See Translation…

You may be forgiven for thinking that the primary language shared by America and Australia would make the transition across the pond a smooth one.

But of course, you would be wrong.

I first traveled to the US with my parents when I was 16. My father had business meetings on the West Coast, but we also made it a family holiday with the full RV road trip experience. (Oh, that’s a whole other post.) That same year I was also lucky enough to visit the north island of New Zealand. Years later, I threw on a backpack and took a year to travel to Canada and Europe. I returned to Greece several times before I found myself moving to North America. So I felt like I was fairly well-versed in international travel and translation by the time I set down my bags in the U.S. But despite living in a country that uses the same basic language, I find I am constantly adjusting my language depending on what side of the Pacific I’m on. I quickly learned I could neither order a cheese pizza over the phone or anything at a drive-through. Not kidding. Even my husband was incredulous at the random orders that would always appear on the screen after I yelled into the little box. Best way to give up drive-throughs.

I also realize, after living here for more than a decade, I forget how I used to say certain words – emphasize, that is. For instance, did I pronounce process – “prohcess” or “prahcess”? Where did the accent land on “garage” – garAge or gArage? It sounds silly, but a slip of the accent here and I have my peeps telling me how American I sound now. And how is it that my American husband accuses me of placing an “r” on the end of so many words which is the precise accusation I have of his accent?

In addition to accents and emphasis are the words we use in our everyday vocabulary. So I thought it would be a fun public service for my Australian and American friends to give you a handy guide to our common, yet uncommon, language. Below are some of the words I found I had to put into use in order to be understood in my new home. These are listed with the Australian word first:

  • Boot & Bonnet = Trunk & Hood
  • Doona = Duvet
  • Crockery & Cutlery = Flatware & Silverware
  • Cutlery = Silverware
  • Service Station or Servo = Gas Station
  • Verandah = Porch
  • BBQ or Barbie = Grill
  • Manual = Stick Shift
  • Serviette = Napkin
  • Hot chook = Barbequed chicken
  • Soft drink = Pop/Soda/Coke depending on the State you are purchasing a fizzy drink
  • Oven = Range
  • Frypan = Skillet
  • Crumbed = Breaded
  • Purse or Handbag = Pocket Book
  • Mailman or Postie = Letter Carrier
  • What Kind of Hell is This = Blizzard

So, those are just a few that come to mind. I have learned that a slip of translation leads to blank looks, many questions and sometimes, just having to accept what comes of the error. It also has resulted in many conversations about the quirkiness of the English language.  

I’d love to know what words have tripped you up on your travels!

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