English is English.Innit?

Until recently, I always thought that English is English. Australians speak English. Americans speak English. Canadians. New Zealanders. And of course, the English speak English. English is English, and so I figured that communicating in other English-speaking countries would be issue-free. Especially in the Land of English. However, it turns out that there are actually some subtle differences between Australian English and English English. 

I first became aware of this in my first few outings to the supermarket. I needed a zucchini, only to find them labelled as courgettes. I couldn’t find butternut pumpkins, however there were plenty of butternut squashes. I wanted a capsicum, I left with a pepper. It was slightly confusing, but it was easy enough to figure out.

However, my greatest confusion arose with the naming of clothing. Different words for the same items. The same word for different items. One wonders if Alexander McQueen could ever have worked with Jennifer Hawkins with so many fashion-based translation issues! These issues led to a number of my first conversations with Brits being lost in translation.

It could happen to anyone. Until now! Thanks to a handful of awkward and confusing conversations, I am now fluent in both Australian and English and I have created a handy little translation cheat sheet to help any newcomers on Mother England’s shores.

WORD WEAR

Mix-n-Match 1

AUSTRALIAN: Singlet
ENGLISH: Vest

AUSTRALIAN: Vest
ENGLISH: Waistcoat

CONFUSE IT IN A SENTENCE

Cecil: I can’t believe this weather, I think I might wear a vest today.

Bazza: A vest is a bit formal, isn’t it?

Cecil: Oh you. Such dry wit! But seriously, it is 18 degrees today. It’s far too hot for a polo shirt.

Bazza: So you’re just gonna wear a vest? I guess we do live in Shoreditch. 

Cecil: What would the partners at the firm think, rah rah rah!

Bazza: Strueth. Well I’m just gonna wear a singlet as usual. T-shirts are for special occasions.

Cecil: Sing…let…?

Mix-n-Match 2

AUSTRALIAN: Undies, Jocks
ENGLISH: Pants

AUSTRALIAN: Pants, Dacks
ENGLISH: Trousers

CONFUSE IT IN A SENTENCE

Cecil: Do you like my new trousers? I just bought them at Jack Wills. They only cost one hundred and fifty quid. Quite a bargain, wouldn’t you say?

Bazza: Yeah they’re great. I need to get some new pants, me-self. Tore a great, big bloody hole in ’em when I was sinkin’ some tinnies at the Walkabout in Shepherd’s Bush.

Cecil: Well, at least your pants are covered up so no one can see the hole.

Bazza: What are ya talkin’ about?! The hole’s right where me arsehole is! Look, I’ll show you!

Cecil: Please don’t. I do not believe our friendship has progressed quite that far.

Bazza: Oi, don’t shit ya dacks. I’m wearin’ undies for chrissake!

Mix-n-Match 3

AUSTRALIAN: G-String, Banga
ENGLISH: Thong

AUSTRALIAN: Thongs, Pluggers
ENGLISH: Flip-Flops

CONFUSE IT IN A SENTENCE

Bazza: Man, I really stuffed up my leg in Ibiza. 

Cecil: Yes, it does look in quite a state.

Bazza: My foot is killin’, mate! No bloody way I’m gonna put shoes on.

Cecil: Hmmm. Will you take some time off work?

Bazza: Can’t afford to, mate. No sick leave when you’re contracting. I’m just gonna wear thongs to work.

Cecil: That’s perhaps a little too much information. And apparently irrelevant to your injuries…

Bazza: What d’ya mean? You’ve seen me in my thongs a million times.

Cecil: I don’t know what you’re accusing me of, and I shan’t respond to it.

Mix-n-Match 4

AUSTRALIAN: Suspenders
English: Braces

AUSTRALIAN: Garter
ENGLISH: Suspenders

CONFUSE IT IN A SENTENCE

Bazza: I’ve been invited to a party in a Country Manor and I need to dress up.

Cecil: You got invited to a Country Manor party? Are you sure it’s not in a barn? Rah rah rah!

Bazza: Jealous?

Cecil: Oh please. I’ve been to hundreds. They are so 2003.

Bazza: Well, I was going to ask if you wanted to come, but I guess you’re not interested.

Cecil: Oh really well… 

Bazza: You’re probably busy that weekend anyway.

Cecil: Yes. Probably.

Bazza: Anyway, whaddya reckon I should wear? Seeing as you’ve got so much experience in this stuff.

Cecil: A crisp linen suit would be lovely.

Bazza: Yeaaaah…. I’m not sure about a suit.

Cecil: Oh a linen suit isn’t…

Bazza: I was thinking of just getting a tweed jacket and suspenders from a vintage store.

