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.
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?
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.
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.
This is more of a grammatical post than a slang or word choice one, but I didn’t want to simply put “as” as the title, so here we are. To put it simply, wherever Canadians would use “so”, Australians more often use “as”. For example:
Canadian: “That snowboard is so cool”
Australian: “That snowboard is cool as”
Canadian: “It’s so cold out today”
Australian: “It’s cold as today”
A lot of Canadians express frustration upon hearing this grammatical miracle, begging aussies to explain “Cool as WHAT?” and finish their sentence. To be fair though, the Canadian version is also guilty of sentence fragmentation. The snowboard is so cool that what? It’s so cold out today that what? Technically the statements above stand on their own, but the verb “so” often begs the use of a dependent clause to have any useful meaning.
Never mind. Language does not bend to the rules of grammar, and I slide easily enough into either way of speaking whenever I switch continents.
Not to be restricted to rednecks with southern drawls, reckon is alive and well in the Australian lexicon. When I use this word in Canada, I’ll get odd looks, depending on the company I’m in. Some people smile, some snicker, and some give me an incredulous and condescending, “you reckon do you?” One friend even told me point blank that I sounded illiterate, but I am a staunch believer in using this word. It sounds a lot less know-it-all-y than “I think” which, let’s face it, get’s repetitive after awhile. Knowingly trying to bring back a less pretentious word might simply make one even more pretentious, but in any case, my inner English grammar nerd (re: inner nihilistic hipster) gets a kick out of bringing back this word that no one else in Canada seems to want.
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.
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.