02 May, 2013

An American in Australia: language barrier

In the area we come from, these people are wearing
"togs". What do you call them?
This morning I stumbled upon an old blog post by an American struggling with the language barrier in Australia: Learning the Lingo. She was in Melbourne, where they do use some different words to what we use in Queensland (like costume for togs (Qld) or swimwear). But it is interesting to read about some of the struggles Americans have with Australian English.

I remember some American missionaries who were in our home church a few years back. One night the husband went looking for some over-the-counter medicine for his sick wife. He stopped people on the street and asked, "Do you know a drug store that's open?" He got some strange looks, and was lucky he wasn't nabbed by the police!

The name of these can cause great embarrassment
in American circles, Australians call them "thongs".
The main reason English speakers struggle in another English-speaking country is that they assume that all English is the same and therefore they'll be understood. Not true!

By the way, I discovered a word that only Australians and New Zealanders (and maybe scientists) use. The difference with this one is that for the same object, British and US citizens are united in their word choice. Very unusual. Can you guess the word?


Ken Rolph said...

There is an old Beach Boys song that includes the line "t-shirt, cut-offs and a pair of thongs". Americans didn't let their thongs slide up to the other end of the legs until decades later.

As time passes the Englishes grow more apart.

Evangeline said...

We called flip-flops "thongs" when I was a kid. I didn't know there was any other kind then.

Evangeline said...

BTW, what is wrong with asking if a drugstore is open? What do you say? In case I am ever ill in Australia.

Wendy said...

Evangeline, drugs are illegal substances and I doubt you'd ever find them in a store. The place he was looking for was a pharmacy or for a slightly outdated term, chemist, to buy medication, "pills" or some such thing, but certainly not "drugs".

Ken Rolph said...

I checked that Learning the Lingo post. The person can't spell in Australia English. He got wrong Maccas, brolly, goodonya and g'day. Just can't seem to handle the sound patterns. There is no "ood" in g'day. It is replaced by a glottal stop.

The names for what we wear when swimming are many and varied. Trunks, togs, bathers, swimmers, cossies and others of a specific nature (boardies, bikinis). The commonest Australian term is some version of swimming costumes. Some Americans find this funny, and think of circus performers dressed up. But their common term is swimsuit. Do they wear a tie with that?

Bathing suit makes an entrance as third common, mostly to do with promenading women. Bathing costume does not seem to get a look in.