There’s an adage that the UK and the US are two countries separated by a common language and there’s many an example to illustrate the point.
I’d expected certain differences between British and Australian English too, and there are plenty. Most are readily decipherable, thanks to the absolute literalism of many, such as the wonderful phrase ‘sticky beaks’ for nosy people, or ‘footy’, for any sport that involves a large ball (except, in fact, football).
There are a fair few terms which baffle newcomers too. A rort is a swindle or fiddle, to spruik something is to promote it. My favourite Aussie phrase is ‘She’ll be right’, which is an inherent belief that everything will turn out fine in the end and is a kind of insight into to Australian spirit in general.
Another favourite of mine is the delightful ‘kangaroos loose in the top paddock’, which is used to suggest that someone may not be entirely sane (or, as my Nan used to say, ‘thruppence short of a shilling’).
It’s little surprise that a couple of hundred years of linguistic mutation has seen Aussie English branch away from its source language, but still, every now and then some of the variations catch me by surprise. In particular, I have been quite amazed by the sheer versatility of the verb ‘to go’ in Australian vernacular.
Here’s a run down of the various (clean) uses I’ve encountered so far:
Who do you go for? Meaning: Which sports team do you support?
Giving someone a fair go. Meaning: Giving someone a sporting chance.
Do you want to go? (with the final word stressed) Meaning: Do you want to fight me?
I could go a meal. Meaning: I could really eat something right now.
How are you going? Meaning: How are you?
As we educate ourselves, our expressions of incomprehension are starting to be seen fewer and farther between. On occasions, we can even be heard sprinkling a few of our newly learnt phrases into conversation, although perhaps a little uncertainly. But what can you expect when we’re poms rather than fair dinkum Aussies?