Heaps

It’s obvious what this word means, and I can’t believe it has taken me so long to mention it on this blog. Heaps is synonymous with a lot, and it isn’t a strange word in itself. It’s more the frequency and nature of how Australians use this word that makes it unique. Not only do they use it where Canadians would say “a lot”, they also use it in place of “so”. For example, one could say “I’m heaps tired,” or “That’s heaps cool.” One could even tack an “ay” onto the end of those statements to make them uber Australian, but that might just be a New South Wales thing.  

When I returned to Canada after my first visit down under, heaps had plainly become a large part of my diction. I got comments on it all the time, and I think it played a big part in why people thought I sounded “so Australian” when I got back. I’m pretty sure I didn’t pick up an accent, so it must have been the use of this word that tipped people off about my Australian wanderings. That and my prolific use of the word “reckon”. 

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Lamb

Is the richness of lamb too much for Canadians? Do they just not like eating baby animals? Or is the idea of mint jelly on meat just too strange for us North Americans to handle? To be fair, us Canadians have our weird moments – we of the land of peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Yeah you grew up with it, but think about it. It’s weird, at least for an Australian who has never tried it before.

Whatever the reason, I definitely eat lamb more in Australia than I do in Canada. In the Great White North, it’s something I might enjoy once a year if I’m lucky. Down under, it’s in the regular weekly rotation with chicken, beef and the like. Personally, I find it a bit rich, but I don’t complain because it seems like a crime to call perfectly grilled lamb chops anything other than delicious.

Chemist

When I first saw the word “Chemist” on storefronts in Australia, it conjured up images of Erlenmeyer flasks, test tubes, and smoking liquid nitrogen. Inside the shops, I half expected to find a tiny frizzy haired inventor concocting strange experiments with colourful liquids. I thought of chemists as hardcore scientists working at chemical engineering companies, but these shops reminded me of my idyllic childhood idea of devil-may-care Willy Wonka type experimenters.

Not surprisingly, this was a completely outlandish idea. It wasn’t long before I realized that a chemist shop is simply what Canadians call a pharmacy. I was disappointed, but it made sense. After all, a pharmacist is still a type of chemist. In any case, I still take pleasure in saying I have to stop by the chemist when I’m in Australia. Boring pharmacy or not, saying I’m going to the chemist seems charming to me, and it’s the little differences that add spice to one’s life.

Frothing

Considering my current location and the time of year, I thought this word would be appropriate. I am in Whistler for the next week and rest assured there are plenty of Australians rolling into town, all frothing on the upcoming season. You can feel the tension in the air. It’s early November, but there is plenty of snow on the runs already. The local papers are full of comments about whistler’s special connection to nature, about how the coming of winter makes residents feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.

Correct use of this word depends on context. You can froth something, froth on something, be frothing something, be frothing on something . . . the possibilities are endless. You can even use frothing as a one-word response in conversation, simply to convey that you are excited. For example:

“How are you feeling about the upcoming winter?”

“Frothing! I froth snowboarding ay, and I’m totally frothing on this new board I have at the moment.”

Okay, maybe it wouldn’t go down exactly like that, but you get the idea.

I assume this word is a shortened version of the phrase “frothing at the mouth” (surprise, surprise, an Australian word that is secretly short for something else) and while this phrase makes me think of rabies in an unappealing way, the background strengthens the meaning that “frothing” conveys – an almost hyperbolized feeling of excitement or enthusiasm. But it’s laid back too, because they’ve shortened it, and that’s how Australians work. It shouldn’t make sense, but it does. Trust me, I’m the expert. I froth grammar and diction.

Tez

I have a friend who was born in Canada, but immigrated to Australia with his family in his early teens. Consequently, he knows a lot about what might surprise Canadians coming to Australia for the first time. When I first talked about visiting Australia, he told me that Australians would most likely shorten my name, Teresa, to “Tezza”. I was skeptical at first, and thought this was ridiculous. Sure, Aussies shorten a lot of words, but the idea that they would call me Tezza painted a caricature of Australian culture rather than a realistic image in my mind. I figured my friend was making a joke and forgot about the issue.

