Talking Australian

As some of you may know, I am originally from a regional town in Central Queensland, Australia (population 60,000+). I moved to Melbourne in 1994 and it was only then that I realized there were some notable differences in dialogue between Australians from the north and those from the south, not to mention certain other quirks.

For example, Queenslanders tend to use "eh?" at the end of sentences. To my colleagues in Melbourne, this was amusing, and probably annoying as well, so a penalty jar was introduced to which, I had to contribute $1 per offence. I no longer say "eh" except, curiously, whenever I return to my hometown.

In Queensland, your swimsuit or bathers are called "togs" which is one term I still use. Your suitcase is a "port", and the evening meal is "tea" whereas in the south and most everywhere else, it is "dinner".

The evening meal is also taken at different times—in Queensland, it is usually around 6:00pm whereas in Melbourne it is 8:00pm. When we first arrived in Melbourne, and were living in an apartment in the city, we would venture out around 6:00pm to find a place to eat. We could not understand why many restaurants were not open, and if they were, it was very quiet and easy to get a table since it was just us and some elderly people. This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode, The Cadillac Part II, when Jerry visits his parents in Florida to present his father with a brand new Cadillac. His parents are getting ready to go for dinner at 4:30pm for the $4.95 early-bird special. I love the scene, so I'm inserting it below. And now, whenever we return to Queensland and have "tea" at 6:00pm, we feel much the same as Jerry does in this scene.

One difference I've noted between states in the USA is the word for a carbonated drink, which in Australia is called a "softdrink". In the Upper Midwest and in Canada, it is called "pop", while in other areas, notably the Northeast and west, it is referred to as "soda". In the Southern states, it is called "Coke" regardless of the brand.

There are a couple of words used freely in the USA, which have entirely different connotations in Australia. I'll say no more.

EXTRACT FROM THE CADILLAC PART II Morty (Jerry's father) is fastening a jacket as he enters. MORTY: Alright, are you ready to eat? HELEN (Jerry's mother): (glancing at her watch) Oh, right, let's go. Jerry, let's go, it's time to eat. We're going to dinner. Jerry wanders into the room. He's in a t-shirt and sweatpants, and holding a comic book he's been reading. JERRY: (confused) Dinner? W...What time is it? HELEN: (pulling on a coat) It's four-thirty. JERRY: (bewildered) Four-thirty? Who eats dinner at four-thirty? MORTY: By the time we sit down, it'll be quarter to five. JERRY: I don't understand why we have to eat now. HELEN: We gotta catch the early-bird. It's only between four-thirty and six. MORTY: Yeah. They give you a tenderloin, a salad and a baked potato, for four-ninety-five. You know what that cost you after six? JERRY: Can't we eat at a decent hour? I'll treat, okay? HELEN: You're not buying us dinner. JERRY: (emphatic) I'm not force-feeding myself a steak at four-thirty to save a coupla bucks, I'll tell you that! HELEN: Alright, (sitting on the couch) we'll wait. (pointedly) But it's unheard of. Jerry shakes his head, incredulous, and wanders away with his comic book.

#australia #slang #seinfeld

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2016 by Leigh K Cunningham

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