I know it's only words, but...
Recently at my Pilates class I used the word 'crook' to describe my knee. I hadn't planned to: it just popped out. I'm not sure I used it correctly. Crook may mean ill or sick, rather than injured. I also surprised myself in David Jones (Australia's John Lewis) while looking for a cover for the thing that you snuggle beneath in bed when it's cold – a doona. Sometimes you have to use the vernacular otherwise people don't understand. 'Quilt cover' drew a blank.
by Tim Winton: it was on my 'essential Aussie read' list. It's a good book that offers a brilliant insight into what it's like to be Australian, but if you're a newbie here you'll need an dictionary to hand. A new word to me – chiack (to jeer or trick) – cropped up a lot. I've no idea how to pronounce it so it doesn't sound like a bird call. In any case, I'm reticent to use new words. The nuances of language come with time, and I'd rather sound terribly English than someone desperate to be fluent in Strine.
My Aussie friends and I have highly entertaining times discussing pronunciation and the use of language. Last week's word was Cairns. I've been there: I've used the name with confidence. (Unlike when I went to Tassie and practised 'Launceston' beforehand so I'd get it right – Lon-sess-ton; three syllables). I've assumed for years the Northern Queensland capital was quite straightforward: Care-n-z, right? Well, not necessarily: ABC reporter and presenter Jessica van Vonderen pronounces it as if she's talking about things in tins. Some travel websites put '(pronounced Cans)' after the name. So now I don't want to talk about it, although I'm going there in a few weeks.
I'm still struggling with gouge and rort and stoush and spruik (see
It's only words
, December 2011). Now there are new words, phrases, pronunciation and uses of Australian English to acquire.
back-blocks = remote country out west (where are back-blocks in
relation to Perth?)
bloomist = florist
dud (verb) = to swindle
firies = firefighters
furphy = rumour, fanciful tale
French press = coffee plunger = cafeti
lure pronounced as if it was spelt loo-ah
medal (verb) = to win a medal (at the Limpics)
open slather = freedom to operate without constraint
permeate = by-product of separating cream from milk that has
previously been added to milk but no longer is, so milk is
advertised as permeate free or, most recently, 'naturally permeate
free'. (I suspect most people didn't know they wanted permeate-
free milk until the bottle told them so.)
realty = real estate (yet another Americanism)
as popular as a snake in a sleeping bag
protest the logging (or whatever). In this sense, protest is an
intransitive verb, which means it doesn't take an object. You
protest about something, but not in Australia.
Food opens up a whole new experience here. I am trying to get to grips with the concept of yoghurt cheese... with fennel. I think I must have led a sheltered life. I thought Quark was an elementary particle and a fundamental constituent of matter until I went to Brisbane's Delectable Festival.
And finally, some of my favourite signs.
And, in support of my long campaign against the bastardization of apostrophes...
This post was last edited on 29 September 2012