Thursday, September 22, 2011

our R's are not their R's

I know this language, really. So why am I translating it as I hear it?

As I explained to people about my e-mails, you don't have to read the whole e-mail or post.  I tried to put the most interesting stuff at the top.

It's not the phrases below are that difficult to figure out or remember.   The problem is that it takes an extra mental step compared to familiar phrases.  By the time you remember, even quickly, you have displayed a quizzical look or automatically asked, "Pardon?"  It makes you feel disconnected and reminded that you are a foreigner (far-nor as Sarah reminds me how I say it).  But sometimes it is fun, as you listen to completely different slang as a person tells a story.  And you hope context clues fill in the gaps.

We are so interconnected through entertainment and the Internet that you might think things would converge.  Germans say das T-shirt.  But still things are different, as any trip to Rhode Island will shake you silly and remind you that our R's are not their R's.  Some of these are certainly present in England and elsewhere.

no worries = your welcome (like de nada in Spanish).  As an anxious person, I sometimes feel indicted by this. "What do you mean?  There are millions of worries!"
no queuing across the intersection = don't block the box
speed limit = the speed the vast majority of people actually drive, as opposed to 5 to 9+ over in the US. This is to say that I haven't been tailgated as I drove at the posted speed.  They could have mobile speed cameras anywhere, so it pays to have cruise control.  I don't.
napkin = serviette. A napkin in Australia is a product that is featured in exciting commercials containing only women who are worrying about or empowered about not worrying about a product only women need. Ask the school nurse.  This one is difficult to change because I had never before said the word, "serviette."  For a man to ask for a napkin must be a little disturbing, even if they figure out what I actually mean.

present your card (displayed on credit card machines)= swipe your credit card. It does not mean you should actually immediately present the card to the cashier for signature verification, as you very often do because our credit cards don't have PINs.  There is an awkward pause as they wait for you to swipe your card and you wait for them to accept your card as you hold it there.  It would be even more awkward to explain to them what is going on in my head. I am slowly getting this one down.
mind the gap = don't trip into the space between the train and the platform. short but sweet.
torch = flashlight. This is distracting because it makes me envision the townspeople with torches aflame searching for Frankenstein and his monster.
sweet as = very sweet, ie, "That's sweet as," is not an incomplete sentence. Thanks to Lindsey for informing of this is in advance, so we didn't stare at people, waiting to hear the rest of what they were saying,  "Sweet as what?"
entree = appetizer .  We met Australians who reported a big surprise in the US when their entrees turned out to be huge.  This one needs to be worked out.
main = main dish (what we would call an entree)
hash sign = pound sign (#) Where do you usually use this?  On the phone to a call center, of course.  And after you enter your account number on your touch tone keypad and press #, as in America you often get transferred to a courteous but heavily accented representative in India, who is suspiciously named Dave.

give way sign = yield sign
runout = clearance sale
way out sign = exit sign
kilojoules = a different way of measuring calories. I'm not sure how it works.  We say Diet Coke has zero calories; they say it has a few kilojoules (rounding, I guess). Lara says kJ/4 = Calories.
drink driving = drunk driving.  I have been stopped twice for a breathalyzer test in random check points
whinging = whining as mothers tell their children no whinging, pronouced win-jing.  Personally, I constructively and emotionally criticize my current situation - it's not whinging, or something.

RSL club = VFW with a lot of money funded by in-house gambling and liquor stores. These are a big business with huge clubs all over.
trolley = cart. This distracts me because I'm thinking about antique buses instead of saying yes, I need a cart for my luggage
the states = America.  It's just so awkward to say.  People are polite and ask if you are from here (so as not to say, "you aren't from around here, are you?"), but they have to know immediately from the accent that we are part of a different English-speaking country. So I don't know if I should say North Carolina, or America, or maybe even Washington, DC (my birthplace, which is a place people would actually know of).  One person responded, "North Carolina, that where WWE [wrestling] is from." Another recognized Duke University because a lot of Methodist Filipino ministers went there for seminary.  So you never know what people will be familiar with. But at home, I have never said, "here in the States...."  It's America or 'Mer-ka.

Oz = Australia.  It's in the blog, but still I have no experience saying that word this side of a house-smashed dead witch.
nappy = diaper  This term could be deemed racist in the US (remember that radio guy who got fired), so I'm glad I don't have kids. I would know what it means, but it could still feel uncomfortable.
tyre = spelling of tire.  No big deal, but why is this different?
kerb = spelling of curb

bell peppers = capsicums. Okay now it seems like they are just making stuff up.
raisins = sultanas
tomato sauce = ketchup.  You don't have to keep it in the fridge.
tax invoice = receipt
takeaway = takeout
tick = check mark
ground beef = beef mince
toilet=restroom. This is just a bit difficult because "toilet" in American conversation is certainly not vulgar, but it's not as polite as restroom or bathroom, which is what I usually ask for, and it confuses some people here.


  1. It's interesting, b/c weren't they settled by the English? But many of their words are the words from other languages - serviettes, sultanas, and I'm sure there are others. I still think the sweet as phrase is the strangest, because it screams "as what???" and is just a weird way to state a complete thought.

  2. yes I know we also use words derived from other languages too, but I naively thought they would be using the same adapted words we do...