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English - Really just one language?

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A travelers guide to Aussie English.
12 years ago, January 17th 2009 No: 1 Msg: #60501  
It might be the same language, but the different meanings between Australia, England and America can cause all sorts of confusion. For example, my Mum moved from England to Australia 25 years ago. She discovered her understanding of English was vastly different to ours when someone yelled across an office 'Someone pass the Durex!". Apparently 25 years ago, Aussies called sticky tape 'Durex', whilst in Pommy Land that was a condom brand. (We've now caught up with the rest of the world and recognize it as a condom also).

My English uncle got very confused listening to me talking about stockings and pants. He thought I was being rude.

In honour of this language divergence I thought it might be helpful (and interesting!) to put together a basic dictionary of commonly used words, which have potentially confusing, embarrassing or offensive meanings (depending on what country you're from). This is based on a brainstorming session with my family and we may have some of the American meanings slightly wrong. Please let me know if we do. These are also the words most commonly used in OZ. We do sometimes use English or American terminology because we're so influenced by our UK heritage and American t.v.

I've listed the Australian version of a word first and then attempted to put the equivalent word in English or American. Abbreviations used: Oz= Australian, UK=English, US=United States.

An Aussies Guide To English



Tip: We like to shorten words.
Ambo=Ambulance
Garbo=Garbage collector
Arvo=Afternoon
Smoko=cigarette break
Mozzie=Mosquito
and so on... (well, we are known for being laid back. 😊)

Food and Drink
Biscuit ("bickie" is a baby or a Nana word. Yuck) = cookie (US)
Icy pole = ice lolly (UK) (whilst in UK the icy pole is only the type in the tube, for us it's any water based, frozen, single serve 'ice lolly'.)
Jam = jelly (US) (we wouldn't dream of having 'peanut butter and jelly here)
Jelly = jello (US)
Lollies = candy (US), sweets (UK)
Orange Juice = O.J (US)
Pancake = flap jack (UK)
Scone = biscuit (US)
Soft drink= soda (US), pop (UK)
Toasted Sandwich = jaffle (US)

Clothing
G-String = thong (US)
Jumper = sweater (US)
Pants = trousers (UK)
Singlet = vest (UK)
Stay ups = stockings (UK)
Stockings= pantyhose (UK) (we also use it for the sexier half leg lacy ones, but most Aussie girls call pantyhose 'stockings' too.)
Sunnies (sunglasses)= shades (US)
Thongs = flip flops (UK)
Undies (or 'briefs') = pants (UK)
Vest = waistcoat (UK)

House and Street
Bungalo = granny flat (UK) or shack (OZ).
Double Storey= house (UK)
Footpath = sidewalk (US), pavement (UK)
House= bungalo (UK) (Don't tell an Aussie they have 'a lovely bungalo', they'll think you're saying their house is a small shack)
Loo = toilet
PA (Public Address) System = Tanoy (UK)
Vacuum Cleaner = Hoover (UK)

School or Office
Bandaid = sticking plaster (it's technically a brand name)
Cigarette, ciggie, smoke = fag (UK)
Maths= Math (US)
Sticky tape or cellotape = tape
Rubber= eraser (UK) (Used in the right context it also means condom, but generally it means eraser)

Body Parts
Bum, buttocks, butt, arse = fanny (US)
Fanny = female private parts (we call it a 'bum bag' NOT a 'fanny pack'.)

Terms for People
Bogan/Yobbo = Aussie version of 'trailer trash' (US), but sometimes viewed with affection. It really depends on who calls you one as to how it should be taken.
Dag = eccentric, scruffy person, a bit of a 'character'. Often used in an affectionate way.
Daggy= attributes of a dag (meaning, you look a mess with no sense of style. NOT always used in an affectionate way.)
Fag = an offensive term for male homosexual (NOT referring to a cigarette.) Obviously it's best you don't use this term in Australia.

Don't you just LOVE the English language? I find it hilarious. I hope you'll add to my list too!
Reply to this

12 years ago, January 17th 2009 No: 2 Msg: #60546  
nappy=diaper (US) Reply to this

12 years ago, January 31st 2009 No: 3 Msg: #61817  
B Posts: 287
VERY FUNNY! You might want to check out my blog called "Australian 101"....its the Canadian prospective on the language difference! Reply to this

12 years ago, February 1st 2009 No: 4 Msg: #61896  
Thanks for that link! Loved your blog! :D Reply to this

12 years ago, April 5th 2009 No: 5 Msg: #68263  
One thing that drove me nuts down under (which of course I soon picked up), was the word "as".

Ah, mate, it was hard as!
Frick, it was cold as!
It's just hot as today.

The first guy I heard using the word "as", I figured he just had a problem finishing his sentences. When I asked, "hot as...what?" he just looked at me strangely. Soon I noticed an epidemic. No young Aussie was able to finish a sentence.