Cecil: What?

Bazza: Tweed Jacket and Suspenders.

Cecil: I don’t understand the costume. Is it a dress up?

Bazza: No. Well yes. Well, no. We need to dress appropriately for a Country Manor party. So not “costumes”, no.

Cecil: Then I don’t understand. Why are you cross-dressing?

Bazza: Oh Sessy, is this gonna be another one of your lectures about when it’s “appropriate” to wear certain types of jackets and pants.

Cecil: You mean trousers?

Bazza: What ever.

Cecil: Well, I’m not sure tweed is appropriate for a party, but that’s not what I’m getting at. Why the devil are you wearing women’s under-garments?

Bazza: What?

Cecil: Are you wearing crotchless knickers with those suspenders?

Bazza: Mate, you are troppo. I’m not wearing lady’s suspenders. I’m wearing SUSPENDERS. Ya know, to keep yer trousers up.

Cecil: Braces.

Bazza: Shut ya face, Cecil.

*** All pictures by me.
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19 thoughts on “English is English.Innit?

  1. Oh, good, thought it was just Americans that had that problem.

    In your list up there we’re generally in agreement with the Ozzies except that we also call pants trousers, flip-flops thongs, and G-strings either thongs or garters. No, not confusing at all.

    Add into this that we can’t agree with ourselves–depending on where you’re at in the country, we refer to carbonated beverages as soda, pop, or Coke (regardless of actual brand), cannot agree on whether or not we carry groceries in a bag or a sack, whether hard candy on a stick is a lollipop or a sucker, whether one waits on line or in line, and whether one consumes a slice or a piece of pizza (which may also be referred to as a pie).

    We’ve also lost the subjunctive tense entirely (we say “If I was a rich man” vs “If I were a rich man”) and routinely make “have” into its own verb rather than an auxiliary verb (“Have you been to Australia?” “No, I haven’t.” vs. “No, I haven’t been.”) Also, we say “gotten,” which is apparently not grammatically a thing in the rest of the English speaking universe.

    Really, is it any wonder people in my country fall all over any politician they can understand?

    • We also say gotten, which I think sounds disgusting (even though I am guilty of using it every now and then).

      And we also have interstate language barriers. In Western Australia we call swimming trunks “bathers” (short for bathing suit) and in the East Coast they call them “cosies” (for not apparently logical reason).

      It’s amazing that any of us can communicate with one another!

      • “Cossies” is short for Costume… as in Swimming Costume ; )
        It is quite logical…. haha… from your girl with the Sydney twang xx

        Ps… Sydney / Melbourne have the same problems. We say bindies they say pricklies (referring to the prickley things in the grass)… We say ‘doubling’ when you have a friend with you on a bike, they say ‘dinking’!!

  2. This is all very cute, but I thought I should educate you on the correct (ie American) way of speaking English.

    1. Jersey
    2. Vest
    3. Underwear/briefs
    4. Ugly pants
    5. thong
    6. flip flops/thong
    7. suspenders
    8. Garter

    How do you feel now that you’ve been schooled?

    😉

  3. Great post man, thanks for clearing some of that up. What’s the Aussie take on eggplant/aubergine? Was asked to pick an aubergine up at a Sainsbury’s when I was staying with some folks in Camberwell. Fortunately, they asked the other American and I if we had any idea what that was, and my travel mate had already picked that bit of language up during a semester abroad (we call ’em eggplants).

    Also, to add to Singlegay37’s comment, nobody in America can decide on what a French/Italian bread sandwich is called. Sub, submarine sandwich, hoagie, grinder, hero, etc. I assume “sub” has made it all over the place, if for no other reason than that the US is systematically and commercially imperializing every habitable continent via fast food chains like, say, Subway.

    Also, the American versions of the things in your preamble paragraph:
    Zucchini
    Squash (we also have pumpkins, which are considered a squash, but only certain types are called “pumpkins” — specifically the big orange ones that one carves faces into)
    Peppers

  4. Australians call them eggplants. We understand aubergine and would only say it ironically to sound like a complete douche bag.

    Basically, my conclusion is that the English language is bull shit. I much prefer the slavishly rule-oriented (or orientated, depending on what country you’re in!) Latin-based European languages. If only I could speak one of them fluently, I would forsake my English brethren!

  5. Pingback: Inebriated Epiphanies « Ex-Patria

  6. My English has been butchered, having grown up in Perth where a scallop is a potato cake and then lived in Victoria for some time where it is a mollusc. Then lived in Brunei for some time where every sentence ends in lah or bah. Then London for a while, which is different innit?

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