Australian assimilation status: in progress
Another day, another double-take when I hear the way a familiar word is pronounced unfamiliarly here. This time, it was the sportswear brand: Adidas. I’ve always said it: Uhh-dee-dus. Wrong. Here it is pronounced: Add-e-dahs. I still think people are trying to pull one over on me when they tell me the proper way to say something here. It never occurred to me how different our versions of English could be. It doesn’t really impact the way I communicate with folks here, but it does leave me scratching my head sometimes haha.
Here’s a full list of the equivalent words, phrases, and pronunciations (Australian on the left = American on the right):
- mate = friend, buddy, enemy, any person (it’s all in the way it’s said!)
- aluminium = aluminum (the metal)
- gair-redge = gah-raj (garage)
- training = practice
- parma = chicken parmesan
- droppings = poop
- bush tucker = food out in the wild
- billabong = a special pond
- queue = line
- mob = group (as in a mob of kangaroo)
- post = mail
- thongs = flip-flops
- heaps = lots
- spud = a poorly skilled player
- penalty = fine
- chips = french fries
- corridor = middle of the field
- deliberate = intentional
- brain fade = brain fart
- OP = own program
- rocket = arugula
- dodgy = sketchy
- sin bin = penalty box
- frothing = raving/craving
- corky = dead leg bruise
- op shop (opportunity shop) = consignment/2nd-hand store
- smash = crash
- torch = flashlight
- oregon-o = or-reg-gun-no
- 7th of the 11th = November 7th = free slurpee day
- How’d you pull up? = How’d you feel afterward?
- Kris Kringle = Secret Santa
- chockers/chock-a-block = full/bonkers (as in the store is chockers)
- back off = take it easy
- basketball boots = basketball shoes
- boot = trunk of a car
- Add-e-dahs = uh-dee-dus (Adidas)
- wuh-da = water
- buh-da = butter
- I reckon = I think/feel
- keen = excited
That’s 41 unique situations where I was first like, ‘What?’ After my initial internal, ego-driven reaction of thinking the Australian way is wrong, I respond with a genuine chuckle and even more appreciation for the differences in the way we use the English language. The English language isn’t owned by a single country (The United States of America), but is shared by anyone who was born into speaking it or takes the time to learn it. At the end of the day, language is solely a medium for sharing ideas, stories, emotion, and energy with the people around us. Sometimes the differences in the way we speak English can shade that purpose, like when I think someone has given their pair of socks with Kris Kringle on them to a friend for Christmas, instead of simply giving their Secret Santa person a pair of socks with a cool design on them other than Kris Kringle haha. Usually, we can get past those misunderstandings, have a laugh about them, and continue the cultural exchange.
Over three months into my time in Melbourne, I’ve realized I do not have the ability to speak with an Australian accent yet. That’s something I want to develop before I leave. A few weeks ago I began to brainstorm some ways to learn the accent. I figured that a good way to learn would be to listen to YouTube videos while I stretch, wash dishes, cook, or walk somewhere. Instead of listening to music or American English based podcasts, I want to focus on hearing the Australian accent as much as possible. Next, I had to decide whose accents I’d like to emulate. Two people came to mind: Steve Irwin and Russell Coight. Irwin is (not ‘was’, he’ll always be with us, ready to pounce on a croc or coax a frenzied snake into calm) a wildly entertaining conservationist who met his tragic end far too early in his impactful life. I remember growing up watching his shows on the Animal Planet channel and being a pretty sad 13-year-old when I found out he died. I don’t know of many public figures who displayed more constant passion and enthusiasm than he did. He even said himself that he wanted to be remembered for those two things (and conservation). Check this video out:
While Irwin is magnificently entertaining without trying to be, Russell Coight is an Australian outback specialist who created a show called All-Aussie Adventures to teach city-folk about the Outback way of life (Coight is actually a character played by an actual comedian). The show doubles as a solid way to learn about Australian culture and share some laughs with some mates. In the couple of weeks since I started listening to how these guys speak, my accent has significantly improved. Certain words and phrases come out naturally in an Australian accent now. I want to get to the point where I can turn the accent on and off, like my ‘Southern’ accent. With Steve Irwin and Russell Coight in my ears, I’m well on my way.
Christmas happened this past weekend and experiencing an Aussie Christmas was a much appreciated cultural experience (I’m channeling my inner Russel Coight with the ‘experiencing an experience’ haha). My stomach appreciated it. That’s for sure. The number of carnivore options available was almost overwhelming and it took at least three electric powered knives to carve all of them up. As a seasoned family gathering and special holiday eater, I instinctively saved a little bit of room for dessert. Boy was that a power move! I sampled some of the red velvet cake, trifle, pavlova, and this chilled chocolate mousse type cake with chocolate balls on the outside, which made it resemble a sculpture. My favorite indulgence was dipping a few gingerbread cookies I nabbed on the side, into the cream of the pavlova. A burst of sweet flavors that may prove unforgettable. All in all, it was a massive meal, a cheat day of all cheat days, and I savored every bite of it.
One cheesy tradition was opening Tom Smith Christmas crackers with prizes inside. I call it cheesy because each cracker had a riddle or joke inside and you were guaranteed they would be a knee slapper. Here’s an example: “Why are fish easy to weigh? Because they have their own scales!” Crickets. Fortunately, we had the wit and wizardry of the family elders to entertain us. Australians can be stereotyped as loud and obnoxious, especially when alcohol is added into the equation (or the person doing the stereotyping is a Kiwi), however, I believe a better stereotype of them is uproariously witty. Australians are funnier on average than Americans. An especially funny zinger was when my host brother opened up his cracker to find two cute heart shaped pencil sharpeners. We all wondered what he could use the sharpeners for other than widdling away at pencils. His grandpa told him they’re for sharpening his game. Didn’t even crack a smile either :). Shots fired. FLAMES. One thing I’ve noticed about older people and people who are pretty funny (aka comedians), is that they barely laugh or smile at their own jokes. I want to get like that.
Anyway, after an afternoon of massive jokes and massive eating, we still had enough time left in the day for some backyard cricket. It’s a strange game to me because of my baseball background, yet because it’s an Australian Christmas tradition, I gave it a go (not a full go because I bowled with my opposite throwing arm in order to protect myself for baseball). After that, with the day winding down, I noticed a feeling building up inside of me that something was missing. I hadn’t been able to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ with my family! Christmas isn’t Christmas without that movie. Through a stroke of serendipity, it was on TV, and I finished the evening with even more appreciation for how wonderful this world is. It’s been wonderful to experience Australia’s culture during my time in Melbourne and I look forward to continuing my immersion during the summer here.
PS: Right now our club is in the midst of a 5-week holiday break from games. I’m not on a break though. It’s my time to bear down and strongly internalize the connected movement patterns I’m working on. Practice my rituals. Trust the process. And when I take the mound on January 23, 2017, it’ll be a brand new ball game. Ace material. 90mph. Wherever I want it. Suerte.