Brits and Aussies: We speak the same language…..don’t we?
When I arrived in Australia from the UK two years ago, I assumed the transition to the corporate communications industry here in Oz would be simple. After all, we speak the same language and share similar cultural traits.
It’s not been quite that simple. My work in various communications roles since arriving in Australia has helped me discover lots of nuances specific to Oz, in particular interesting phrases and words I’d never used before. Here’s a few examples of new language I’ve needed to learn and adapt to, and their place in the Aussie language:
- ‘Took out’: No, nothing to do with going on a date or getting floored in a fight. This peculiar little phrase is frequently used in corporate communications and media copy to describe winning something. It is a direct replacement for the word ‘won’, as in:
“John took out first place in the annual staff swimming competition.”
- ‘Flow-on’: I first noticed this phrase used in the media in 2011 during the devastating Queensland floods. At first, I assumed it was a reference to the literal effects of the flow-on of the water. But it’s not. It is a phrase used as a prefix to the word ‘effect’, ‘impact’ or ‘result’, such as: “The flow on effect of having no food was that Sue was very hungry.”
- Bashed / bashing: Used frequently by the media to describe someone beaten up, punched, or kicked. It sounds cartoon-like to me, almost like a Tom and Jerry-esque caper, but the media here use it to describe a serious incident. I first saw this used when notorious Melbourne gangland leader Carl Williams was ‘bashed’ to death with an exercise bike in prison (more on that another time!). But it’s also used whenever there is a violent attack. Perhaps softening the reporting of gruesome and violent incidents with a word like bashed, is perhaps the whole point. Here’s the actual report from ABC news on the death of Carl Williams: “Gangland killer Carl Williams died at the high security Barwon Prison after being bashed several times with part of an exercise bike, Victoria Police has revealed.“
- Wog / Coon: Highly offensive in England for the racial connotations these words create, but in Australia, it’s acceptable to use these two words. Wog refers to a person of European descent (usually Italians, Greeks etc) and is used in a similiar way to us Brits being called ‘Pommies’. Coon is a popular brand of cheese.
That’s just a few of the examples I’ve come across. There are plenty more: lollies instead of sweets; thongs instead of flip-flops; the tendency to shorten every word to an ‘o’ (as in ‘arvo (afternoon), rego (registration), avo (avocado).
Does anyone who has worked in both Australia and the UK have more?