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).

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.

Cool As

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”

Or

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.

Arc Up

I’ve heard this one a lot in Australia, but funnily enough, the incident that made this word memorable happened in Canada. Actually, it happened while crashing at an Aussie friend’s house in Whistler, so I guess one could argue that this event DID happen in Australia. Anyways, while relaxing in the evening, a commercial that was slightly offensive to women appeared. The exchange went roughly like this between the two Aussies sitting on the couch:

“That’s sexist!”

“What do you care? You’re not a woman.”

“Yeah, but if women are going to keep complaining about sexism, we may as well start arcing up about it.”

So, “arcing up” as I understand it, means to bitch or complain about some general issue in an unnecessarily enthusiastic or belligerent way. If anyone thinks I’m wrong, go ahead and arc up at me.

Oath

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.

Arvo

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.