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The Difference Between Australian and American English

Being a born and bred Aussie, I was raised on a steady entertainment diet of American television, American movies and American novels. When I grew up and started to write, I thought it made sense to use American spelling and Americanisms in my work since that is the market I wanted to aim at, and know for a fact that Australians consume far more American entertainment than anything else. My theory was that by writing this way, neither an American or Australian reader would be wrenched out of the story when they came across something unusual.

But it seems I wasn’t as clever as I thought. I have had Americans point out words which they have never heard of before, words I hadn’t realised were uniquely Australian. Two of which were found in my debut novel “Playing the Part”.

The first occurs when my hero teasingly refers to the heroine as a ‘sook’. I had no idea that was an Aussie word – which means ‘cry baby’.

Then there’s the other word. It would be the epitome of disrespect to throw a phallic-shaped lump of meat at a beloved icon such as “Barbie”, but in Australia it’s a celebrated Aussie tradition to do just that. For we also have an icon called a ‘barbie’, with which we love to cook our snags (sausages). You guessed it, the barbeque. There also might be some confusion if someone were to say, “Throw a shrimp on the barbie.” That might result in the shortest guest in attendance being accosted, because if you’re a ‘shrimp’ in Australia, you’re smaller than the average person. In Australia we tend to use the word ‘prawn’ instead.

On the topic of food, we love a bit of ‘chokkie’ (chocolate) or a ‘bikkie (cookie) for desert, not to mention a ‘chook’ for the main course. And by ‘chook’, I mean a chicken. We often go to the takeaway (take-out) shop to buy a “cooked chook” – meaning a roast chicken. Another strange variation of the word is when it’s used as an affectionate term to describe ones mother: “The old chook always makes the best pavlova.”

Clothing is another one where we differ. In Australia, a jumper is a warm top with long sleeves – referred to in the US as a ‘sweater’; which makes far more sense. I believe that in America, a ‘jumper’ is someone who jumps off a building or bridge. So I can imagine the confusion and unpleasant imagery created by an American reading a sentence like “She slipped on a jumper”.

And there’s the ‘thong’, one of Australia’s most beloved forms of footwear, which are simply ‘flip-flops’. What Americans refer to as a ‘thong’ we call a ‘G-string’. I’m pretty sure the ‘G’ stands for “Gee this is damn uncomfortable!” We also sometimes refer to the G-string as ‘bum floss’, which would actually sound better with some alliteration by using the US form of slang ‘fanny’ instead of bum. But if Aussies were to refer to it as ‘fanny floss’ it would mean an entirely different thing altogether. For here in Oz a ‘fanny’ is not our derriere, but rather that most sacred part of a lady.

Speaking of delicate terms that can be misinterpreted between countries, when we hear of Americans ‘rooting’ for their team, we usually have a giggle. In Australia, our use of the word ‘root’ or ‘rooting’ is a colloquialism for having sex, and is only slightly more polite than using the F-word to describe the act.

Which naturally leads to activities in the bedroom. If an American heard that a woman was in bed with a ‘hottie’ while on the ‘blower’ and enjoying a ‘fag’, I’m sure that would invoke some pretty lurid images. But all it means in Australia is that she’s snuggled up in bed with a hot water bottle and chatting with a friend on the phone while smoking a cigarette. So fortunately, there’s no chance she’ll get ‘up the duff’ (pregnant) and soon have to look after a ‘rug rat’ or ‘ankle biter’ (child).

Similarly, if you happen to be at school or working in an office and someone asks your for a ‘rubber’, you wouldn’t crack open your wallet and hand them a small foil packet, instead you’d simply give them an eraser.

Those are the biggest differences I’m aware of between the American and Australian languages. But I’ll leave you with some sayings that you might find amusing.

In Australia, if you were to:-

Chuck a wobbly;
Carry on like a pork chop;
Blow a fuse;
Spit the dummy; or
Do your block

then you’d be pretty damn angry.

If you:-

Act the goat
Are as barmy as a bandicoot; or
Have a few roos loose in the top paddock

then you’re a little bit crazy.

And if you’re anything like me and share your house with a dish-licker; congratulations! You’re the proud owner of a dog.

For my wonderful editor

Dear Alison,

I heard about your surgery and just had to write and send you positive vibes for your recovery. So I’m hoping some good news might lift your spirits.

In 3 weeks, I’m attending my first Academy Awards! Can you believe it? And not only that, I’ve been nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for my performance in “The Farmer’s Wife”, something I truly believe I never could have accomplished without you.


                                      You see, you made me look deep inside myself, made me           

                                      me confront my past and come to terms with the memories 

                                      of my mother, both the good and the bad. For so long I avoided

                                      any emotion that came anywhere near painful, but with your                   

                                      wonderful encouragement, embracing that pain has helped me

                                      become a better actress as well as a better person. Well, Cole 

                                      had something to do with that, too... but don't you see? If it 

wasn't for you, I never would have been able to open up to him and accept his love in the first place.

Speaking of Cole, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that I married him in Mayfield’s beautiful old church where my mother and father married. Something else that would have been too difficult if it hadn’t been for your insistence on digging deep.

It was a lovely, poignant ceremony – especially so without the intrusion of the paparazzi or news helicopters circling overhead. Which was all thanks to the fantastic people of Mayfield who rallied together to keep it a under wraps. Can you believe the whole town kept a secret? Seems they only like to gossip amongst themselves, thank goodness. Of course, they were all invited! 

Karin was my maid of honour, and she looked absolutely stunning. Our friendship has never been stronger – another thing I need to thank you for. By acknowledging that I’d let her down, we’ve mended our friendship and are now super close. I even look after her little girl when she wants a sexy night alone with her husband. Hmm, I wonder if she’ll return the favour, because...

Yes, I’m pregnant! I’m five months along, so this little one will probably be the youngest attendee at the Oscars. No one - except the whole of Mayfield - knows yet. So my baby bump is bound to cause some excitement on the red carpet.

But I wouldn’t mind betting my sexy husband grabs most of the attention. It’ll be his first time in LA, and his first taste of what being shackled to an actress is really like. At home, we’re treated just like everyone else, so I think he’ll be in for a rude shock. I’m sure he’ll be fine  as long as we’re at each other’s side.

Cole’s eyesight is almost completely back to normal now, though he does have to wear glasses. I sort of love that. Watching him come in from a hard day on the plantation, sweaty and dirty, looking like a real manly farmer, then he puts on his glasses to read, and he’s suddenly a hunky nerd. Yum!

Anyway, I hope catching up on all the Mayfield gossip has raised your spirits.
Cole and I both wish you the speediest of recoveries so you can get back to delving into people’s deepest and darkest and helping them out the other side.

Much love,
Anthea Cane.

p.s. I also heard Diane Dooley has done something special for you here:

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