No, this is not an archaic word from Shakespeare days of yore – at least not in Australia. You don’t get paid biweekly, or even every two weeks there; you get paid fortnightly. It took a bit of thinking before I realized that fortnight is an abbreviation for “fourteen nights”, which really, makes more sense than the Canadian bi-weekly. Our version makes it sound like we’re going to get paid twice a week, which would be exciting, and would maybe even make Canadian incomes equal to Australian ones!
Nevertheless, I can’t help thinking of puffy shirts and “thee” and “thou” whenever an Australian uses this word. It isn’t restricted to describing pay periods either. If people go away for two weeks, they say they’ll be back in a fortnight. Even if I eventually move down under, I’ll never get used to it. Or I will, and my fellow Canadians will laugh at me when I use it non-ironically back home.
Once upon a time, when my boyfriend was just a crush, I sent him a text asking him if he wanted to head to a bar at the ski resort we both worked at, and got a single word reply – “Oath”. I was confused. The previous tone of our conversation and the use of a single word reply suggested that yes, this good looking person DID want to drink beer with me. However, crush ridden and insecure as I was, I had to ask.
After talking to Matt and a few other Aussies at the bar later that night, I discovered that “oath” is generally used as a strong affirmation, somewhat equivalent to “definitely” or “for sure”. It seemed like people used it more to agree with general statements their mates were making rather than for agreeing to meet up. However, my overanalytical brain decided that Matt said “Oath” and not just “yes” because he was just that excited to see me. In hindsight, he was probably just stoked to have a few beers, but the thought made me feel good about myself at the time.
Australians shorten as many words as they possibly can. In my youth, a standup comedian on Just for Laughs once suggested that Canadians talk more and do it quickly to get warm. Maybe Aussies talk less to keep cool? In any event, short words like arvo are useful. I catch myself writing it in texts to Canadian friends, only realizing moments later that I have to delete it and actually write out “afternoon” because they will not know what I mean.
I’m not sure how the V sound is supposed to relate phonetically to afternoon, but I suppose that F and V are similar enough for one to make the logical jump. I definitely had to ask about this diminuitive, but Aussies are so intuitive towards each other with the way they shorten things, I doubt that anyone questioned the first person to use this word for the definition.