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Australian English

Hearing about the recent warm weather in Vermont reminded me of the weather reports here in Adelaide. The weather really hasn’t varied much since we arrived here – clear and sunny all the time. However, I think it’s worth writing about the weather because the weather report is different here in Australia. At least some of the words that they use to give the weather report are different. For instance, we recently heard this for the weather, “A few spots tomorrow, and then it will be fining right up,” which means, “A few light showers tomorrow morning turning to clear skies later in the day.”

There are of course many other words that are different here in Australia. Today, as we were driving, I realized that the car was driving on sealed bitumen instead of paved asphalt. Red peppers are capsicums; backpacking is bushwalking; Rice Krispies are Rice Bubbles (I wonder if they still go Snap, Crackle, Pop?!); and Burger King is Hungry Jacks (Do you think they also give out golden crowns to kids with their meals?)

At some point in my educational past, I remember learning about dying languages. People would talk about how sad it was to lose a language, because every language has words or phrases that describe unique concepts or ideas. When the language dies, these ideas or concepts die in a way as well, because there is no longer a word that represents them.

I’m not sure that I’ve identified words in Australian English that describe unique concepts, but I do think there are certain phrases that just capture a meaning so well here, it would be sad if they were at some point lost. So, to help ensure they’re never lost, I’m writing a blog post about some of them.

One of my favorite sayings here is ‘pear-shaped’ and you could use it in the following sentence: “When things go pear-shaped, don’t blame me, I didn’t have anything to do with it.” Essentially, if things go pear-shaped it means that things have gone all wrong, except I think it sounds so much better to say ‘pear-shaped’ than ‘all wrong’.

Australians also love to give everything a nick-name. Ambo is short for ambulance and arvo for afternoon. In addition to shortening words, they love to put everything in the diminutive. In fact, Australia is definitely Chile’s English-speaking counterpart. In Chile, they put ‘ito’ or ‘ita’ onto the end of every word they possibly can. My favorite, which took me quite a while to figure out, was ‘aguita’, pronounced ‘aweeta’, which is agua with an ita on the end—essentially little water. So, you would say, “Querias aguita?” if you wanted to ask if someone they would like some water.

Australia is very similar, adding ‘ies’ to the end of all sorts of words. For example, sunnies are sunglasses; swimmies are swimsuits; nappies are diapers; and my favorite, pokies are slot machines (perhaps short for poker, or something like that?).

Some of the other day-to-day differences that I really enjoy include “How ya going?” instead of “How are you?” or “What’s up?”; “ta” instead of “thanks”; “heaps good” which I think may roughly be the equivalent of “wicked good”; “good on ya” instead of “good for you”.

My favorite difference of all, however, has to be the letter haych. That’s this letter: ‘H’. They just put a hard ‘h’ on the front instead of saying it as if it started with an ‘a’. When I first got here, I was having trouble getting an ID card to access my building. The woman who was helping me told me she would call “Haych R”. Then, we were talking about banks, and someone mentioned Haych SBC. And, there’s Haych 2 Oh for drinking.

I don’t know why I love all of these differences, but I really do. I know I felt the same way when I was in Chile and also England. It’s interesting because I’m sure there are things we say in the US that other people really like, but I can’t appreciate in the same way. I guess I can just be grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to hear other languages and dialects, and to have the chance to really listen to them and appreciate them. Now, if only I can figure out how to say the word ‘so’ with three syllables, the way some people do here. Succeeding at that will be like finally rolling my ‘r’ in Spanish—I can’t wait for the day when I can say it just right. It will be so-o-o good.

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