduation. Nowadays there seems to be a ceremony of some sort for everything kids do. My son's Pee-Wee soccer league even had an end of year awards ceremony.

I've read through your comments and though s'mores have been described, I didn't notice anyone explaining the name. They're called s'mores because after you eat one, you want some more. Because they involve toasted marshmallows, they are a popular camping treat.


I see you send your son to a Steiner school. Here they're generally called Waldorf schools (though I've heard "Steiner School" used occasionally). My daughter attends Kindergarten at a Waldorf school. I get the impression they're well accepted in Australia. Is that so? It sounds as if you have a lot of them in your country. We have one in my city. My daughter attends their Kindergarten. The impression I get from other parents is that they consider it a strange, cultish place where children receive an inferior education and where they are indoctrinated into bizarre religious beliefs. Waldorf schools aren’t all that popular in the United States. Would you mind posting about Steiner schools and how they are perceived in Australia?

Anonymous said...

Granola recipe here:
http://www.koa.com/recipes/files/0018.htm -- Muesli doesn't have the baked crunchy lumps like granola -- more like rolled oats, fruit and nuts with no sugar to bind it.

Gina said...

LOL......
Depending on where you live in the states things are different too. My mom calls flip-flops:thongs so either way they are underwear and/or a shoe, depending on who I'm talking to. Having family live up north, south and midwest in the US, I even see alot of difference. I personally enjoy, if not fascinated with all these words.
I say, "make dinner" and an op shop was tricky of me to figure out. I still don't know what the op stands for, I guess I should ask.

CaptJoelK said...

Greetings, all! I had a great time casting through all these posts. I'm a world traveler of 40 years, spending time in most of the world's countries and it never ceases to amaze me the amount of difference in our language. Nevermind between countries, but even regionally. Anyway, I came here looking for the Aussie take on "graham crackers"; even looking at Cole's and Wooly's for a similar product my friend in Brissie could buy to make S'mores, which I just told her about. I am, BTW, an American (living in Maine, but have lived on both coasts several times over). I have friends all around the world I've sailed with and from previous marriages. So I have to switch back and forth and around and around, depending on who I'm trying to relate to.

I was once married to a Scottish lass who related a hilarious story to me. She was hired by Disney to open the first tax-free Disney store in London (at Heathrow) when she was younger (and long before she came to the States). One day, an American woman came into her store looking for a "fanny pack", as they are called here. Andrea became flustered, turned red, didn't quite know what do say. But she stepped in closer to the woman and whispered that she might want to check the Boots Pharmacy around the corner for her needs.

You see, in the UK, a "fanny" is a woman's bits and she interpreted "fanny pack" to mean a tampon of some kind. After the woman left, the manager (an American), laughing his backside off, came up to her and explained the woman had been looking for what Brits call a "bum bag".

It's been more than 10 years since Andie told me that one and I'm still laughing.

I think "fixing dinner" derived from taking several "pieces" of food, so to speak, and putting them together to "build" a meal. Not all of us use "fix" for meals. It's a Southern thing to use the word "fix" to prepare for something. Also regional are the various "chesterfields, davenports, sofas, lounges and couches", but, typically, they describe a length or number of cushion difference. In other words, a davenport is an extra long sofa.

In the Caribbean, "okay" not only means "good morning/afternoon/evening", "hello" or "how you going?", but also serves as the answer. So the reply to the question, "Okay?" is "Okay."

And finally, in the 1940's, here in the States, the president and a committee of curious people tried to simplify the English language to begin spelling words as they sounded rather than with all those extra letters words sometimes have. The president at the time was an avid fan of the committee's ideas, but the whole thing got shelved when it became an anti-American idea and the Prez publicly denounced it.

By the way, using Digestives for S'mores would just simply not do any more than confusing an Aussie accent for a British one. Woof!

Anonymous said...

'op ' as in 'op shop' is short for 'opportunity' ... Meaning ' there are lots of opportunities here to buy things'( well in Australia anyway)

Suse said...

Yes! But also that one person's cast offs are another person's opportunity!