It wasn’t until my third trip to Australia that people really started calling me Tez. I may have heard it once or twice before then, but it wasn’t until I lived in Jindabyne that I heard it enough to internalize it. I don’t even flinch when I hear it anymore. In fact, I quite like having an Australian moniker. It’s almost like having a different identity for a different continent. I wonder what people will call me if I ever visit Asia or South America?

Ay

Those outside of Canada often cite “eh” as the quintessential Canadian linguistic identifier. I thought the sentence suffix was unique to the Great White North, until I came here. Australians, especially those from New South Wales (at least more so than those from Victoria) have a habit of tacking “ay” onto the end of their sentences. One may think that this is no different than the Canadian “eh”, but I have noticed a few subtle differences. For one, the two words sound completely different, revealing the full force of each national accent. Also, Canadians often say “eh” with the sort of upwards intonation typical of North America, while Australians tend to use neutral or downward intonation.

Both are rather charming colloquialisms that entrench caricatured versions of Canadian and Australian National Identities. For example, the other day, I felt it was necessary to inform my friend that his serial use of the word was starting to make him sound like a bogan. Like any slang word, “ay” can easily be overused. However, since it is relatively harmless and in an odd way reminds me of home, I don’t mind hearing it.  It actually sort of makes me feel more comfortable ay (eh).

Bottle-o

Yesterday, I was about to catch a lift home with a friend, and asked him if we could stop at the liquor store on the way home. His friend loudly, but politely corrected me, “Do you mean the bottle-o?” That is indeed what I meant. In Australia, liquor stores go by any iteration of bottle-o, bottle shop, or, in my defence, liquor store, depending on where you are.

The key difference between bottle shops and their Canadian counterparts is that drive-through bottle shops exist in this country. That’s right folks; you can drive up to a store, ask for a case of beer from your car window, and receive your libations from the comfort of your vehicle. This troubles me. Of course, you’re not going to crack a cold one right then and there, but the proximity to the idea of drinking and driving still makes me feel a bit uneasy. In Australia’s defence, I guess you can’t put a price on convenience, but I definitely rest easy knowing that the town I live in is too small for a large drive-thru bottle-o.

Beautiful

I know what you’re thinking. How can one of the most common words in Canadian English (or any form of English for that matter) be an Aussie word? The answer is context. Canadians generally only use the word beautiful to describe something visual, while the Aussies use it to describe taste as well. For example, that vanilla slice was beautiful. This pizza is beautiful. Personally, I am in favour of this use of the word. Something about hearing it makes my food taste better. For instance, if someone were to tell me that those meat pies were just beautiful, I’d enjoy them more than if someone simply said they were delicious.

I’m not sure why hearing a different word works, but psychologists and linguists should look into this. Restaurant owners could make a killing.  

Doona

This is the word I usually use when asked for an example of a word that is different in Australia. What we would call a comforter or a duvet in Canada, the Aussies call a Doona, and I have no idea why. Maybe the word is a bastardization of duvet? Anyway, it’s different enough to make people realize that yes, Australian English is a lot different than Canadian. It was a weird one for me at first, but I’ve gotten used to it. I’m definitely ready to fight back when my partner tells me I’m hogging all the doona.

No Perogies in Australia

It’s Wednesday night. You’re tired as hell and don’t really want to cook but need a satisfying dinner. You head to the store and pick up a pack of frozen cheemo perogies, an onion or two, and some Kolbassa sausage, fry it all up, and congratulate yourself on feeding a family of five for under fifteen dollars. Except you don’t do any of that, because you’re in Australia.

When I first realized that frozen perogies do not exist in Australia, I was in shock. Perogies are a staple in Canadian cuisine. For the Australians out there, perogies are polish dumplings made with various fillings such as potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, or meat. There are also dessert varieties such as strawberry and blueberry, but the most common are those filled with mashed potatoes, cheese, and onion. They are usually served with sour cream, are incredibly delicious, and are most importantly, cheap.

I have two theories as to why perogies don’t exist in Australia. One, perogies are a fairly heavy dish, not suitable for the harsh heat of long Australian summers.  Two, Polish and Ukrainian cultures have long been integrated into Canadian identity, as these people pioneered the unforgiving Canadian prairies over 100 years ago. Not so in Australia. Here, the core culture has a decidedly British flavour.

No matter. One day I will start a frozen perogy business here and make my first million. Australia doesn’t know what it’s missing.