"" Writer's Wanderings: Australia--Trying To Master The Language

Monday, May 08, 2017

Australia--Trying To Master The Language

What? You're American. You speak "English". Don't Australians do the same? Sort of.

When our son went off to Townsville as an exchange student at James Cook University, we got our first introduction to Australia. It was love at first sight and we've been back many times. The first thing we learned was that Cairns was pronounced "cans". Cairns is close to Townsville and is the city where we always stopped to access the Great Barrier Reef and as a stopping off place before going on to Papua New Guinea for diving.

Along the way and several visits under our belt, we learned that Melbourne is not pronounced "mel-born" but rather "mel-bin", Canberra (the capital) is "can-bra" and Brisbane is "bris-bin". Sydney is still Sydney although with an Australian accent it is a little more romantic sounding (think Crocodile Dundee).

Of course even the country is not always referred to as Australia but rather Oz. Why? I'm glad you asked. Australians love to shorten words. The people are called Aussies and the shortened version of Australian is Aus which sounds like Oz. Think that's confusing? Take a look at the words below.

Brekky is breakfast
Maccas is MacDonald's (BTW Burger King is called Hungry Jack's because someone had already trademarked BK in Australia when the company wanted to open the franchise there)
Mozzie is a mosquito
Servo a gas station
Bottle-o a liquor store
Docket is a bill or receipt
Fair dinkum - true, genuine
No worries has of course been adopted by many to mean no problem

So as you see, English is not English everywhere it's spoken--at least not the "Queen's English" as so many refer to the original English as it came from the United Kingdom which was known as Great Britain or the Commonwealth or. . .It does get confusing. We always claim to speak American. People just nod and smile in understanding.


Dennis Hodgson said...

You missed the most obvious Aussie words with an -o suffix: journo (journalist); muso (musician); and seppo (American). I'd be surprised if you can guess the derivation of the last of these, but you should remember that Australian English makes extensive use of rhyming slang. Thus Captain Cook (look); sticky beak (peek, used to describe a nosey person); and septic tank or seppo (Yank). I'm not Australian, but I worked there for a year (1970) and have since incorporated quite a lot of Strine into my everyday speech. For example, I'm never ill, I'm feeling crook.

Wandering Writer said...

We were not as immersed in the culture as you were since you lived there. I suspect the language was checked a bit since we were tourists. Thanks for the interesting additions!

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