They were strange as, I tell ya.


Reply to this

12 years ago, April 5th 2009 No: 6 Msg: #68268  
I got some funny looks in the UK when I said "Now she's a bit of a spunk" Reply to this

12 years ago, April 5th 2009 No: 7 Msg: #68269  
Lol! I love it swissmaple. I can't say I've ever noticed that before but now that you mention it, you're so right!

I wonder what the brits think 'Spunk' means then El? Reply to this

12 years ago, April 5th 2009 No: 8 Msg: #68271  
Man juice LOL Reply to this

12 years ago, April 5th 2009 No: 9 Msg: #68272  
Australia Spunk=Goodlooking person
UK Spunk =Cum Reply to this

12 years ago, April 5th 2009 No: 10 Msg: #68286  
Here in Bavaria, Germany people seem to think English is not only language and they are pretty snooty about which English they learn.

First time I was told that my English is not good because it is Irish English, I thought the person saying it has to be a bit of a nut. Then I got more and more such comments. This is the first place in the world where I have been told that my English in not good, but I hear it often here. Somebody told me that if I get rid of my Irish accent(which is a mild one by the way) I could teach English. I didnt bother to explain that I dont want to teach English.

According to people here, UK and US English are the right ones. Dont know if they realise that those places also have various accents and plenty of slang. They never mention Australian English, so I dont know if it the ''wrong'' English or the right one, according to them.

Mel Reply to this

12 years ago, April 5th 2009 No: 11 Msg: #68292  
Australias 1st European immigrants were mostly Irish criminals so we have an Irish background.We improved it greatly of course LOL Reply to this

12 years ago, April 5th 2009 No: 12 Msg: #68300  

We improved it greatly of course


I will have to go to Australia to check if that is true. 😉

Apparently a lot of American accents have their roots in Irish accents. When I hear the average American tourist on holiday here in Munich, I wonder if this could possibly be true. :D Reply to this

12 years ago, April 5th 2009 No: 13 Msg: #68304  
I think Australian English is not the "correct" English that Europeans wish to learn. I was told much the same thing as Mel about my accent, which is Australian - a Dutch friend said I could earn some cash teaching English if I did not have such a "bad" accent. Reply to this

12 years ago, April 5th 2009 No: 14 Msg: #68307  
I do know many people ,who have English as 2nd language, have trouble understanding me ,unless they've spent time in Australia. Reply to this

12 years ago, April 5th 2009 No: 15 Msg: #68346  
Interestingly enough Kel and I never had trouble understanding Aussie or Kiwi English but had an incredibly difficult time with Brits. There's nothing that makes you feel more like an idiot than not understanding someone who speaks your language. When you can understand Italians and Spaniards more than fellow English speakers it just feels somehow wrong!!

The only primarily English speaking country we haven't been to is Scotland and I've heard its one of the most difficult to understand as an American. Mel, I never found Irish accents difficult unless they were drunk...then its gets a little tough!! 😊

BTW, love the concept of a "Budgie Smuggler" Aussie slang for a small men's bathing suit! AWESOME imagery!! HAHHAHA!!! Reply to this

12 years ago, April 6th 2009 No: 16 Msg: #68370  
The most trouble I've had understanding people was in Newcastle England.Those Gordies seem to have a language of their own.I met up with my mother there ,another itchy foot , we sat in a bar eavesdropping and laughing becouse we couldn't understand a word. Reply to this

12 years ago, April 6th 2009 No: 17 Msg: #68405  

Mel, I never found Irish accents difficult unless they were drunk...


Looks like you have not yet heard the inner city Dubliners or the people from Cork and Kerry. :D

The only primarily English speaking country we haven't been to is Scotland .....


There was a Scottish guy who lived in the shared flat I lived in, in London. We could never understand a word he said. Dont know if it was because of the Scottish accent or that he was an alcoholic who was always drunk. Wonder if he is still alive. He was shocking. He used to work on a building site at night and steal sandwiches that the nearby Salvation Army homeless shelter made for the homeless. I think the Salvation Army people didnt question him when he filled his bag with the sandwiches because he looked like enough of a wreck to be homeless. :D

I used to have an Australian boyfriend and thought I was well educated in Australian slang, until I read this thread. :D

Reply to this

12 years ago, April 6th 2009 No: 18 Msg: #68432  
B Posts: 105
I told some English people that I got my thong stuck in the brake pedal of a car and almost crashed - as you can imagine this led to a lot of confusion and a lot of laughter! Reply to this

12 years ago, April 6th 2009 No: 19 Msg: #68445  
My china plate left his trouble n strife n the dunny lids to hit the frog n toad Reply to this

12 years ago, April 6th 2009 No: 20 Msg: #68463  
The one discussed in msg 13, 14 and 15 is an English world with at least 2 meanings.

Foreign Language boo boos Reply to this

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