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Vive la Difference by Les Stephenson

*Up From Down Under*

Up From Down Under Up From Down Under Up From Down Under Up From Down Under Up From Down Under Up From Do

*Column Editor - Les Stephenson*
 
Up From Down Under Up From Down Under

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Vive la Difference

 

No, this column isn't about sex, but it should be of interest to both sexes. It's a brief look at some differences between Australian English and American English. Many of the references to Australian English will apply equally to British English – but not all, so I'll let the British be the judge of that.

 

English is the official language of Australia, as stated on the website operated by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Canberra. The United States of America has no official language. I know that because I read it here:

 

"The USA has no official language at the federal level ..."

 

and confirmed it here:

 

"You might be surprised to know that for more than 200 years, Americans have gotten by without declaring English their official language."

 

and here:

 

"As late as 1987, two-thirds of the Americans who responded to a national survey believed that English was the official language of the United States. In fact, the Constitution is silent on the issue."

 

Very interesting, I thought. Research uncovers the most amazing things.

 

Did you know the USA has no official language? Please circle:  Yes   No   Undecided

 

Spelling

 

By habit, I notate most of my writing with the words "Australian English" and sometimes I add, as an extra precaution, "Australian Spelling". It still hasn't prevented the occasional American from querying my spelling. Surely, they don't suspect my spelling could be wrong?

 

There are a few major groups of differences:

 

The "re" words –

 

In this category we have words such as centre, theatre and spectre.

(American = center, theater, specter)

 

The "ise" words –

 

Here you would include realise, recognise and civilise.

(American = realize, recognize, civilize.)

 

The "our" words –

 

Examples to consider are favourite, humour, honour and colour.

(American = favorite, humor,  honor, color.)

 

The "double consonant" words –

 

Examples: travelling and focussed.

(American = traveling, focused.)

 

However, where Americans write willful, Australians write wilful.

 

The "u" words –

 

I mean words such as gauge and baulk.

(American = gage, balk.)

 

Other odd words –

 

Please, American friends, don't mark these ones as incorrect:

 

cheque  (that is, a bank cheque)

(check)

dialogue

(dialog)

aluminium

(aluminum)

tyre  (on a wheel)

(tire)

 

... and so many more.

 

Meanings

 

Sometimes this can cause quaint misunderstandings. I remember once in a supermarket in California telling a lady "I'll get a trolley." She frowned and laughed. "A what?" she said. "A trolley," I replied. Of course, I was to learn Americans call those wire contraptions on wheels "baskets" or "carts". Australians call them "shopping trolleys".

 

Item

Australian Term

American Term

Rear storage in a car

boot

trunk

Season

Autumn*

Fall

Confectionery

lollies

candy

Mechanical device for ascent in a building (not escalator)

lift

elevator

Tool used to unscrew a bolt

spanner

wrench

Used to remove pencil marks

rubber

eraser

Fuel

petrol

gasoline

Punctuation at end of sentence

full-stop

period

 

* I know "Autumn" is used in the USA, but "Fall" isn't used in Australia. Most Australian plants are evergreen, not deciduous. Therefore, only in places with extensive orchards or exotic plants would there be a literal "Fall".

 

An amusing one I came across recently is to do with the "octothorpe" - the "#" key. In Australia we call it the "hash key", not the "pound". An Australian would become very confused being told to "hit the pound key" on their mobile phone. Of course, that'd be the "cell phone" in the USA.

 

Punctuation

 

Apart from the terminology mentioned in the table above (full-stop/period), two other differences are:

 

  • Australians place punctuation outside quotation marks unless the quotation is a whole sentence or a substantial part thereof.
  • Australians generally don't use periods with abbreviations.

 

Idiom

 

I could care less.

 

An Australian would say: "I couldn't care less." Interesting, isn't it? One is a positive statement, the other negative, yet they mean the same thing.

 

Many other examples can be found on this website created by an Aussie living in America: aussieinamerica.com

 

Etcetera, etcetera, etc.

 

We certainly haven't plumbed the depths of the huge lake of difference between Australian and American English. Suffice to say, there is enough left in common that we do understand each other most of the time.

 

Quiz

 

Fill in the missing words:

 

Australian

American

G'day

 

 

guy

sheila

 

 

sidewalk

jumper

 

 

ranch

chook

 

 

rubber

doona

 

 

diaper

 (Answers below.)

 

 

References

 

http://wikitravel.org/en/USA#Talk

http://www.nvtc.gov/lotw/months/november/USlanguages.html

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/JWCRAWFORD/LL.htm

http://aussieinamerica.com/

http://englishclub.8m.com/ukus1.htm

http://www.bartleby.com/185/

 

 

If you have any amusing additions or suggested revisions, let me know.

 

Les Stephenson  2006

 

 

Answers to Quiz:   Hi, bloke, girl/gal, footpath, sweater, station, chicken, condom, comforter, nappy.