Monday, May 7, 2012

We No Speak Americano

You'd think that the English language spoken in one country is the same English spoken in another country, wouldn't you?

Well, yeah, you're right.  But that doesn't stop the Australians from saying some really crazy stuff that, to the untrained foreign ear, makes no friggin' sense.

I have compiled a short list of words/phrases that have been Australian-ized, along with their northern hemispheric translations.

"arvo" = afternoon
What am I doing this arvo?  Oh, the usual, just putting another shrimp on the barbie, then taking a nap.  Also, putting two words together to form a whole other word, like afternoon.

"ashume, capshule" = assume, capsule
For some reason some words get an unnecessary sh sound added to them.  They're still spelled the regular way but pronounced more....lispy.

"ta" = thank you
In Scotland they liked to say thank you by saying "cheers" (which I liked, made me feel like I was having a round at the pub in the middle of the day), but "ta" just confuses me.  It's not short for anything that I can see, if it were it'd be "th".

"How ya goin'?" = how are you?
I might be mistaken on the translation of this one.  Are they asking "how ya doing" or "how is it going"?  I do not know.  Whenever asked this question I stumble around it and quickly reply "Uhh...good!  And you?"  I'm not sure if it's proper etiquette to get all Joey Tribbiani and ask "How you goin'?" in reply.

"doona" = dyne (på norsk)  
This is a translation into Norwegian, because I don't think the Ikea (the authority on all international home goods nomenclature) translation of "comforter" quite does the trick.  Here's what I mean:

A dyne is painstakingly stuffed into a cover sheet that's sewn together on three sides.  Comforters, and the Americans who love them, do not have the time or patience for this task.  They'd rather use a comforter with a non-removable cover that just never gets washed.

Dyne, pronounced dee-nuh is remarkably similar to "doona".  But doona sounds funnier.

"sheila" = woman
Any woman is a sheila.

"See that sheila over there?  Her name is Sheila."

I wonder who the Original Sheila was, since the rest of us females have to live in her shadow forever more.

"bottle-o, fish-o" = bottle shop, fish shop
Apparently if you put -o at the end of a word it indicates that that item is sold there, which makes me wonder of a brothel is called a whore-o.

"toe-mah-toe" = tomato
This one isn't so surprising, as [I think] the entire non-American English speaking word pronounces it toe-mah-toe.  The reason I bring it up is because of big, awkward me and my pronunciation of it.  When I ask for tomato sauce (ketchup is too fancy a term, you see) I feel like I sound like a garish brute.  American English can just be so....indelicate.

But I clearly have a Yank accent so I feel like an even bigger jackass by saying toe-mah-toe, which is obviously unnatural and is falsely put on by me.  So I rush through the word so you can't understand much more than the beginning toe and the end toe.

"Could I get some toe*cough*toe sauce, please?"

Yes, because that's the best solution in this case!

Who puts this much thought into communicating the word tomato?  It's brought a surprising amount of stress to my life because, clearly, I have no life!

A lot of the Australian-ized (oops, make that Australian-ised) English seems to be a form of shortening words.  Because saying two syllables (ar-vo) instead of three (af-ter-noon) means you'll have so much extra time on your hands!

So much extra time, in fact, that you'll be able to fill up your eskie (cooler) with stubbies (beer bottles) and partake in the national past time:

Worth noting: shrimp are called prawns here.


  1. Great list! When we were in NZ it seemed like everyone said, "Good on you" which seemed to be some combination of well done and good for you. I'm still not entirely sure. Do they say that in Oz too?

    Re: the comforter thing: I've always called the type of comforter that you place inside a changeable sheet a duvet. That's what we always had growing up.

  2. You're right, duvet is the right word. But I have NEVER seen one in use in the US! Wonder why Ikea translated it as comforter then?

    Can't say I've heard "good on you"....yet.