My exposure to the variations of the English language was minimal prior to 2011. It was during our journey through SE Asia, in that year, when I first learned that Brits call everyone and their brother a C-word, the use of the word “literally” knows no bounds and that some words that we have in common hold totally different meanings.
Many a night was spent in the pale moonlight debating whether a cookie is a cookie or a cookie is a biscuit, and if a cookie is a biscuit then what is a biscuit? No one really ever won these debates, but some participants were definitely called four letter words starting with C and T throughout the conversation. Literally. Since then, I have been fascinated with the variation of words we use to say the same thing. As a journalism major and crossword enthusiast, this may or may not come as a surprise.
In the nearly four months we’ve been in Australia, I’ve come to the conclusion that Aussie English is somewhere between “proper” British and American English. I’ve spent the past two months working in a restaurant, so this and my affinity for all things food have inspired my first list of 10 words that are different in Australia.
10 – American English: CILANTRO. You know that tasty little herb that some people are genetically programmed to think tastes like soap? In Australia, it’s CORRIANDER.
9 – American English: BELL PEPPER. Comes in green, yellow or red… In Australia, it’s CAPSICUM.
8 – American English: CANTALOUPE. The tasty orange fruit served with any continental breakfast you’ve eaten anywhere, ever. In Australia, it’s ROCK MELON.
7 – American English: NAPKIN. Keepin food off our faces since, well, your guess is as good as mine. In Australia, it’s SERVIETTE.
6 – American English: KETCHUP. The western world’s condiment of choice. In Australia, it’s TOMATO SAUCE. Pronounced TO-MAH-TOE… I just can’t.
5 – American English: FRENCH FRIES. In Australia, they’re CHIPS. Whaa?? (Bonus: CHIPS are CRISPS).
4 – American English: SILVERWARE… fork, knife, spoon. In Australia, it’s CUTLERY. It’s growing on me.
3 – American English: ICE CHEST or COOLER. In Australia, it’s ESKY. Technically it’s a brand that’s name has become universally associated with the product. Not unlike Kleenex or Band Aid.
2 – American English: SHOPPING CART. In Australia, it’s a TROLLEY. So there’s that.
1 – My favorite of favorites. American English: COTTON CANDY. In Australia, it’s FAIRY FLOSS. Australia for the win!!
And now two bonus words that don’t exactly fit the mold above.
In America, we have two choices of LEMONADE – with or without pulp. It’s juice made from lemons. On the contrary, in Australia, lemonade is the word used to describe lemon lime flavored SODA. It could be Sprite, Schweppes, or any number of brands, BUT it could also be juice.
We first found this out when our friends in Brisbane asked us to pick up lemonade while we were at the grocery store. During our search we discovered a plethora of bottled drinks all donning the label “Lemonade”. We literally took four options to an employee and asked which drink she would be expecting to receive had she asked an Aussie mate to pick up lemonade from the store. Alas, she chose the clear soda. To this day, I still clarify what a customer wants when they order lemonade at the restaurant.
And finally, here’s a myth-buster. In America, we call small SHRIMP- shrimp and large shrimp- prawns. In Australia, it’s always PRAWNS. So if you ask an Aussie to “Throw another shrimp on the Barbie,” you’ll either be laughed at or punched in the biscuit (mouth – that’s a Jordanism). Depending on where you are, of course.
Hope you’ve enjoyed and learned a thing or two.