We’ve come to realize that, although we came to Australia with the hope of an easy transition as a result of similar culture and language, the language they speak in Oz is nothing like the U.S. of A.  The language barrier has been one of the most striking differences between two nations born of a common English heritage.  When ordering food, directing a cab, or just trying to make casual conversation with the locals, we are met with blank stares and forced to repeat ourselves in a painstakingly slow and deliberate manner (and even then, I’m not entirely confident I’ve been understood).  Australians are known for their unique slang, so this shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to us, but we did expect a softer learning curve given that we all are, in fact, speaking English.

First, there’s the day-to-day expressions.  In the morning, you wake up to a long black (double espresso and the closest thing to American coffee at a coffee shop) or a flat white (latte), have a spot of brekky (breakfast) with your caffeine, and are greeted by the morning refrains of “How you going?” (how are you?).  In the arvo (afternoon), its lunch or nibbles (snacks).  If you’re feeling indulgent, you order chips (fries) with your sandwich, or satisfy your sweet tooth with a lolly (principally candy, but can encompass sweets of all sorts, and is not limited to lollipops).  (OK, ok, so the first one’s pretty intuitive to anyone who’s been to England or had fish and chips, but for the sake of completeness I felt compelled to include it.  I certainly don’t think of chips at a local sandwich shop meaning crispy golden-fried potatoes).  If you’re dishing for some greasy American fast food, you can stop for mackers (McDonald’s). 

One never should forget to carry a brelly (umbrella) or a cardigan (the description for any sort of sweater, not just the button-up type) to deal with the ever-changing Melbourne weather patterns.  Refrains of “cheers” can mean anything from “thanks,” “excuse me” and “goodbye” (or more properly, “good’ay”).  And I’ve not yet fully comprehended the scope of the word “ta”, which seems to be used as “yes”, cheers or goodbye, or confirmation of a point or request you’ve just made (as in, “Mel (my secretary), can you scan this and send me a pdf copy” and “ta, scan it and send it.”).

In the evening, you might find yourself in need of a stubby (beer) or shuffle (single serving of wine with an inverted glass as the twist-off bottle cap).  But don’t drink too much, or you might get pissed (drunk).  If you want to try your luck, you hit up the pokies (slot machines) at the casino, or grab a scratchy (scratch ticket) from the 7-11.  (Aussies sure like to gamble; there’s gambling everywhere – traditional, Las Vegas-style casinos, bookies outside all the major sports venues, and prime-time advertisements for online gambling venues).  And the locals will declare “goodon ya” (good luck, or sometimes, have a good day), as you try your hand or just go about your normal day-to-days…

On the weekends, especially during finals time, you barrack (root) for your favorite footy (Aussie rules football) team.  (Do not, however, “root” for your footy team, as this means something else all together.  Think very literal and basic human evolutionary desires, as in “root” the “seed”).  Or, if the weather ever gets any blasted warmer, you might venture out in St. Kilda in your costume (bathing suit) and sunnies (sunglasses) to soak up some rays, or ride your push bike (bicycle) along the beach.  If you opt for a weekend road trip to the wineries in the valley or down the Great Ocean Road, don’t forget to throw whatever amusements are necessary for the trip in the boot (trunk) of your car. 

Man, where’s Rosetta’s Stone when you need ‘em?.  Maybe we should check out the Melbourne library and see if they have a free copy…

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