On a hot sunny day like today (and in fact most other days in between) my mind wanders to the other side of the globe and I drift into (heat)hazy reminiscences of Australia (it still exists- it’s just that I’m not there currently). I find myself sighing in delight to think of all the lovely things that we did and the amazing people that we met, and then, just as I’m about to bite into my delicious toasted cheese sandwich (best accompaniment to reminiscence), I remember… wait, it’s a jaffle!
Although Australians speak English, it’s not quite how we do it in England. Here is a small selection of grammatical, lexicographical Australiana, and a few things that we had fun explaining to non-English speakers along the way.
Firstly let’s sample that jaffle again. The toastie is not a toastie over in Oz. It is a jaffle and you don’t create it in a sandwich press or grill or even a toastie maker: you use a jaffle iron. When I was first asked to fetch the jaffle iron I presumed we were about to do some housework (which was mildly distressing considering that it was dinnertime). Luckily, it was just jaffle time. Whilst we’re on the topic of food, in Queensland at least, it seems that sausages are snags and eggs are googs (apologies if I’m spelling that wrong).
Secondly, I feel we ought to go to the doona. Is the doona warm enough? Are the doona covers clean? Can we wash the doona covers here? These are all likely questions that might be asked of a doona owner, or indeed the owner of an establishment that deals with doonas. Whilst it makes a great insult (you total doona), it is actually the Aussie term for duvet. In explaining this to my non English companions, I realised I had no good reason for why in England we use a French word…
Since we’re on the topic of insults (you’re such a doona), let’s go now to some grammatical items of interest (maybe just interesting for grammar nerds like me) which sound a bit rude, but are actually totally polite and normal. You might find, when explaining something to your Aussie friend that they come back with ‘yeah, right’. In England this would be considered kind of sarcastic and a sign that they’re not buying what you’re saying at all. In Oz, ‘yeah, right’ is like saying- ‘oh yes? Do carry on with this riveting story old pal’. You might also find them being a bit aggressive with their phrasing. If I start with ‘Look’ when I’m explaining something, you automatically think I’m starting an argument or that we must have opposing opinions. But in Oz, it’s not a command like ‘You look here buddy’ (pointy finger in personal space); it’s more like ‘so here’s what I have to say on that matter’ or just ‘I’m about to begin speaking’.
Aussie lingo is all about the ‘o’. In everyday speak, especially amongst youngsters, hipsters, and triple J-sters (but not exclusively), anything that you can shorten should be adorned with an ‘o’ at the end. A tea break is a ‘smoko’, the afternoon becomes the ‘arvo’ and even the salvation army (actually mentioned more than you’d imagine) become the ‘salvos’.
One thing that once noticed, is difficult to hear (or not hear), is the absolute absence of adverbs. I’m being quite categorical here so do correct me if I’m wrong, but I really think that for the duration of the whole trip, there was not one verb descriptor uttered that ended in ‘ly’. Australians appear to drop the suffix and go with the straight adjective version instead to accompany their verbs. I don’t know if this is an official rule that has made its way into written language too, or if it’s just a verbal thing (Ha! Verbal! Sorry, I’m such a doona) but it’s pretty noteworthy nonetheless.
Let us finish off with some things that Australians don’t actually say but we (and the rest of the world) seem to think they do. Whilst I was there I can confirm that I never heard anyone use the word ‘sport’ unless they were actually talking about physical activity, nor was there any shrimp throwing anywhere near Barbie or her Q.